On our second day in London, we had the whole day free up until 4:30pm, when we needed to head to the pick-up point for the Thames Clipper boat to the O2 arena. So what to do with a huge city like London to explore, right?
We started with a quick breakfast in a Costa coffee shop across from our lodgings (Ha! "Lodgings"... don't I sound British?). Costa, by the way, is England's answer to Starbucks - you can find one or the other on nearly every corner in London and in other British cities. The coffee was good at Costa, but I like the Starbucks muffins better.
Then we made straight for the Tate Modern museum. There are two Tate museums in London: the Tate Britain is the original museum with more "traditional" art and exhibitions; and the Tate Modern which is located at the Southbank end of the Millenium Bridge, in an old power and light building with a huge smokestack. It's an incredible space for modern art.
The big attraction for us was the Henri Matisse "The Cut Outs" exhibition. We weren't permitted to take any photos of the exhibit; this image of Matisse's "Blue Nude II" is from Wikipedia. I never knew that Matisse spent the last 17 years of his life unable to paint the way he'd done before, due to declining health, but that he still found a way to be unbelievably creative through "cut outs": He or one of his assistants would paint colors on sheets of card stock, and then Matisse would cut out shapes according to whatever it was he wanted to create. I always thought these Blue Nudes were just painted that way on canvas, but no, they are shapes Matisse cut and then assembled (with the help of assistants) into works of art.
The man was absolutely prolific in this period of his work. We couldn't believe the scale of some of his projects - entire huge walls covered with cut outs that he'd done in his home or studio in Vence, France (not far from where we will be spending our summer holidays with Georges' sister, so perhaps a little road trip will be in order if we have time). There were even videos of Matisse and his assistants at work on some of the projects - so wonderful to see a master in the middle of his creative process!
Our favorite part of the exhibit was called "Jazz", which was a sort of book Matisse created, with cut outs and painted text in big script. The entire book was laid out in glass cases around the entire periphery of a huge room, with the actual artworks on the walls above. The text, of course, is all in French, so having Georges there to provide context was very helpful for me, even though I could have gotten most of it.
We would read the text - Matisse was not just a brilliant artist, but a brilliant thinker as well, and very wise about life and love - and then compare the printed copies of the paintings that were in the large-format "book" pages with the actual works on the wall. It was surprising what a big difference it made to actually SEE the cut-out effects, the sense of dimension. I said to Georges that I had spent more time in that one room than in any exhibit I'd ever seen, anywhere. And the rest of the exhibit was just as good (but Jazz was our favorite - Georges got a small book copy of it as a souvenir). The colors and the imagination of the artist made this just a pleasure from start to finish. That exhibit alone would have been worth a trip to London.
Georges taking a walk across the enormous, currently empty entry hall which is often used for large-scale installations.
After that, we went out for a little walk onto the Millenium Bridge. (And yes, there were a few love locks - but not too many.) We had fun watching a street performer making huge bubbles that floated away over the water. The views were expansive and wonderful.
Then we walked around the South Bank again for a while, had ourselves some lunch, took some photos of whatever interested us...
A lovely old pub... and the Shard - again!
We spotted a couple of these "book benches" around - so cute!
Low tide on the Thames.
There's the Shard again - photo-bombing my London trip!
The Southwark Tavern - our room was above, an Airbnb apartment belonging to a very nice young couple. Just around the corner from Borough Market and London Bridge tube - great location!
We went back to the room for a while, to rest up for Monty Python later that night. I have a feeling the Monty Python boys were probably doing the same thing. Let's face facts: we're none of young anymore!