Afternoon Tea at the Portrait Gallery

View from Portrait Restaurant during afternoon tea

We woke up very late this morning and made our way down the Strand to Trafalgar Square, stopping for a few photos before entering the National Portrait Gallery which abuts the National Gallery on the northeast.

Trafalgar Square is bordered on the west by Canada House, the National Gallery to the north, and a good number of government offices just to the south, including 10 Downing Street.  It seems to be brimming with people at all times, but its massive size keeps things calm and collegial.

We could not take any photos inside of the National Portrait Gallery, though all of them are available online.  One of my personal favorites is this one of Winston Churchill.  There are so many people memorialized in this place in so many fantastic ways.

Obviously there are oils; the styles in this medium range from realism to the painfully abstract, but there are also busts of marble and a molding of frozen blood.  There are Jacobean era works and as of late beautiful photos of Britain's olympians.  The is a room devoted to the exclusive Kit-kat Club and another to the Parliament.

There are two other fine pieces that I would be remiss if I did not give special mention.  The first is a piece on a massive scale that would scarcely make the transition to the web.  "House of Commons, 1833" is absolutely enormous and breathtakingly realistic; it took over a decade to paint and a decade again to sell.
House of Commons, 1833

The Chandos portrait
The other painting is the only portrait of the Bard that can lay claim to having been painted during his lifetime, and so represents, one hopes, the most accurate likeness.  As people make history, a tour of the NPG is a wonderful lesson in Britain's history, and through Her, the world's.

Tea Time

After exploring the gallery, we went upstairs for tea.  This was a suggestion of the Frommer's guide, and I must say it is a good one.  The Portrait Restaurant, its food and its view are quite fine indeed at tea time.

Tea is a fine tradition.  It is good fun, especially with a glass (or three) of champagne.  Everything is very pretty, and given Carly's penchant for tiny food, you can only imagine how much she enjoyed herself.  But the real highlight of this "high" tea was the view.


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