London Day 2 – Afternoon – V & A Museum
Travel Tip #4 – The Victoria and Albert Museum is another great free museum in London. Reserve about 3 hours or more to visit a lot of its rich exhibits and get a feel for its collection. Special exhibits are paid, so if something catches your eye, go for it.
The modern world lay ahead with Queen Victoria in charge. The Victorian era was the time of childhood, strict values, technological advances, frou-frou architectural details, and the expansion of the British empire across the globe. The evidence of this change is chronicled back to back with the old and new at the V&A.
The first exhibit I visited as a special exhibit on the history of Underwear. Just, underwear. Absolutely fascinating – all the underpinnings of our lives and their change of fabrics, styles, and purpose over time. I’m still calling boo-hoo on the corseted waists of yesteryear, and it’s a wonder that women could function at all with that thing on!
I pretty much did a wander through the halls and exhibits of the V&A. The building itself is an interesting marvel – very turn of the century industrial-like with flourished and pretty decorations. The art runs the gamut from ancient Greece to modern Japan and China. There were door knockers, metal stairwells, and triptychs from medieval churches. Stained glass abounded next to glorious sets of dishes and fanciful bowls and urns.
I availed myself of a nice walk back to Kensington from the station, and near Gloucester Road station I found an American diner restaurant. The smell of diner burgers lured me in – that sweet, stomach-rumbling fragrance of grease, griddled cheese, and frying bacon. Sold.
My first meal back on American soil is always an American diner meal. Nothing like a mile-long menu of options, the ability to fry anything, or the skill to turn most items into a dessert – the hallmarks of a diner. There are pies, cakes, and probably muffins in a glass class somewhere in the diner. There are light-colored aprons worn over darker uniform dresses. Everything comes with fries – or onion rings – and dinner specials almost inevitably include liver and onions, fried fish, and some kind of chicken with sauce – along with a slice of that cake or pie.
Of course, this diner in London was decked out in a sort of 1950s-themed way, but the burger was piled high with toppings and accompanied by a massive basket of sweet potato fries. As I ate, I thought about going home in a few weeks and seeing the Midwest in full summer outfit – something I had missed for the two summers I worked on my Master’s degree in Bangkok.
Thus I rolled out of the diner full of thoughts and fries with ketchup (save the malt vinegar and salt for a pub dinner!), picked up some tapas-style snacks at Waitrose for my upcoming train ride from London to Edinburgh, and headed back to my fantastic Kensington AirBnb residence for the evening.