Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


London: Day Four-The Finale

We made plans to visit London several months ago.  And the primary reason for visiting was to see the First Emperor exhibit at the British Museum.  I reasoned that it was less expensive to visit London than having to get new visas for China, travel 25 hours, plus more time traveling from Beijing to the original site of the terra cotta warriors.

This is called “Amy Logic.”

What we didn’t expect was that it would be so hard to get tickets to the exhibit.  I tried to purchase tickets online without success.  I called the museum and they suggested calling back as we got closer to our trip to purchase tickets.  And then we found out there were no more advanced tickets available.

However, we had one other option.  The British Museum made available 500 tickets each day (700 tickets on the weekend).  This meant waiting in line at the museum before it opened for the day.

Eric went to the museum on both Friday and Saturday mornings and stood in line.  And waited.  And then he would make it into the museum.  And then he would be told “Sorry, we’re sold out.”  On Saturday the lined wrapped around the front of the museum to the back.  He asked the security guard what time people started arriving to queue up.  The security guard told him that during the week, people arrive by 6:30am and on the weekend people arrive by 5:30am.

We agreed to get up early on Monday, our last day in London.  We arrived at the museum around 6:45am and had about 30-40 people all ready waiting in front of us.  Eric walked to a nearby cafe and brought back breakfast.  Later I walked over to Starbucks and bought us some tea.  I listened to Craftcast on my iPod; Eric listened to tunes on his iPod.  We talked with the gentleman in front of us.  He came into the city from outside London to get tickets for himself and his family.  He had also been there on Friday.

I chuckled to myself thinking how different this was from waiting in line to buy concert tickets to say, the Rolling Stones or the Bay City Rollers (and that was a looong time ago!)

Around 8:30am the line started to move from the sidewalk in front of the museum to the stairs leading up into the museum. 

The musuem staff have moving a queue down to an art.  Once the gates open, they line you up on the stairs and then down into the courtyard.  The line snakes back and around in long S-shapes.  They count each person, and at a certain point, tell you whether or not you’ll get tickets based on your position in line.  Inside the museum there is a sign on a pedestal that they place at a certain spot along the line.  The sign said “Beyond this point you may not get tickets.”

Around 9:00am we all moved into the museum in a nice long line.  Fortunately the weather this morning was tolerable; a little chilly; cloudy but not raining.  But it was nice to be inside a warm building.

Once the tickets started selling the line moved rather briskly.  An L.E.D. sign showed the entrance time for which tickets were currently available.  We bought two tickets for the 10:20am showing.  It was maybe 9:15am.

The 500 tickets for the day were sold out by 10:00am.

Was it worth the wait?


The exhibit was displayed in the reading room of the museum.  The first part of the exhibit contained historical information on the Emperor including his rise to power, his innovations in the development of chariots, weaponry, the calvary, the development of government and the use of money.  A film was projected on one wall, artifacts including weapons, weights, money, portions of terracotta soldiers, and replicas of maps and inscriptions were displayed here.

It is believed that the name “China” is derived from Emperor Yin Zheng’s Qin empire.  In 215 BC, the Emperor ordered the construction of the Great Wall.  This wall was not the first to be built however.  Rival states had also constructed walls over hundreds of years to mark the boundaries of a state’s territories.  But the size of the Emperor’s Great Wall demonstrated how much territory the Qin claimed.

Near the end of the exhibit stood approximately 20 different terra cotta warriors, acrobats, and musicians positioned with a chariot, a miniature chariot, and bronze birds.  The detail on the warriors is amazing.  Their faces were created from molds yet each one has a distinctive look from a hairstyle to a mustache and/or beard.  The care in detail is carried all the way down to the treads on their boots.

And what surprised me the most?  The warriors were originally painted!  What we see now as concrete figures originally were painted in vibrant colors including skin tone and eyes.  The horses were painted brown and black.

The Emperor feared death and after two assassination attempts his desire to live forever only deepened.  He consulted occult specialists and sent officials to look for plants that would allow him to evade death and live forever.  And he created a great tomb for himself on the slopes of Mt. Li near present day Lintong to ensure power into and through eternity. 

700,000 men were summoned to build his tomb and other structures.  The Emperor died in 210 BC at the age of 50.  His grand imperial tomb and final resting place was unfinished when he died.

The First Emperor exhibit will be in the United States later this year.  It opens May 18 at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA.  It travels to Atlanta in November, Houston in May, 2009 and Washington, DC in November 2009.  For more information go here.

Pictures of the exhibit were not allowed.  Images below were scanned from The First Emperor: China’s Terra Cotta Army exhibition book.

Two replicas show the original bright color scheme.

In October, 2007, children who saw the exhibit were given the opportunity to re-create the warriors in clay.  The results were on display in the museum.  Aren’t they wonderful?

We spent the rest of the day touring the British Museum, returned to our hotel for a nap, and then a wonderful Chinese dinner at Shanghai Blue (thus bringing our Chinese themed day full circle.)

Now we’re back home readjusting to our time zone and thinking about our next adventure.


London: Day Three

Sunday was a beautiful day; sunny with puffy clouds and blue sky.  We opted to sleep in this day as this was the weekend when England started their summer time schedule.  Weren’t we lucky to experience “springing ahead” twice in one month on two different continents?

The time difference between England and Massachusetts was now five hours.

With the lovely weather, we decided to head over to Covent Garden which reminded me of Quincy Market here in Boston.  Covent Garden, however, includes not only the market area but also a number of streets with shops, bakeries, restaurants, and theatres.  And on this Sunday Covent Garden was hopping with people and street entertainers.



We first visited Paul’s Bakery in Paris.  What a treat to find this bakery in Covent Garden.

  A rather sad Roman fighter in Covent Garden.

  Give a hand to the Green Man in Covent Garden.

Once we had our fill of people watching we took the tube to the South Kensington stop.  Here we found ourselves in the Kensington area of London; home to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial Children’s Park.

We spent the afternoon touring the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The V&A is a curiously quirky museum.  It houses a vast collection of art and design, from Asian and European artifacts to Glass, Fashion, Jewelry, Stained Glass, Silver, Musical Instruments and Tapestries.  There are apparently 4.5 million objects in this museum.  You could literally spend days here trying to take it all in.

The V&A was founded in 1852 as the South Kensington Museum and has its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851.  (The purpose of the Great Exhibition was to encourage art and industry to work together with the best of technology and creativity to improve lifestyles.)  Queen Victoria presided over the museum’s official opening in June, 1857.  The V&A was the first museum in the world to open a “refreshment” room.  In 1858, V&A introduced late night openings made possible by gas lighting.  Here the intent was to provide convenient hours for the working class.  In May, 1899, Queen Victoria helped place a foundation stone to the left of the main entrance and the museum name was offically changed to the Victoria and Albert Museum.


The museum now covers approximately 12.5 acres and has 145 galleries.

  The Cast rooms contain casts made of famous works of art and sculpture.  The casts were brought to the museum so people who could not travel could view and enjoy art from around the world.

   I couldn’t convince Eric to let me bring David home for our front yard.

  This is the bottom half of a cast made of Trajan’s Column, a monument in Rome in honor of the Roman Emperor Trajan.  The original is 125 feet tall, including the pedestal.

  Cast Celtic Cross

  This Chihuly glass sculpture hangs in the entrance over the information desk.

  I was really taken with this lock.  It reminds me of a shrine.

  Rodin’s Muse

When we arrived in London the previous Thursday night we stopped in the hotel bar for a light bite to eat.  I was flipping through the March issue of Where London and saw that Jean Michel Jarre was performing at the Royal Albert Hall.  Jarre is a keyboard player who hit it big in the 70’s with the recording of his album OxygeneOxygene was the first album recorded in a home studio.  And here he was, in England, performing Oxygene in its entirety, using all analog keyboards, at the Royal Albert Hall.

Eric’s eyes lit up when I read that Jarre was in town.  We bought tickets for the show that same night.

The Royal Albert Hall is a beautiful venue with an impressive history.  It opened in 1871.  The Hall was created as a result of Prince Albert’s dream to create a complex of cultural, scientific, and academic institutions.  Profits from the Great Exhibition (1851) helped fund this dream.  (The V&A Museum was also part of this dream.)


Prince Albert died before any of these institutions were built yet his dream was still realized under the supervision of Queen Victoria.  The Hall opened in 1871 with a performance by the Grenadier Guards Band.  An inaugural organ concert by Dr. Best was performed on July 17, 1871.  Since then the Royal Albert Hall has held balls, shown movies, hosted theatre performances and ballets, and, of course, hosted numerous music performances.

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones performed here in 1963, Frank Sinatra in 1975, Phil Collins in 1985, Sting in 1986, Eric Clapton in 1987, Music for Monserrat in 1997, and the Who in 2000; the Concert for George Harrison was held here in 2002; Cream’s reunion concert was held here in 2005, Jay-Z performed the first hip-hop concert here in 2006, and Madame Butterfly was performed in the round in 2007.

And in 2008 we were here to see Jean Michel Jarre.  Sweet.


Jarre had a large mirror over the stage that moved into an angled position over the stage which gave us an overhead view of all the keyboards.

  Dolly the Citreon

The Albert Memorial

Next: The First Emperor Exhibit


London: Day Two

Saturday was still a bit windy but at least the rain had stopped.  We decided to venture over to the West End in the morning and purchase tickets for a show that evening.  In the West End you’ll find several discount ticket sellers along with a couple of casinos, clubs, theatres (movie and stage), Chinatown, and numerous stores.  It is always a hub of activity.

After purchasing our tickets, we decided to visit the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  Both venues are located across the Thames which meant a trip on the Tube.

I can’t help but be impressed with the mass transit system in England and Europe in general.  Here people are accustomed to taking mass transit.  Now the natives may disagree with me but every time we’ve visited Europe and ridden the subways we always find them to be clean, well-labeled, efficient, and with good PA systems.

We visited Tate Modern first.  There are four Tate museums; the Tate Modern, the Tate Britian, the Tate Liverpool, and the Tate St Ives.  Tate Modern is located in a former power station and was opened in 2000.  It displays the national collection of international modern art (defined as art created since 1900.)

Here we saw art work by Joseph Cornell, Picasso, Matisse, Jackson Pollock, along with numerous British artists.  Tate Modern is also home to several Mark Rothko paintings including an entire room for the nine Seagram Murals. 

In the late 50’s Rothko was commissioned to paint murals (600 square feet of paintings) for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York.  It is unclear what caused Rothko’s change of heart but he dissolved his commission agreement with the Four Seasons and bequeathed the paintings to the Tate Modern as a gift in the late 60’s.  Ironically, the paintings arrived at Tate Modern on the morning that Rothko committed suicide in 1970.

Tate Modern is the first museum of modern art that I’ve visited.  I haven’t even been to the ICA in Boston.  Modern art is an art form that I don’t always understand (if I’m really supposed to understand it) and isn’t something that I’m typically attracted to; however, as it has been pointed out, art is something that often causes a reaction in people on some level.  We don’t have to “get it” but we can certainly respect and appreciate the artist’s ability to express themselves, especially when the art makes us think.

With that, I bring you an installation by Doris Salcedo.  Ms. Salcedo is a Columbian artist.  And this is Shibboleth.


The “crack” in the ground ran the full length of the floor in Turbine Hall.

Shibboleth is “a word used as a test for detecting people from another district or country by their pronunciation; a word or sound very difficult for foreigners to pronounce correctly.”  It is a way of separating one people from another.  The word itself goes back to an incident in the Bible (Book of Judges) and was used to distinguish between the Ephramites and their enemies, the Gileadites.  Those who could not pronounce the word shibboleth were captured and executed.  A shibboleth is, therefore, a token of power.

According to Salcedo, “modernity is seen as an exclusively European event…and had as its main purpose the creation of a homogenous, rational, and beautiful society” and through its advocacy it created an “ideal of humanity so restrictedly defined that it excluded non-European peoples from the human genre.”


At the Tate we also visited two exhibitions: a retrospective by sculptor Juan Munoz and a collection of work by Duchamp, Man Ray, and Picabia.



Yes, there was a child in a stroller beneath this pile of coats.


Even the food at the Tate had a modern presentation.

After a while, all this art started to overload our heads.  That is when we decide to head over to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and visit the master of another art form: the spoken word.


Don’t you just love Olde English?

globe1.jpgThe Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the open-air playhouse designed in 1599 where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his plays.  Here you can take a self-guided tour of an indoor exhibit which introduces you to the life of Shakespeare, London during his lifetime, and the theatre.  This is followed by a tour of the theatre with a well-trained guide.  The theatre season runs from April to October.



globegate1.jpg    globegate2.jpg    globegate3.jpg

The iron gate outside the Globe Theatre.

millenbridge.jpg  The Millennium Bridge

We finished our evening with an awesome dinner at an Italian restaurant in the West End.  I truly expected the staff to start singing at some point; they were so exhuberant.  Dinner was followed by a visit to the Palace Theatre to see Monty Python’s Spamalot.  What better place to experience Monty Python than in London’s West End.


Next: Covent Garden, Victoria & Albert Museum, and a concert at the Royal Albert Hall.


London: Day One

In 2004 we visited England and Scotland.  It was our first 10 day vacation.  We visited London and Oxford in England and then took a train from Oxford to Edinburgh where we toured the city and took both a day trip and overnight trip to the lower Highlands.

On this visit we focused solely on London and took in quite a lot in four days.

We woke up on Friday to what some might consider traditional England weather: light showers, heavier showers, and wind.  There is a four hour time difference between Massachusetts and England (at least until England switches to summer time.)  Adjusting to the time difference is always a little tricky the first day or two.  Melatonin is helpful and so is a nice nap!

We were both a bit under-the-weather on Friday most likely due to the lovely food served on our flight so our first day was low-key.

We visited Blade Rubber Stamps which is always a treat.  During our 2004 visit I bought a selection of Stewart Gill paints at Blade.  This was before Stewart Gill paints were readily available stateside.  Ironically, I didn’t see any Stewart Gill paints in the store this time.  I did, however, purchase three stamps made exclusively by Blade Rubber Stamps; a King and Queen inspired by the Lewis Chessman, some charms, and a crown stamp.  The Lewis Chessman, carved from whale teeth and walrus ivory, can be seen at the British Museum and in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland.


In turn, for visiting Blade, we ventured over to Turnkey Music, one of Europe’s leading music stores.

But the two treats for the day was visiting Pollock’s Toy Museum and the National Gallery. 

pollocks.jpgPollock’s retains its name from Benjamin Pollock who worked in the fur trade but loved to visit the shop of John Redington, which, among other things, was a theatrical print warehouse.  Here Benjamin met his future wife, Eliza.  When John Redington died, the Pollock’s inherited the business.  They continued the business of creating theatrical prints and eventually became involved in the creation of toy theatres.

In the early 50’s, Marguerite Fawdry purchased all the plates, plays and theatres that lay in a warehouse.  Some time after making this purchase, Mrs. Fawdry decided to create a toy museum along with selling the toy theatres.  And it is in the museum’s current location, on 1 Scala Street, where you’ll find three floors and numerous rooms filled with toys from the 1800’s and 1900’s as well as toy theatres and some of the original tools used by Benjamin Pollock and his family to create the original theatres.  It gives a fascinating view of the history of toys and how children used to entertain themselves.  There are no video games here.

The National Gallery contains one of the best collections of Western European paintings.  Here you’ll find paintings from 1250 to 1900 including Van Eyck, Botticelli, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, and Cezanne.

Did you know that all National British Museums are free?  Though I haven’t found out the history behind this decision, I believe it may have some history with Queen Victoria and her support of the arts.  Whatever the history behind this, I think it is wonderful that the museums are free to all citizens and visitors.  After all, shouldn’t art be available to everyone?  A donation of 3 pounds or $5 U.S dollars is requested and separate fees are charged for special exhibits.


Big Ben, at dusk, as seen from the entrance to the National Gallery.  The National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square.

Next: The Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Spamalot.


London Calling

London Calling
Yeah, I was there too
An’ you know what they said
Well some of it was true!
London Calling
At the top of the dial
After all this, won’t you give me a smile?

-The Clash

We leave for London on Thursday.  We will be visiting the British Museum to take in the First Emperor: China’s Terra Cotta Army Exhibit. The Terra Cotta warriors are life size figures that were discovered in Xi’an, China by a well-digger in the 1920’s. 

The creation of the warriors was commissioned by China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi.  Emperor Qin wished to live forever and in preparation for life eternal he commissioned the creation of an army, chariots with horses, and calvary horses. 

Excavations have been conducted at Emperor Qin’s mausoleum complex since 1974.  Archeologists estimate that over 7,000 soldiers may have been created.  About 1,000 soldiers have been excavated so far.

We may also take in the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, perhaps a theatre show, and certainly a spot or two of tea.