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Museums: Falling in Love

Hi Loves.
What a day -- my first official full day in London. I was lucky to sleep quite comfortably last night in my new bed (comfy!) surrounded by all the love on my mum's throw and Karen's quilt. <3 In fact, I slept until 9:50 which meant I woke up refreshed.

The mailboxes!
First on the agenda this morning was to get hangers and breakfast food (in all the excitement/busyness yesterday I had forgotten to eat since my breakfast on the flight, oops) so I went to the Broadway Shopping Centre at the Hammersmith Station (just a 2 minute walk from my flat) and so began my day of shopping. I ended up making several trips to the centre, Santander Bank and Kings Street Mall. 

Kings Mall - Home to Primark, Sainsbury, and numerous mobile shops
Mobiles & Banks
I visited several phone shops at Kings Mall and they all said I needed a UK debit card to get a SIM plan or I would have to get a PAYG SIM card and they were all out of nano sims (needed for the iPhone 5) because of all the new year sales so next stop was obviously the bank. I had heard good things about Santander Bank's options for international students so I made an appointment for next Thursday to open an account and based on the really nice, helpful and beautiful branch director, Raj Badhan, I have high hopes for a good experience there. That is a while until I can get a phone plan so I might try another phone shop to see if they have a nano card for this week at least.

Food & Miscellaneous Needs
For about five seconds I missed my good ol' car. In London, I am dependent on my two feet and my two hands to carry everything from point A to point B. So when shopping, you have to weight in your mind how you plan to transport the necessities around town (thankfully both shopping centers are under 6 minutes from my flat) and that might (like in my case) require several trips. Thankfully I had great weather today and avoided being caught in any downpour of rain (Thanks God!) and it was a great way to get a feel for the neighborhood.

So I got some necessities at the local Tesco Metro (which is in the Hammersmith/Broadway Station) where I met a very nice (and good looking) man who happened to have moved to London from Chicago (guess my accent was pretty obvious, lol) and also discovered "Poundland" (at Kings Mall) which is like the American dollar store scheme -- handy when needing an armful of hangers, wash-up towels, containers, etc..

I also had a moment in Primark (think Forever 21) which I had heard about from Kaz and bought some relatively inexpensive sheets & towels and could definitely see myself going back for the random sweater or pair of tights.

"Mind the Gap"
As any of my friends will attest, I adore the London underground (even after a semester abroad and numerous trips back to the city, I find it quite magical and silently squeal each time I hear those fabulous words, mind the gap) -- yes I know I am weird. Lol. I even bought my boss, De, a "mind the gap" t-shirt last year.

So I topped up my Oyster card (need a UK mobile number to get a travel card -- amazing how many things require a mobile number) and took my first ride this evening to Leicester Square.

The Piccadilly Line (Eastbound)
Leicester Square Station (those endless escalators)
It only brightened my smile to see all the Christmas lights upon exiting the station as I walked to the National Portrait Gallery where I was excited to attend their "Late Shift" (opened late Thursday & Friday until 21:00 with special events).

Christmas lights!
More beautiful lights!
Trafalgar Square's Christmas Tree (outside the National Gallery)
Upon arriving at the National Portrait Gallery, I took a few minutes to enjoy their "drop-in drawing" where I was mesmerized by the eyes as captured by Bob Dylan (room 40) and feebly attempted to sketch the eyes. Oye, I am definitely no artist with the pencil. (:))

Unfortunately, I missed the live music option at tonight's Late Shift but I can thank the room assignment  (Room 20) because I might otherwise not have discovered the sheer joy of Sir Thomas Lawrence's portraiture.  The eyes beckon you inwards (see for example my favorite of Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool) -- I was mesmerized -- and the portraits were truly life like.
Marble bursts by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey
And how could I miss the Jane Austen portrait? :)
With "Jane Austen" ;)
My favorite period of history -- 19th century -- meant I had to visit the Queen Victoria exhibits and I was again left mouth partly agape when I looked through the doors into room 20 to see this masterpiece by Thomas Jones Barker (circa 1863) entitled The Secret of England's Greatness. What a fabulous example of spotlighting a masterpiece.

The gorgeous wooden carved frame
And now for the masterpiece and reason for my post's title. In Room 21, natural light poured down on the most gorgeous and breathtaking marble statue of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by William Theed the Younger. Unfortunately for copyright reasons, the Gallery does not allow photos taken nor can words do it justice. Suffice it to say that the simplicity, care and undeniable love between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made me tear up. Literally! There I was standing in the middle of a gallery and tears wet my cheeks! Majestic. Please do yourself a favor and if you are at the National Portrait Gallery make your way to Room 21 and fall in love. You can see a very small image of the statue here.

What a fabulous way to end my short visit to the National Portrait Gallery. And look at the beautiful Christmas lights that greeted me on my way to Piccadilly Circus station.

Hope everyone back home had a great day too!