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.
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.
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 Oxygene. Oxygene 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.
Next: The First Emperor Exhibit