....by a visit to Dulwich Picture Gallery, which has the triple merits of some pretty good pictures, a more than half-decent tea room, and - most important of all, in this, Flaming June, a rainproof roof! The combination of Soane's design and the permanent collection at Dulwich is an attractive proposition at any time - particularly the subterranean gloom of the mausoleum - but at the moment there's the additional pull of a temporary exhibition of self-portraits over the ages on loan from the Uffizi, where they normally hang in the rarely-open Vasari Corridor which runs between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace.
My expectations were not high, as these are pictures that are rarely on view to the public, and generally when a public gallery leaves stuff hidden from sight in this way you find there's a good reason for it! In this instance, not so. Inevitably, there was some duff stuff in there - but the Rembrandt and Velasquez portraits were splendid, and I even liked the self-portrait by Tintoretto (not normally one of my favourites). Best of all for me , though, was the simple clarity of Filippino Lippi's portrait, which is the first thing to greet you on entering the exhibition - it avoids all the cloying mannerism that his work so often displayed when he was working for others.
Thence to tea. From where we had a good view of the rain-soaked lawns in front of the main building, and could watch in comfort as the skies opened yet again. While the Technical Department indulged in Belgian Chocolate Cake - which, in fact, he then said was no better than 'alright' - Sarah and I chowed down on Scones and Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam. What is it about that combination that is quite so perfect? Whoever first dreamed it up was quite clearly a genius! Never has it been bettered, in my experience, than at the Royal Castle Hotel on the harbour front in Dartmouth..........but even on a rainy Saturday afternoon just off London's South Circular, it ain't half bad!
I see that today Pisa is sunny and 30 degrees C! Despite the horror of Gatwick Airport and British Airways as part of the package, I can't wait to get back there on Wednesday!
Artichokes (I know - second time in one week; the Technical Department is particularly keen on them, though, and the season is short)
Grilled Duck Breast, with Zucchini in Vinegar and Cinnamon
Baked Apples, stuffed with Ratafias and Sultanas.
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Good reasons to visit Dulwich Picture Gallery, which I haven't since the restoration / extension / can't quite remember what they were doing.
Gatwick? Heathrow? Try the overnight train ... cheap, romantic, blah blah, and all the details you need to get going are on seat61.com, a very ace blog. Few things to beat transcontinental trains, nothing worse than short-haul flying.
And by the way, I'm with the Technical Department - artichokes three times a week at this time of year!
I think they were building the slightly mis-named Glass Cloister, which incorporates the not-half-bad tea room...
Thoroughly agree about transcontinental trains and the horror of short-haul flying - but we do the journey both ways every fortnight, so the overnight journeys would be impractically time-consuming..
THREE times a week? I think I won't pass that one on; it might raise expectations!
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