Christmas in Vienna


(2002) The first part of this trip was to be about snow tubing in the Alps, since I had recently published my book, The Guide to Innertubing, which included both river and snow tubing locations around the world. I even got a video-camera for the occasion. The second part was to be spent in Vienna. The second thing I should mention is that airfare to Vienna is quite expensive, so I found a good rate to London and booked Ryanair to Salzburg.


We had just the afternoon in LONDON before our flight to Austria, so we walked around London to see all the holiday decorations. Past Buckingham Palace (no guard changing today), through Piccadilly Circus (carousel, arcades, and a flying cow sculpture) to Trafalgar Square (even the pigeons were hiding). We had fish & chips and a potpie in a pub, then back out to Christie’s for a look at the swords & armor up for auction, over to Knightsbridge and finally to Harrods.


A Christmas to Thrill was the theme of the Harrods windows facing Brompton Road which featured 007 movies. Continued our wanderings inside the store, looked at food halls, fashion, even housewares. The highlight, of course, was our visit to Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar.

I had Suckao – a dark rich thick chocolate drink served in special containers that have little built-in tea candle warming units & a long stainless steel straw/spoon. Marie had chocolate Ecuador (with orange) & a chocolate brioche – the best! A near-religious experience. Fantastic review written by the Chocolate Lady. Click here.

Back down from Cloud 9, we continued our exploration of Harrods. The Egyptian rooms and escalators were great, but difficult to photograph. Another favorite was the horse fashion & equipment complete with saddles, tack, full-sized horse mannequin, and chatty salesgirl.

We found our way through Chelsea on the way back to Victoria. Oops, no Art yet.

Ryanair flies out of Stansted Airport, east of the city. We found the experience challenging, but we got airborne. On the approach to SALZBURG airport our seatmate pointed out Oberndorf where “Silent Night, Holy Night” was written on Christmas Eve, 1818.

As we headed our rental car west to Bregenz, one thing was immediately evident: there was no snow on the ground and not much more anywhere else. This changed everything, for obvious reasons; so in order for this post to be about our adventures in Art and not in the snow-less Swiss countryside, I will skip to the artistic highlights leading up to Vienna.


We'll begin with the Dom Kirch St. Jakob in INNSBRUCK, whose altar-painting was Our Lady of Succor by Lukas Cranach the Elder. Innsbruck also offers a gilt-roof house, Christmas market, and Austrian crystal.


Speaking of crystal, our next stop was Swarovski’s Crystal World in WATTENS. A truly indescribable scene awaited us.  The video may give you some idea. (Click here.)

Chocolate was introduced to Austria when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI relocated from Madrid to Vienna in 1711. Vienna became famous for its hot chocolate, so rich and thick that it was served with glasses of chilled water to balance out the experience.

We had the first (after Max Brenner's) of many hot chocolates in Austria, watching ice skaters in SALZBURG. Not as thick as the Spanish . Not as sweet as American. A sophisticated mélange which includes heavy cream and sometimes an egg yolk.

Salzburg was a work of Art in itself, with its Baroque architecture and alpine setting.  We began in Mirabell Gardens (1689), on the west side of the Salzach River where Maria (Julie Andrews) and the children danced and sang Doe A Deer around the Pegasus statue. No foliage to speak of, but a fine crop of Dwarf statues.

Unicorn in Sound of Music

We went to the Residenz-Prunkraume, which dates from the mid-12th century and was the archbishop’s palace where Mozart first performed for royalty at age six. It was also the home of Residenzgalerie Salzburg.  The Residenzgalerie, opened in 1923, was founded following the end of the monarchy, to replace the art collection of the prince-archbishops which had been lost during the Napoleonic wars.  It was also seen as a tourist attraction to go along with the Salzburg Festival. On another note, I learned that in 1938, Arturo Toscanini chose not to conduct at Germany’s famed Bayreuth Festival (as a snub to the Nazis), instead conducting in Salzburg, making this festival the single biggest tourist attraction in Europe.

When the museum was founded, it did not own a single work of art; all the exhibits were on loan. By the time it was closed in 1938 (presumably due to impending war), they had acquired thirty Artworks. After reopening in 1952, the Residenzgalerie focused on acquiring European paintings from 16th to 19th centuries. Among our favorites were a Rubens’ Satyr, a Rembrandt sketch, and this Brueghel:


Then to the Rupertinum – Museum for Modern Art. When Residenzgalerie decided to focus on the early stuff, they turned over all their 20th century Art to the Rupertinum. The name refers to the building’s historical use, which was originally a school for student priests and continued to be a student dormitory until 1974. The museum opened in 1983 with turn-of-the-century artists such as Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka and Austrian Expressionism represented by Herbert Boeckl, Eduard Bäumer and Hans Fronius.

There was still a little time to walk through the Christmas market before Mass at the Dom (where Mozart was christened). We had previously been to the Christmas markets in Zurich, but the spectacle of the sale of traditional holiday treats and gifts, amid the social atmosphere of public drinking was something to behold.

The altar, in the Cathedral, was not quite buried in unadorned balsam trees. On one side, a large Advent wreath was suspended by three purple ribbons. Clouds of incense rose and the church bells chimed.

I should mention that we got the Salzburgcard and stopped in a few places we might not usually, such as the Carolino Augusteum-Haupthaus, the city museum with Roman & Celtic artifacts, and the Carolino Augustem–Speizeugmuseum, which had “100 teddy bears” as well as other games and toys. Then we took a bus (free w/card) through the mountain (literally) to the Stiegel’s Brauwelt, and had a beer at the brewery. They say Mozart drank Stiegel beer.

While we had our share of wurst at the markets, we enjoyed dinner that night at Stiftskeller St. Peter (since 806). We made our reservation, then took the funicular up to the Schloss Monchsberg for a look at the city lights and then back down for our meal. The décor was Mephistopheles meets Faust; a warren of rooms. I got lost just coming back from the herren room. Wonderful food was accompanied by a young woman playing fiddle and a young man on the accordion.

All drawings by Marie Hammer

Monday morning and off to VIENNA. Our little apartment was built in the 19th century and afforded few modern comforts (like heat after 9pm), so we spent as much time as we could out in the city. Although it was cold, we headed right out (no car now, we walked) to St. Stephansdom, the center of the First District, and where we planned to go the next night for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Consecrated in 1147 with expansion continuing until 1511, this Gothic and Romanesque cathedral was saved from destruction at the hands of the retreating German army by Captain Gerhard Klinkicht who disregarded orders to do so. However, when the Russians invaded, plunderers set fire to nearby shops which spread, and did some damage to the cathedral. The roof is delightful with 230,000 colorfully glazed tiles forming patterns including the Habsburg double-eagle.


Ludwig von Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness here when he saw birds flying out of the church’s bell tower as a result of the bells' tolling but could not hear the bells.

Lines of horses & carriages stood next to the church, as did a cadre of street performers with various schtick, and young people in period costume selling tickets to performances of Mozart or Strauss.

Going back down Bakerstrasse, Marie managed to buy a necklace from a lady who said she would be closing that night for two full weeks, so she had to decide right then.

Christmas Eve day: Not a lot open, so we spent the time walking around Wien. We did find one place open, MAK – Museum of Applied Arts at the University of Applied Arts. (The "K" is for "kunst" which means "Art.")  The college atmosphere made the visit fun, but I can’t tell you what we saw.

We skirted around the First District occasionally going out beyond the Ringstrasse before heading to the center of things – The Graben. An elegant pedestrian mall, it was the most fun for people watching. Both the Lions and Kiwanis clubs were selling mugs of hot Weihnachtspunsch there, which is either mulled wine (like the German “Glühwein”) or a combination of tea, spices, sugar, rum and brandy. It definitely made the cold temperatures more tolerable.

Even in the cold, street entertainment was of a high caliber. Click here to see video of a balalaika trio from Ukraine or click here to see a puppeteer interact with his audience. Here's another violinist not on the street.

Eventually it was time to go St. Stephansplatz and we found that there was already a long line to get into the Dom for Midnight Mass. A concert of brass band music was promised, but did not materialize, and the doors did not open until 11:30, so when we were finally let in, there was a huge crush of people. The proceedings weren’t all that artistic, so I will leave out the details.

Hot chocolate the next day at the Mozart Café at Albertinaplatz across the street from the StaatOpera. Christmas Day Mass at St. Augustiniankirche was a special experience. Located on Josephplatz, next to the Habsburg’s winter palace, it was originally built in the 14th century by Duke Frederick the Handsome. The church is lovely; simple & elegant, yet was the site of many Imperial weddings including that of Archduchess Marie Louise in 1810 to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and future Empress Maria Theresa to Duke Francis of Lorraine.


We sat in slightly elevated pews, which had blankets for sitting on (or wrapping yourself in). The crowds filled the aisles, but less urgently than the night before. Husbands of the ladies wearing dead animals knelt on the stone floor. The orchestra, chorus and organ were the featured attraction here. The service facilitated the performance of Cacilianmesse by Charles Gounnod. But it was a nice service, for all we could tell.  (It was in German). The head pastor even climbed up into the high pulpit to deliver his sermon. They wore beautifully beaded & gold embroidery of a contemporary design over lace-trimmed robes. In addition to the usual collection, we were expected to contribute to the musicians expense as well. Or for 15€ we bought a cd of Mozart.  Click here for a little peek.

We had lunch at the chic Café Demel where the hot chocolate was the best since Max Brenner’s. Good warm chicken, house club sandwich. Marie got a jellied salmon creation. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the city, off the Graben; to the Am Hof, Freyung and the Ferstal Palace.

The day after Christmas is also a holiday in Vienna, but a few of the museums were open, so we hit the big one first: Kunsthistorisches Museum.

This was the Habsburgs' collection and contains nothing later than 1892. The Vienna tourism people put it on a par with the Prado and Louvre. They charged 9€ admission, plus 50 cents for coat check and 50 cents for a simple map. The Rubens’ were not so good (some were damaged), nor was the Rembrandt. There was a Vermeer, but no Botticelli. A couple of Lukas Cranach the Elder, however. There was a sprinkling of Van Dyke, Van Eyck, & Dürer. The highlight came after completing just over half of the wing when I was resting on a bench. There was no art of interest, but a passionate couple caught my eye. He was balding & chubby, she was younger with dyed red hair. While they were standing there looking up at the bloody religious art, he had his hands all over her derriere; rubbing and occasionally patting. Then they kissed loudly in front of a picture of Jesus dying, entertaining the roomful of people.

The Princesses Sibylla, Emilia and Sidonia von Sachsen by Lukas Cranach the Elder
Judith by Cranach

The other wing had Italians (Titian, Tintoretto, Raphael, Bellini) and a special exhibit of artifacts made from gems, stones & crystals. There was quite a bit of stone picture work from Florence. Downstairs was a large number of sarcophagi from Egypt. Greek & Roman galleries were closed but there was a special exhibit of Polish Art.

There appeared to be no work by female artists. The most interesting Art, in my opinion, was around the top of the grand staircase. One side featured frescoes by Gustav Klimt. The opposite side was done by his brother Ernst. I tried to shoot video, but it was too dark.

Friday morning we got in line for the Lipizzaner Stallions’ final morning practice with music at the Spanish Riding School. Inside, the lobby quickly filled and when they finally opened the door leading outside in order to climb to the second floor for entrance to the galleries, there was, again, a great crush of people ready to leap or lurch in whichever direction they saw an open door. Young and old. Denim or dead animals. We were able to get seats in the front row a bit beyond the center point. Everyone crowded around. By 10:30, four or five horses & riders walked and trotted around the ring. Occasionally, one would display a dance step, or back the horse up a step or two, or even ride in a diagonal. But not often. They changed horses & music every now and then. Having seen the Lipizzaners do their show elsewhere, it wasn’t much to watch. The idea that they were practicing inside, under massive crystal chandeliers, in front of huge portraits and an audience ensconced in elegant boxes, however, was a treat. Click here for some video.

painting by Julius von Blaas

We then proceeded to the Dorotheum. This old antique auction house has been called “a pawn shop for the Habsburgs.” Rooms of furniture, stamps, coins, jewelry, Art Deco/Nouveau, even stuffed animals, all tagged with what we supposed were starting bids. We didn’t bid on anything.

Had lunch down the street at Trzesniewski, where you choose from an assortment of small open-faced sandwiches. Many with egg, tuna, salmon, pickle, herring, etc. With our large & small beer we sat at a small table Marie had commandeered.  (There were only three in the whole place. Most stand at narrow ledges around the small establishment).

Then over to the Gemaldegaleri at der Akademie der bildenden Kunste (Academy of Fine Arts). It was snowing so the Schillerplatz out in front, even with the nearby construction, looked magical. The Academy building is itself impressive, but you have to hunt for the gallery. There were no signs, but we found it on the top floor. It’s an Arts school after all. Klimt went here.


Bosch’s Last Judgment triptych was the big draw here, but they also have a very nice Rembrandt self-portrait done late in his poor life. Shows a softer Rembrandt. Also Cranach, Van Dyke, Titian, and Rubens. All of better quality than the Hapsburgs' collection, I thought. Not to mention the superior wall colors and lighting.
Cranach's Lucretia
Botticelli

Walked through the Hotel Sacher, admiring the photos of famous faces on the walls near the restrooms. Bought chocolates at Altman & Kuhne on the Graben, and had coffee and chocolate at the Café Lehman. There was no “strudel to die for” but there were a couple of other nice treats. In addition to a raspberry torte, we had a chestnut cream, which was supposed to be traditional Wien. As always, the cafés are the best for people watching. There were, inevitably a few tables with two fashionable, well-dressed ladies. Usually wearing dead animals. The one Marie was drawing took out her cigarette holder.


It was still snowing, so we walked over to the Staadtpark to see the golden Strauss monument in the snow. The park is wonderful, of course. Click here for video.


Then we had dinner at one of Vienna’s institutions, Pfudl on Bakerstrasse. After large glasses of sweet, dark beer, I was served a platter of boiled pork over a bed of squash & carrots, topped with heaps of freshly grated horseradish. The aroma, nay, the gases, emanating from the dish were stunning, and even more surprising, it was not too harsh to eat. A very tender, very tasty dish. Marie tried the chicken schnitzel, which means flattened, breaded and fried, but a nice salad.

Began the next day at Karlskirche, perhaps the most interesting church in Vienna. The two front columns imitate Trajan’s and Hercules’ columns. And as we approached, the top of the church was lost in the snowy mist. Inside there was much restoration.


Outside at Karlsplatz U-bahn station was an Otto Wagner-designed station. Then we continued along the Ringstrasse over to the Secession building.


Without writing a dissertation here, let me explain that the Secessionists rebelled against the Art establishment. Above all else, they were concerned with exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of the prevailing conservatism of the Vienna Künstlerhaus. Gustav Klimt was the founding president, and while architect Otto Wagner was not a founding member, he was closely associated with the group.


The building, constructed in 1898, was the group's exhibition house designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich, and became an icon of the movement. The Secession building, with its gilded “cabbage” roof and Jungenstil lines and decorations, displayed Art from several other influential artists such as Max Klinger, Charles Mackintosh and Arnold Bocklin. There were three contemporary shows when we were there. Only the work of Amy Williams deserves mention.  Click here for the video.

 Amy Williams

The other great attraction was the Klimt masterwork, Beethovenfries, done for the Beethoven exhibit of 1902. This was but one part of the show honoring Beethoven.  Klimt chose to use the Richard Wagner interpretation of the 9th Symphony. Click here to see the video.

Heavenly Choir from Beethovenfries

Perhaps a little background would be interesting. Twenty-one artists worked on the Beethoven Exhibition. When it was over, the plan was to destroy it with the other decorations. But since a major Klimt retrospective was scheduled for the following year, it was left in place. Afterwards, however, it was sold, cut into seven pieces, and stored for twelve years, when it was sold to August Lederer, who was one of Klimt’s most important collectors.

Lederer, like so many other Jews, was dispossessed in 1938 and the frieze was taken by the State. After the war, official ownership was returned to the family in Switzerland, but since an export ban had been placed on it, the Lederers were forced to sell the frieze to the State.

The overall length is 112 feet and around 7 feet high. It was done with casein paint, gold paint, black and color chalk, graphite, plaster, and various appliqué materials (e.g. mirror, mother-of-pearl, curtain rings, etc.)


We walked down the nearby Nachtsmarkt (actually the name of the street), which during the week is strictly a food market (Click here to see how sauerkraut is sold) but on Saturdays becomes a flea market as well. While we enjoyed looking at the variety of wares and talking to the people, we found the Kettenbrückengasse U-bahn station, in the middle of the market.  It has retained much of Otto Wagner's original design. There were around thirty stations done by Wagner all together, including one private station for the Imperial family at Hofpavillon Hietzing in 1899.


We began looking for Belvedere Palace, in the light snow. When we got there, the snow only made the gardens of Lower Belvedere more interesting, as we made our way through the frosted shrubs up to the palace.


Upper Belvedere houses an impressive collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. The centerpiece was the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection. Favorite pieces such as The Kiss and Judith glittered on the walls, while masterpieces by Schiele and Kokoschka were also prominently displayed. Works by the French Impressionists and the Viennese Biedermeier paintings were further attractions at the Upper Belvedere.

Judith
The Kiss

They were having a special exhibition of Klimt landscapes, which included works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Winslow Homer and the rest. In the adjoining rooms there was more Klimt and the Impressionists. Upstairs were rooms of Classical & Romantic Art, and the basement had even more Impressionists.

We had dinner at the Goulash Museum that evening, where I had pork goulash with sauerkraut & boiled potatoes. Marie had potato goulash w/smoked sausage. Plus warm fresh rolls and more good beer.


It was a sunny day, so we hiked over to see the beautiful blue Danube River. On the way we stopped at the Johann Strauss Jr. house for a look around, and continued on to the Prater amusement park and its giant Ferris wheel. Everything was closed, of course. The river was not beautiful, nor blue, but I expected little. There were several riverboats docked there including one embellished by Fredenreich Hundertwasser – the Vindo Bona.


Passed through the older part of the Prater on the way to the Kunsthauswein. Or the "house of Hundertwasser," it turned out. Inside and out. Pictures tell the story best. There was clearly no surface he wouldn’t adorn. Or plant a tree on top of. It’s a delightful building filled with whimsy. The floors were old wood with the corners and edges sloped and covered by tiles and other materials. Several sections of floor were also designed with unevenness in mind. Click here for video.


Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser was born Freidrich Stowasser in Vienna in 1928 and died a New Zealander aboard the QE2 on February 19, 2000. I could not possibly do him justice with a quick biography.


But here are some Hundertwasser quotes:

“Our real illiteracy is our inability to create.”
“To paint is a religious activity.”
“If we do not honor the past, we lose our futures. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow.”
“Only if you love the tree like yourself you will survive.”
“The straight line is godless.”
“The horizontal belongs to nature, the vertical belongs to man.”

It was by then too dark to get a good look at the Hundertwasser-designed public housing project a few blocks away. But it was still an amazing sight to see this living artwork with fantastic decoration everywhere you look from the lobbies to the roofs where trees were planted.

Back in the center of town, we enjoyed the decorations at the Rathaus (Click here for video), and stopped at the Café Landtmann. I had an orange punch with white wine and rum.


The weather turned mild, the next morning, so we hit the streets. Picked up some apple strudel at Lehman for later. Had mélange (chocolate), moen (poppyseed) pastry, and a Café Central Torte at the Café Central. The ceiling had almost pharmacy-like decorations. Torte was good, made with ground up almonds and pistachios, layered with cream & chocolate.  Click here for a quick video.


Bought tickets for the Bank of Austria KunstForum’s show of Impressionists.  American & Russian painters, there were even two Mary Cassatts!

Eager to see everything designed by Otto Wagner, we schlepped down Linke Wienzeile for the Majolica House (1898-99) and Medallion Building. Later we found the Hotel Imperial and bought a torte.

Medallion building
detail on above
Majolica House
Happy New Year! Since we picked up a rental car for driving back to Salzburg on New Year’s Day, we took a drive out to the wine country and the Vienna Woods.

On the way we saw Hundertwasser’s Fernwarmewerk Spittelau (heating/incineration plant) and continued on to Grinzberg. They say the area has changed little since Beethoven lived nearby. It simply became surrounded by the sprawling Vienna. It must have been a tourist trap during Beethoven’s time too, but we couldn’t find anything to take a picture of.

Hundertwasser's Fernwarmewerk Spittelau

Marie navigated us over to the Otto Wagner State Hospital. The church building, called Kirche Am Steinhof (1907), which overlooks the whole complex, was being restored, so was closed, but we could see the glass designed by another Secessionist artist, Kolomon Moser, who also designed flowers for the Majolica House. It looked like a magnificent building in need of having its gilding restored. Below the church was the kitchen building and below that the theatre. All the buildings, railings and lamps were Wagner designed down to the gatehouses. A lot of restoration needed to be done there.

We ditched the car and got to the Rathausplatz by 2:30, which is when there were to be members of the Vienna Ballet helping us with our waltz step. At 3:00 a recording of the Beautiful Blue Danube began playing, and people just started waltzing.

We passed by the country music stage (which featured line-dancing) in order to get to Freyung and the children’s stage that was to have clowns and circus stuff. What we got was a cover band doing Sex Bomb. The kids seemed to love it.

But then Circus Chaos (pronounced “cows”) was up next. Kids juggling, riding unicycles, and striving to use other apparati. No clowns. See video here.


The Viennese have many symbols for good luck, including the four-leaf clover, horse shoe, and mushroom, but especially the pig. They were for sale in every imaginable way. Even “Pigs in leather & chains.”


Marie had one more glass of Roter Glühwein, or should I say mug. There was a 2€ deposit on the mug if you decide to keep it.


As it got later, we realized that we didn’t really want to come back out to mingle with the expected 650,000 drunken Viennese & tourists. So, we stopped on the Fleishmarkt, and had dinner at Griechenbeisl, a piece of medieval Vienna. Ach du Lieber Augustin was composed and sung at Griechenbeisl (the Greek’s Inn) in the middle of the 17th century, by the balladeer Augustin. The location has been referred to as an inn since 1500. And in 1852, Urquell Pilsner was introduced here. Also a meeting place for: Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, Strauss, Brahms, Mark Twain, and others I’ve not heard of.

We went to the apartment and watched bizarre New Year’s Eve television while our neighbors periodically set off firecrackers or some other explosive.

Click here for one last bit of Viennese Art covering up a construction site.

New Year’s Day. On the way to Salzburg, we stopped in LINZ to have a Linzer torte at the Café Glockenspiel, where they originated. We thought there would be little else to see there, but when we walked down a deserted shopping street, we heard the sound of a band. We trotted over and saw columns of men in Tirolean dress, with short wooden rifles on their shoulders. There was a band up ahead at the City Hall where there were ceremonies and declarations. More songs. I should mention that I didn’t carry the video camera, unfortunately. There was a demonstration of synchronized rope whipping by several men of various ages. Women and girls in traditional dress with gold headwear were also there, but we couldn’t determine their role. The whip cracking went on for a while. But the snow continued to fall and we had to catch our plane to LONDON.


We had a room in a Bed & Breakfast in Tooting, a suburb south of London. Our host was a painter. We also had a couple of days in London and planned to make the most of them.

Got on line at 8:45 the next morning for tickets that night to Breath of Life starring Dame Judy Dench and Dame Maggie Smith at the Royal Theatre at Haymarket, at 8:45 am. We were about 6th in line. The first person was there at 6:00. The second at 8:00. No one got behind us for almost an hour. We were able to get separate tickets in rows A & H.

Then we walked to the British Museum and saw everything, including a special exhibit by Anthony Gormley which was comprised of small terracotta “creatures.” At first I thought it inappropriate that they had placed some of them in various display cases around the museum with other artifacts, promoting the show. But when I saw the room filled with the little things, I was sold. He got a school to do the work. It was called Field for the British Isles and consisted of 40,000 figures made by students at a community school in St. Helen’s on Merseyside.

Assyrian relief showing early tubers inflating the skins of goats as a means of flotation.
Anthony Gormley's Field for the British Isles

Got back to Haymarket in plenty of time for the show. Dames Judy and Maggie were terrific, although we decided that Maggie’s role gave her more opportunity to do some acting, while Judy’s part was predictable and a difficult one to make interesting. She was, after all, just a wife and mother. They sometimes stood just ten feet away from me. I could see Maggie spit. Judy said “f#*k.” Then Maggie said “f#*k” quite a lot. At times you could see they were really having fun. Other times they were working at it. Not a great play, but a very great thrill.

We went out separate ways the next morning. Me back to Stansted Airfield to retrieve a sweater removed during inspection, while Marie visited the Clipper ship Cutty Sark on the Thames, and the figurehead exhibit inside. We met later at the Somerset House/Courtauld Gallery.


The Courtauld has a terrific collection of Impressionist paintings, including Van Gogh’s self-portrait with the bandaged ear. Also, Degas (bronze & portraits), Gaugin, Monet, Manet, Matisse, Cezanne, Pissarro, Rodin, Raoul Dufy, Kandinsky, Picasso (early, irises), plus an excellent Adam & Eve by Cranach, and, of course, Rubens.

Cranach's Adam and Eve

Work by the female Impressionist painter, Berthe Morisot, was shown there as well. She was the only woman included in the big Impressionist show in New York, back in the day. There was also an abstract sculpture by Barbara Hepworth.

We walked over the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, to see the Tate Modern on the other side. While over there we also visited the Bankside Gallery of the Royal Watercolor Artists. The days were still very short, so we headed south to our B&B.

Began our day with a visit to the Portobello Market at NOTTING HILL, northwest of the city. Lots of tourists to see the many shops & booths selling mostly antiques. If it wasn’t so cold, I might have enjoyed the people watching more.  And if the sidewalks were not so crowded.  You spent most of your time watching your step.

Tubed north to Hampstead and still had a brisk half-hour walk to Kenwood House. Among the paintings hanging in the old house were a few gems, including a Vermeer, Rembrandt, Botticeli, Gainsborough, John Sargent, Hans Memling, and  Joshua Reynolds. There was also a painting I liked by Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) entitled The Disarming of Cupid. The house/museum was quite nice, especially the Orangerie facing out across the lawns to a pond in the distance.


We took a bus to Archway, but it was too late for Kew Gardens, so we tubed to Oxford Circus and window-shopped, stopped in at Liberty, and then over to Covent Gardens. After dinner in a pub, it was an easy walk to the Bridewell, where it was open seating for the 200 chairs. We got right in front. It was a terrific performance of a fun show. The unpretentious appearance of the theatre made me forget that the cast was very professional including the lead, Janie Dee, who is a very highly regarded veteran of London musicals.


The revival was of Anyone Can Whistle was a Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents, which flopped on Broadway in 1964.  The institution for the heavily stressed was called the Cookie Jar, and the inmates were called "Cookies". The saucy Mayoress made everybody do yoga, while she and the other bad guys sold miracle water, distracting the populace from the problems of unemployment.  Hmmm.

And so closes this adventure.

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