I feel like South Kensington is one of my homes away from home. During my eleven days between programs, I wasn’t too keen on exploring the city alone, so I spent a lot of time in the Kensington area investigating its amazing museums. Today I headed out with Tiffany, Jenny, and Whitney to do a designated walk, but I’ll include info here about my earlier adventures as well.Hyde Park chapel, where I spent my first three Sundays in London, looks something like a temple and houses a family history center. The young adults who attend Brittania ward there are super welcoming, and I came away from my first few activities there with plenty of new facebook friends (I always say you can’t be real friends until you’re facebook friends ☺). I learned from the walks book that when the chapel was built (on a site that had been bombed out during the blitz), zoning laws prevented it from using the term “gym,” so the architects coined the term “cultural hall” for the overflow area. Sound familiar, LDS friends?
Our next stop was a very different kind of church, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a beautiful Roman Catholic Baroque building. The altars were gorgeous (sorry, no pictures allowed), but I was surprised by how dark the church was. It only had a few small, high windows, which seemed very different from every other church I’ve been in during my time in Europe. Near the church (not a cathedral, since it’s not the seat of a bishop – thanks for the clarification, professors), stands a statue of Cardinal Newman, who wrote “Lead Kindly Light," one of my very favorite hymns. I’d say the cardinal looked like a pretty kindly man, himself.The Victoria and Albert Museum, which was next up on our walk, is one of my favorites, mostly because it currently has a Grace Kelly exhibit on display. It gave me a chance to see her dresses from High Society, Rear Window, Academy Awards ceremonies (plus her Oscar), and her life as princess of Monaco. Seeing this exhibit was absolutely one of my favorite things I’ve done since coming to Europe. Oh, and the rest of the museum is all right, I suppose (note my use of understatement, which we learned in a lecture is a typical British form of humor – I hope you enjoyed it). I was especially interested in the pock marks in the outer wall of the museum caused by World War II bombing. The Science and Natural History Museums are also worth a visit, especially the latter if you like rocks, bugs, dinosaurs, or animals.
We took a quick picture of Lord Baden-Powell’s statue outside the unofficial world Boy Scout headquarters, and then headed on toward the Imperial college of London, which even has a Royal College of Organists, and Royal Albert Hall, where I’m really hoping to see Swan Lake before the program ends.Our last stop was Hyde Park Gate, a little cul-de-sac where people like Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and Virginia Woolf lived. I can’t get over how people still live in these homes today. Seriously, can you imagine being able to say, “Jane Austen’s old place” when people ask you where you live?