Sunday, March 16: Our last full day in London and the UK was predicted to be a beautiful, sunny, warm day, something relatively rare at this time of year. Turns out the weather people were dead right. The day was everything it was predicted to be. The only problem was, how to spend it. All the rehearsals and concerts were finished, so there was nothing more professionally to do. Marge, Grace and I could pick anything we wanted to do in London. We decided we’d use at least part of the day to see some of the rest of the village of Blackheath, where we were staying, AND, if time permitted, also make a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, in the South Kensington area of London (nearest tube stop: Pimlico). So about 1:30 pm we set off from the hotel, first to see more of parts of Blackheath village we had not yet explored – shops, cafes, restaurants, along the three main streets of the town. The day was as advertised, so people had turned out in droves, enjoying the sunny, warm weather. Seats outside at one of the café tables were at a premium, and in fact we got snookered out of a perfect table at the last minute. A family of three saw the same empty table, perfectly situated in the warm afternoon sun, 2 seconds before we did, and, oblivious to us, settled in comfortably as we were stopped in our tracks a few feet away. Licking our wounds, we soon found an acceptable substitute: an inside, back-of-the-room table near the cash register which at least was available. The lively hustle-and-bustle of the café, along the case full of delicious-looking goodies – pastries, breads, etc. – directly in front of us was some consolation. There we spent a happy 45 minutes or so, enjoyed tarts, biscuits, scones, and other delicacies along with our chosen coffees. A very pleasant interlude to be sure. We soon realized, however, that if we were to see any of the Victoria and Albert Museum this afternoon, we’d have to make our way that direction quickly, since it was a good half hour’s train-tube combination ride to get there, plus wait-time connections between. In addition, since it was the weekend, today’s train schedules would also be affected by “engineering” issues. Finally, after some unexpected train detours and delays, we did finally find ourselves entering the V&A at about 4:15 pm that afternoon. None of us had ever been to the V&A, though we had read and heard much about it from our British host and friends. The V&A is one of the six most important art galleries in London, along with the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy. The V&A’s claim to fame is as the greatest British museum of art and design. It holds over 3000 years worth of artifacts from many of the world’s richest cultures, including the most comprehensive collection of British design and art from 1500 to 1900. There’s furniture, ceramics, photography, sculpture, architecture, and a lot more. Since we all agreed to meet again at 5:30, I spent my hour+ time in the jewelry collection and the Shakespeare exhibit, both of which were well worth the effort. Like so many great museums of the world, you’d really have to live nearby in order to have a chance to see everything they hold, the collection is so vast. Still, one can get an impression of the scope and size on the first visit, and we all agreed that the hype had been lived up to here. Of course, the wonderful thing about most London museums, including the V&A, is that they are admission free. This eliminates both cost and time standing in line to buy tickets. As a bonus, most of them also let you take pictures of their holdings, as long as it’s without flash. After our baptism at the V&A, we were, as usual, ready to eat. There was a small, family-run Chinese restaurant nearby, connected to an ice-cream parlor – the perfect combination at this point – so we settled into a lovely meal and dessert before making the reverse train trip home to Blackheath – and packing! Tomorrow we leave England!