London is a second home to me, especially as my daughter and her family live here, but also because I worked here in the early days of my medical career for a couple of years. It has been so exciting to be back after three years of not being able to travel overseas. As you might imagine, I was a little anxious about the flight to London. In the first place was the concern that I might be unlucky enough to get Covid before I left so I continued to wear a mask in crowds, actually stayed home a lot in the week prior to leaving and had my fourth vaccination two weeks before the flight.
My London flight was a credit voucher with Qantas that I held since March 2020, It was easy to redeem and was routed via Darwin on the 787 Dreamliner. That meant a 17 hour flight Darwin to London which was fine and I managed to sleep. The check in at the Sydney end was the speediest ever – my International Vaccination Certificate had been linked to my passport and no Covid test required. Border was just as speedy – no departing passenger card and entry via electronic passport checking. Have to say after previous experiences, I was dreading the entry to UK. My previous experiences have involved long queues, but not this time! Electronic passport checking and I was through in a few minutes.
Hurray! On to the Paddington Express and in to London to meet my family at last!
I just love London, it is certainly a very busy city and can be a bit overwhelming in a crowd on the underground at times, but it is just so vibrant. The ethnic mix is amazing, so many cultures represented, you can eat food from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and especially India! Yes, we had Indian on one of my first evenings – my choice!
Another thing are the buildings, I love the fact that the ‘sightlines’ of St Paul’s Cathedral ( Christopher Wren’s masterpiece) must be kept clear. There are some iconic new buildings like ‘The Shard’ and the ‘Gherkin’ but I love walking down Piccadilly and Regent Street with their elegant stone columns, arches, window decorations and their black iron railings.
On the first full day in London I decided to catch the bus to Trafalgar Square (prefer buses when I have time as you have a great view of everything and you share the bus with people of all nations). The National Gallery is there and I wanted to view the Raphael exhibition and the amazing medieval icons from the 13/14th Centuries. The bus stopped in front of Selfridges, one of my favourite shops, so I popped in there first and bought a pair of shoes!
Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi, 1483 – 1520) is a really important Renaissance artist even though he died at 37 and had only a 20 year career. During that time he was an exceptional drawer, painted in oil and fresco, designed for tapestries, prints, decorative arts and sculpture. He was also an architect and archaeologist.
This exhibition in London was vast, covering his whole life’s work. What really stood out for me was the intensity of his colour. I was expecting a soft, aged look, but no! The reds are brilliant and the blues intense when he used oils. Softened in the large fresco but still with really clear colours.
I was a bit startled to see a couple of Leonardo do Vinci’s works in there too. Masterful.
In another gallery were the medieval icons, also mesmerising in their brilliant colours and gold leaf. These works were used for religious devotion and are mainly egg tempera on timber. Narelle and I demonstrated this painting technique and how to make your own egg tempera paint in one of our online class videos on art history……
Another great favourite is the Victoria and Albert Museum – a total treasure trove! This visit I was interested in Islamic and Eastern art and di a small pen and wash sketch.
Of course there is more to come, but I think I’ll stop this post here and go on over the next few weeks with more London adventures and my new workshop timetable for the second half of 2022.