Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Bath, Bristol, and London (Apsley House, Hyde Park)

Yesterday Chad was giving a talk in Bristol (his post-mortem, with a link to the host's writeup in comments), so we stopped in Bath along the way for some tourism, and I also stomped around Bristol a bit.

We had an extremely nice time in Bath. The Abbey right next to the Roman baths is very beautiful: St. Paul's is more impressive, but this was more lovely. The ceiling has this beautiful fan-shaped vaulting, which is carried through in the rest of the design, such as the altar. Also, there was lots and lots of stained glass, which I missed at St. Paul's.

The Abbey also hosts an amazing set of diptychs by Sue Symons that pair calligraphy with needlework to tell the life of Christ. I noticed the needlework first, of course, and here are some pictures: needlework portion of one diptych, needlework portion of another diptych. I also tried to get a picture of a full diptych, calligraphy plus needlework. I ended up buying a set of postcards of all 35 diptychs, on the ground that while a print was bigger and easier to see, I didn't really have anywhere to put it, but I could rotate through the postcards at work.

Then we went to the Roman baths, which are mostly pretty nicely done. They rely more heavily than I would like on audio tours, which I find annoying because I can read so much faster than I can listen. (Also, there is a Bill Bryson portion of the audio tour that is not nearly as funny as I was hoping, though Chad enjoyed it, so YMMV.) But the signs were generally sufficient and did a good job of putting things in context. Chad's post for the day has more pictures, but here a few I took: Gorgon's face, temple of Minerva; Julius Caesar, on the left, looks down at the (untreated) swimming pool in the rain; and The Pump Room, of Regency novel fame.

After lunch, I continued my not-very-serious quest to do research for the Strange & Norrell re-read / generally amuse myself by doing things I'd read about in books by sticking my head in at the Bath Assembly Rooms, where you can see the Tea Room and the Grand Octagon for free. I also indulged myself by taking a picture of the fancy mirrors in the Grand Octagon, which are exactly opposite each other.

Then we went to the Museum of East Asian Art, which is small and has very little explanatory text, but has some nice things and is worth a look. I took a lot of pictures, and these were just the ones that were lit well enough to come out reasonably on my phone: jades: pig and carp turning into dragon; ceramics: crab and horse; ivory: cheerful Immortals and
ocean life card case; other: dragon and fox and drum netsuke (I forgot to write the material down, but it looks like clay?). (Full titles and time periods are in the links.)

Then we went to Bristol, and while Chad gave an interview and prepped for his talk, I took a little walk around. In Castle Park, I found a Bristol space egg at St. Peter's Church, which for reasons you can see in the last picture is dedicated to those who died in the Blitz. I walked down to Queen's Square, which has many elegant buildings around it, and then got slightly off-track and stumbled upon a very tiny but lovely park behind the building where the talk was being held, which turns out to be Temple Church and Gardens. If it had been earlier I could have visited the ruins of the church and seen the former Templar church revealed by the WWII bombing and admired the leaning tower, but instead I was delighted by the tree-lined path and the gardening along the ruins.

After Chad's talk we went out for dinner at The Stable, where I discovered a cultural difference in the form of my instinctive "no, one does not put a soft-cooked egg in the middle of pizza!" Also, I had some very good cider, but unfortunately I can't recommend varieties because it was a tasting menu and we didn't get the number key—I mean, I'm never going to be back there, so it hardly mattered. Then we came back, getting to the hotel after 1:00 a.m., which is why there was no post yesterday.

Today, again on the vaguely research-ish theme mentioned above, we went to Apsely House, which besides never looking correctly-spelled no matter how many times I check it, was Wellington's house after he was created the first Duke. No pictures, because a lot of it was very dimly lit—not good for art viewing, unfortunately, especially since the explanatory text was minimal and many of the painting labels were on the paintings themselves and angled in a way that I had trouble seeing. But it definitely gave me a sense of the aesthetic of the era and the massive gratitude toward Wellington—literally, in, e.g., the form of two huge porphyry candelabra from Russia and the centerpiece of a Portuguese plate service that is literally eight meters long. (Not all the plates and dishes and stuff laid out end-to-end. Just the centerpiece.) Though to my mind the most boggling was the porcelain Egyptian-themed china service than Napoleon commissioned as a divorce gift for Josephine: yes, I want to display seven meters of replica Egyptian buildings and statues at formal dinner parties and say "hey, my emperor husband divorced me, but at least I got this nifty porcelain service out of it!" (She refused it, which is why Wellington got it; the King of France gave it to him after Waterloo, IIRC.)

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend it as a general matter, but for my purposes it served well enough. But I realized I should read a decent—short!—bio of Wellington (Napoleon too, but that can wait); any recommendations?

(Oh, and there was a fox rolling and stretching in the private garden, which was pretty great; I've never seen a wild fox at such length before.)

On the way to Wellington Arch, I was amused to note that equestrians have to push for the light like anyone else.. On the way out, we walked through Hyde Park, which is very nice. We were at the end with the Rose Garden, which is very lovely but this statue is a bit of an odd introduction, since it looks like the kid is forcing water out of the fish's nostrils by kneeling on it and squeezing. (Here's another bit of the Rose Garden.) We also came across this fabulous tree with branches that grew down to the ground; as I said on G+ when I posted it, imagine growing up with this to play hide-and-seek and tree house with?

Then we had very good pub food at The Victoria near Lancaster Gate, and came back for the con, about which more in a moment.

Oh, and here's Chad's pictures for today.

Now let's see if the WiFi is back . . .

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Tags: museums, trips: london 2014

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