I finally have all the photos formatted so I can share our days with you! Here are some shots from Friday’s kick-off to the tour so you can see how we started out. First off, this is Nigel, our wonderful tour guide, who met us at Heathrow and took us on a two-hour narrated coach ride all over London, telling stories around every corner and pointing down practically every alleyway:
After 28 years on the London police force, he should know this town like the back of his hand! He’s also a great history buff and thoroughly loves England. It was a fantastic time. We stepped off the bus at several spots for photo ops, including the Albert Memorial in Kensington Park, Buckingham Palace, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Our group started out chipper and talkative, but jet lag started to hit hard toward the end, and we were ready to check into our hotel, the Millennium Gloucester in South Kensington. We deliberately left Friday afternoon free so that our ladies could unpack, settle in, or hit some sightseeing spots of their choice. A bunch went to the Tower of London together. My husband and son went to St. Paul’s to hear the boys’ choir while I stayed back to unpack and take care of the rest of our check-in process (including getting Internet hookup–so important!). We grabbed some yummy Portuguese food for supper from a place around the corner from our hotel, then crashed for the night.
Saturday morning we enjoyed a delicious full English breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant before gathering to head to Shakespeare’s Globe for our group tour. With this many Jane Austen fans in one place, you can imagine the kick we got out of having a guide named “Kitty.” She was an absolutely lovely lady who obviously has a passion for Shakespeare and for the theater itself. She led us through all the levels of the Globe so we could see the stage from all angles, explaining who would have sat where and why and showing us the incredible artistry that went into recreating the entire theater authentically. Workmen built the timbered structure entirely by hand, using tools from the time period (some of which had to be made especially for the Globe project). All of the beams are fastened together with wooden pegs, and the walls are of lathe and plaster.
After a 40-minute tour through the theater, we stepped into the Globe Exhibition museum, which includes artifacts from the time period, plus a glorious gallery of costume!
Here is what’s most amazing about the productions staged at the Globe: For period plays, all of the costumes are made entirely by hand, using only materials that would have been available in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. All of the lace is hand-made, and all trimmings are created from originals in museum collections around Britain. So being able to view these outfits up close with no glass to interfere was nothing short of heavenly! Lindsay took all these gorgeous pictures so you can see the level of detail. It’s astonishing that so much work goes into outfits that will be worn on the stage and seen from a distance. Seeing them up close is a revelation.
Two costumes were behind glass because of the intricacy of their workmanship. This photo shows a gentleman’s costume that was created by a donor for the Globe Exhibition:
After we finished the exhibition tour, Kitty let us know there would be a costume demonstration at 12:30 and 1:30, dressing a volunteer from the crowd in “Ophelia’s” costume from the most recent production of “Hamlet.” Part of us opted to go to lunch and catch the 1:30, but those who had other plans for the afternoon went to the 12:30. Here’s Courtney dressed in Ophelia’s shift, taking her turn as model. We didn’t get any other pictures from the first demonstration, but you’ll get to see Lindsay go through it in my next post!
My small group moved on to the Imperial War Museum after the Globe. This wasn’t just a stop for my son (who absolutely loved it!) but for me, as I wanted to see the Children’s War exhibit, which covered the history of London during the bombings in WWII and had heart-breaking stories of evacuee children who did not see their parents for anywhere from two to five years. The photos below show mannequins wearing clothing donated by these (now grown up) children, many of whom saved their identity tags, the toys they took in their pockets when they left home, and letters they wrote home to their parents:
The most fascinating part of this exhibit is a two-storey “home front” house with fully-furnished and decorated rooms. Here is a series of photos I shot while walking through the house. You can see period furniture and wallpapers. The windows are not mullioned windows but are taped in that pattern — they had to tape the windows for safety during bomb raids. Rather than utilitarian “Xs”, they created the look of leaded glass!
There were a lot of posters and advertisements encouraging women to recycle and mend clothing, reuse as many items as possible, and use up every scrap of food. There is a similar exhibit in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, but I enjoyed this one more, as the rooms are not behind plexiglass, and you can really see things in detail. The gift shop had a wide array of vintage reprints from this time period, as you can see from this shot I took of one shelf — lots of books on fashion, hairstyle, makeup, food, and more.
Halfway through the museum, I took a tea break to put my feet up, enjoying this lovely Victoria Sponge with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, plus a pot of Earl Grey tea. Yum!
We decided to hit the famous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Shop for supper, but the directions I got from the Internet took us into a quiet residential side street in Chelsea — nowhere close to where we needed to be! We finally broke down and hailed a cab, which took us to the opposite side of town off Fleet Street (closer to the theater district). Lesson learned — don’t trust website directions implicitly; double-check them! But it was well worth the drive, as this is London’s oldest pub, rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire. The restaurant upstairs was filled to capacity, so we ducked our heads to get down the narrow staircase and ordered directly from the bar. Let me tell you that this is one of the best-kept secrets in Great Britain. If you want to save 50% off your supper bill, order directly from the bar. You can get take-away food or eat it at a small pub table. The atmosphere was delightful, as you can see in the shot below. We enjoyed cottage pie, steak pie, and fresh salad greens with home-made vinaigrette. Everything was delicious and very inexpensive, especially for London.
We walked ourselves back to the St. Paul’s Underground, where Lindsay snapped these beautiful photos:
After settling back into our room, we had a knock at the door and found several ladies out in the hall ready for a gab fest. With group members going in all different directions yesterday, it was really fun to hear where they’d been and what they’d found. Several ladies hit the Portobello Antiques Market and snagged great bargins. Others brought back gorgeous pashmina shawls at a stunning bargain-basement price. It was delightful to see all the treasures. We were joined by still more ladies over the next couple of hours and sat up until far too late talking, swapping sewing stories, and laughing. This is the most wonderful, congenial group you can imagine — just like a party of sisters. We all wish you were here!