The last place I would imagine us to be on a Sunday morning in London would be a church service, but that’s where we were. I had seen a sign in front of the Marylebone Parish Church that announced a Mozart concert after Mass at 11 a.m., so we thought we wouldn’t mind a little Mozart. Turns out it was just Mozart’s Missa brevis, which is only about 5 minutes long, sung in the middle of the Eucharist Mass. But no matter; it was a very pleasant church, filled with lots of happy people of all ages and colors (lots of children who were being greeted back from summer holidays), and the choir was extremely good. And this being London, this dignified yet fairly recent church (1817!) had enormous amounts of history: Dickens’ son was baptized here, the notorious Lady Hamilton was married here to Mr. Hamilton before all that Nelson nonsense, the Barretts of Wimpole Street were married here, and the American artist Benjamin West painted part of the altarpiece. This was also Hogarth’s parish church back in its earlier iteration. I was particularly moved by the windows, which contained bits of the original stained glass that had been the windows when they were destroyed in the bombing of the church in World War II.
We actually didn’t stay for the whole service, but snuck out after the second great piece by the choir. We then proceeded to go to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market, which was a delight. So far we haven’t been to a single restaurant! We’ve been buying yummy things to cook for what are no doubt exorbitant amounts, but far less than restaurant costs. Wonderful goat’s cheese, beautiful bacon, and excellent local salad makings.After a nice lunch back at Henry and Val’s apartment (our great friends who are letting us stay in their London pied-a-terre), we went walking, and walking and walking, first through the marvelous Regents Park (the picture above is at one of the entrance gates), which goes on forever and includes the entrance to the London Zoo (we didn’t go–zoos make us uncomfortable), a boat lake, and gorgeous flower beds. It was a glorious sunny day, and the place was packed. As we exited at Hanover Gate, we saw the quite formidable Central Mosque of London, which may explain why there were so many Muslim families right at that section of the park.
We then began to meander through the streets between the Park and Marylebone Road, and ended up quite serendipitously at the Wallace Collection. What a hoot! One of those bizarre but impressive collections that only eccentric 18th and 19th-century men of a certain class could put together. (As someone hilariously describes them in the booklet about the Collection, “…their spiritual affinities were with the ancien regime of 18th-century Paris, when sensuous pleasure in life and art was not harrassed by utilitarian scruples.”) Lots of fleshy, nearly pornographic, Bouchers, dead game paintings, and then some exquisitely good works by Hals, Fragonard, and Titian, and some lovely Thomas Lawrences. It was a happy discovery, and a collection I had completely forgotten about.
We then continued our meander for another hour or so, walking by Selfridges, and then on to Wigmore Hall, where we will watch the finals of the International Song competition on Wednesday. We walked more than three hours today! Not bad, eh?