London: The Roots of Beauty

All museums are a display of pirate plunder, intrepid curators and donors showing off gorgeous swag to admiring patrons and peasants - with a touch of my mom coming home from shopping having finally found the perfect something to go with the difficult but precious something else. None more so than the Victoria & Albert, which for years I considered a combination of treasure house and whimsical hardware store. You want to study brocades? Hundreds of examples, up there to the right. Sixteenth century wrought-iron locks and keys? Up one floor, through there, end of the hall. The Costumes collection makes me wish I believed in past lives and wore those things in them. Especially the things dating from before the invention of the waist cincher. And the shoes! Enough moaning, we've been lucky enough to be in town while an exhibit called The Roots of Beauty is open. It traces the origin and spread of the Aesthetic Movement in England, and from there to North America and to Europe, inspiring Art Nouveau and its child Wiener Werkstatt. We're all familiar with Tiffany lamps and Liberty prints: this is where they came from. "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," declared the Aesthetics, and they were right.

Hopelessly romantic, perhaps - even I, lover of green velvet and gold jewelry that twists and twines, wouldn't wear aesthetic garb to an office - but daringly modern in the beliefs that clothing should be comfortable and long-wearing, furniture should be attractive and practical, and that art should make our days on earth bearable. They let fresh air in stuffy Victorian rooms, and minds. I loved this exhibit, only wished there had been more of it.

Before trudging over to the V&A, we grabbed a roll and coffee in Shepherd's Market, and pressed our noses against the windows of a favorite shop:

Tin soldiers: you won some, you lose some.

After the museum, we wandered through Harrods Food Hall, not what it once was, but still fun.

the fish display

part of the cheese display

incredibly expensive cherries

All just to whet an appetite for dinner.


  1. Hello:
    The V and A is, in our view, wonderful and has, in recent years, been brought right up to date with much that is interactive for the visitor. We are so glad that you enjoyed the exhibition.

    As for Harrods. Simply, in our opinion, a tourist trap and not to be set foot in! Try Selfridges food hall instead.

  2. Yes, each trip Harrods disappoints more... It's become more a "food court" than a food hall, although I still find traces of what I loved as a kid.

  3. Fred I really love your writing!
    This update from London was really a treat this morning. Thanks so much and I am happy to know you are having such fun.

  4. Thanks, Danii, you are so kind! I'm working on a restaurant post but between the wine & the food my pix are furry & my notes are blurry do it may be another day or two (burps gently).

  5. Fab! Hope you find some choice eats there. You going to one of Ramsey's restaurants?

  6. the V&A was one of my most favorite places when I lived in London. It was always a little more quiet than the other museums. I liked to just wander and stare at the tapestries and prints. Oh, to be in London now! Jealous!


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