10 July 2012

London - the Monopoly board map - from Buckingham Palace to the National Portrait Gallery

London is like a giant Monopoly board. Today I walked and walked and walked some more. I went from Victoria Station to Buckingham Palace to Pall Mall to Leicester Square to Covent Gardens to National Portrait Gallery to Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus Station and through Victoria Station. Legs are tired!

I set off for Buckingham Palace just as the Changing of the guards was beginning. When I arrived there were thousands of people. So many, cordoned off with fences and police tape. While I did not have a great vantage point, I snuck as far to the front as I could and asked tall men to take photos on my camera while I took what I could on my phone.

It was amazing. The atmosphere of the crowd and the pomp and tradition of the ceremony was quite overwhelming. There were tourists from across the world to witness this British Royal tradition.

As the guards changed, they struck up the brass band, playing the James Bond theme.

I wondered about their hats - are they real bear skin or are they polyester, a bit like my fauxpard jacket from Target? I also wondered whether the marching on the spot was for show or to relieve fheir legs from standing. Do they get bored? Are they paid a performer's allowance as well as a guard wage? And how often do they use their guns?

I plan on going back for a tour. I feel the whole experience was a bit rushed. Here is a selfie outside the palace gates. You can see in the background there is a big spike coming out of the pavement - I guess for extra security.

After the ceremony was over a lone soldier walked the ground in front of the palace. I did capture a photo on my camera but cannot access it on my iPad. I wondered what he was there for - I thought that he had just returned from war and was reporting in to Her Majesty. Probably not though. He was probably there for added protection.

There were a few mounted police and as the gates were opened for a thoroughfare, I patted this horse. The royal police horses' manes and coats are much more preened than the street police horses.

I waked around to the gardens and saw a bride - she posed with the police - they wore their helmets. I asked for a photo with the police too - I asked the older one to take the photo of me with the younger one, and he said "you are being very choosy, going for the younger, better looking model!" Hah!

I stood and watched this guard up close for a while - there were two guards at a post near St James Park - amd they did some marching and mild twirling of the guns.

Then I walked up Pall Mall, admiring the huge old grand buildings, and found myself at the theatre district - The West End. I walked the Long Acre (and boy was it long!) to find a the theatre that Matilda is showing at, and bought a matinee ticket for next week. So excited!
Aussie Tim Minchin wrote the lyrics and the score. My claim to fame is Tim Minchin ate my Bounty chocolate.

I saw Laudree, the famous macaron cafe, which I know Sydney Shop Girl said is coming to Sydney. The towers of macarons are pretty. I am heading to Covent Garden again on Sunday so will stop for a macaron.

From there I found myself at the National Portrait Gallery. There are walls and walls of historic paintings - though I could appreciate the history of them, they didn't appeal to me as much as the comtemporary collections - and the rooms that housed the old portraits smelled a bit like a hospital.

The 2012 British Portrait Award was exhibited. It is an amazing exhibition - I was truly in awe. The talent of the artists is incredible. Many of the portraits look like photos, and it is remarkable the details the artists have captured - every hair strand, bristle and pore. The portraits show emotion and left me feeling emotional. It certainly was a beautiful experience. I bought the catalogue and here are a few of my favourites.

I overheard an older lady comment on the winner - "Auntie" by Aleah Chapin. The painting is an almost full body nude portrait of a middle aged woman. You can view it here - it is incredible. The lady in the gallery said "That's brave, isn't it? That's an age you should cover up." It was funny to overhear.

I walked out of the exhibition very moved. After thinking about appearance and image for three full days last week, I got to thinking about the natural state these portraits show of their subjects - revealing their vulnerabilities - physical and emotional, naked and clothed, sad or happy. The portaits were an insight into their subjects' souls, and the talent of the artists stretched beyond any photoshop capability.

I was going to look at the National Gallery but then I was too tired so I sat in Trafalgar Square listening to a busking violin player and watching the hoardes of people before I set off home for a nap.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I am working at Changing Faces and then exploring more of the city. I love it here. I truly do.

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