Friday, May 11, 2012

London on $98 a Day - Victoria and Albert Museum

If you do nothing else while you're in London, be sure to stop by the Victoria and Albert Museum to get a bite to eat.  You'll feel like royalty as you dine in what are surely some of the most beautiful dining rooms on the planet. 

While the dining rooms are consistently stunning, the restaurant stations offer great variety.  You can order a full meal or simply a croissant, and there's a water fountain with glasses for free drinks.  I indulged a long-standing desire and had a scone (pronounced scoun, not scone with a long "o") and clotted cream.  Delicious!

Dining room ceiling detail
While the dining rooms were a surprise, we already knew that this museum, dedicated to all that is finest in the visual arts, was beautiful and non-institutional. The stairways and ceilings are works of art in and of themselves and the fine arts library is one of the most inspiring places to conduct research. Even if you only wandered the halls, the museum would be a treat for the eyes.

But, of course, any visitor will also want to see many of the displays which are often accompanied by audio-visual displays that help explain their significance.

We particularly enjoyed the explanation of the snuffboxes. Dipping snuff, a nicotine product that was placed in the nostril to make one sneeze, was once extremely popular, and the little boxes holding the material became status symbols with some wealthy people having jewel encrusted boxes costing thousands of pounds. The truly rich had a different snuffbox for every occasion, including one appropriate for a person in mourning. One collector had over 700 of these little enamel containers!

But whether you are looking at the stained glass collection, the halls of silver products produced through the ages, silk capes made from the yellow silk of a certain spider in Madagascar, or sculpture by Rodin, you will find something to intrigue in this fascinating museum.

And, if all else fails, simply go downstairs to the dining room and enjoy the culinary treats!

Practicalities -

The tube will take you directly, via a few blocks of underground tunnel-walking, to the entrance to the museum; this will be helpful since it will undoubtedly be raining.

Admission to the museum is free although there are several requests as you arrive and leave for a few pounds donation.

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