Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hyde and seek with French littérature

Knowing I needed to get some reading done in London but reluctant to miss out on playing tourist, I compromised with a leisurely morning in Hyde Park and its neighboring Kensington gardens. After roaming the grounds, I bought a latté at a lakeside café and dove into Maupassant (a 19th century book I really enjoyed, about a man from humble origins who takes advantage of the fact that he has an irrisistable moustache--seriously!--to seduce numerous rich/powerful women).

The park itself was nice; a little less manicured than Parisian parks and but still full of fountains and memorials, and even memorial fountains! My favorite find was a Peter Pan statue that was apparently commissioned by J. M. Barrie and installed in the middle of the night to appear as if by magic for children in the morning.

Later in the day I wandered through some posh neighborhoods and past a pub frequented by Voltaire (I suppose during his post-Candide exile?) over to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Like D.C.'s Smithsonian, all London museums are free, so I went on in and began browsing their collections of British artifacts. The museum itself was pretty interesting, housed in a building that mixed the old and the new, with a traditional dome in the lobby paired with a strange modern glass sculpture. Its open, two-story wings allowed you to look down onto the exhibition floors of castings from above, which was a cool perspective. The museum's contents were a strange mix as well, ranging from European antiques and artwork to less traditional museum fare like ironworks, early digital art, and even a wing celebrating theater via a collection of costumes, props and lighting. The definite highlight was the impressively lifelike rhino costume (but is it an Asiatic or and African?) used in Ionesco's Rhinocéros, which has remained my favorite absurd theatre piece since I read it for a course a few years ago. Brilliant.


  1. OMIGOSH the Peter Pan fountain looks just like the one in the Botanical Gardens pond in Dunedin! Do you remember?

  2. who dat is? Yes, I do remember. It's been so long, it an exact replica? Google could solve this