Thursday, January 3, 2013



Another great day out in London took in three major sites and three forms of transportation (I love to try all the local forms of public transportation wherever I travel). So on this day we took the Underground to the Tower of London (we'd seen the Ceremony of the Keys at nighttime, when the Tower is closed; see earlier post for details about the Ceremony), then we took a Thames Clippers boat to the Tate Modern museum, and then we walked across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's.  Terrific!

Tate Modern is a truly impressive architectural reclamation project: the building was originally the Bankside power station, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed the Battersea power station, Waterloo Bridge, and the iconic British red telephone booths. A building with such huge spaces and high ceilings is perfect for showcasing large artworks, and levels 5 and 6 are essentially a two-story glass box referred to as the "lightbeam" as it runs along the entire length of the building (level 6 is also where the main restaurant is located and there are superb views to be had).

Levels 2, 3, and 4 focus on a major art movement and how contemporary artists have responded to these ideas. Some of this space is devoted to temporary exhibitions, and the permanent collection is frequently rehung or moved around, so if you visit more than once in a six month or one year period you may find the galleries quite changed (the museum is meant to be constantly fresh and expanding, after all). But some of the artists whose work you may see here include Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Roy Lichtenstein, Cy Twombly, Lucio Fontana, Claes Oldenburg, Cindy Sherman, Louise Bourgeois, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Andre Derain, Max Beckmann, Diego Rivera, Dali, Picasso, Joseph Beuys, and Barnett Newman. Level 0 is where the Turbine Hall and The Tanks are located -- this space is truly massive as this is where huge oil-burning generators and oil tanks were located. The Tanks are the world's first museum galleries permanently dedicated to live art. I admit that some of the conceptual art installations at Tate Modern leave me perplexed, but that would be true no matter where I was. When my husband and I visited the Guggenheim Bilbao, we hired a guide who first took us around the building's exterior and then walked us through the galleries inside. "Wow!" is what I walked away thinking, because it was amazing and I was blown away and I would never have even remotely understood most of the works I saw. I will make sure my next visit to Tate Modern is timed for one of the free guided tours (currently 11:00 and 12 noon daily on Level 2 and 13:00 (1:00) and 14:00 (2:00) daily on Level 4).

There is a cafe on level 1, and a cool espresso bar on level 3, but I vastly prefer the restaurant on level 7 -- if you don't want waiter service at a table, you can select some light fare from the bar and find a seat at the long, shelf-like table against one of the windows.

Not surprisingly, we loved walking across the Millennium Bridge, from this very modern edifice to the classic old one on the London skyline. I was a little surprised, however, that my 14-year-old daughter loved St. Paul's so much -- in fact, she claimed it was practically the highlight of the trip for her. And when we later visited the Cabinet War Rooms, I was particularly pleased when she pointed to the famous photo of St. Paul's during the Blitz with sympathy and a sad look on her face.

Next up: a final post on London and one on the Cotswolds.

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