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First museum Sunday

The weather is a bit overdue turning to the worse, but it’s catching up. On Saturday, several downpours alternated with bright sunlight, but the rain won. On Sunday, the rain continued to come and go. It is not really cold yet, but there were a couple of days during the week that I got thoroughly chilled while waiting a few minutes for a train in my leather jacket.

Kimmy, though, was quickly on the mend, and we decided that staying home for the entire weekend is an unforgivable waste. So we went to London, to Victoria & Albert Museum on Sunday.

As any parent knows, kids need to be occupied with something to stay in positive spirits. On the other hand, a change of scenery should occur fairly quickly, or they become bored. Now, in our situation, we want to enjoy the sights, but we have to bring our girls with us, and even our 12-year-old can get really cranky very quickly if she is not enjoying what is going on. The only solution is to limit the programme to one sight at a time, no more than a couple of hours, have some breaks in between, and figure out a let’s-do-something-else activity afterwards.

Unless the sight is an amusement park – no worries then…

Since we live in suburban area, our something-else trick is just taking subways and trains home. Right now, it is a novel experience for the kids, especially, the tube. Once it becomes commonplace for them, we’ll have to think of something else – a late lunch in a restaurant is a safe, if not exactly cheap, backup plan.

Selecting the one sight is a complicated exercise, as we want to see something of interest to us, yet provide kids with at least some semblance of cool stuff to do. We have not been heavily planning our activities yet, but we realize that we’ll have to, in order to maximize composite family enjoyment. Yet today, we were not really sure whether we are going at all, and once we decided to go, I basically named the first museum that came to my mind. Well, ok, I sort of wanted to go see V&A for quite a while, having heard a number of good things about it. We also were constrained by the weather – outdoor attractions and driving trips were out from the start. We also read a few books on the London-with-kids subject, and V&A was mentioned there as being kids-friendly.

It is interesting to note that upon hearing that we were going to a museum, Becky made a face along the lines of “Oh, great…”, whereas Kimmy started jumping up and down expressing utmost excitement…

It turned out to be a really great museum. It is mostly about decorative arts, with thousands upon thousands of objets d’art, spanning centuries, continents and cultures. There are also sculptures and paintings (even a room of large Raphael cartoons), but they are greatly outnumbered by ironwork, plasterwork, jewellery, tapestry, pottery, etc. There is a fashion exhibition and a stained glass exhibition, among others. Many exhibitions have a “Please touch” side displays that no kids would pass by. The items on display are clearly marked and annotated (very important to me as I kept impressing the girls with my encyclopaedic knowledge, by surreptitiously reading the labels first and then providing offhand explanations).

V&A is also free. The glass cases at the entrance suggest a donation of £3, so we dropped a couple of coins. There are special exhibitions that must be rather interesting, but they come at a separate ticket price, and visiting them would be an overkill in view of the grand plan of keeping the visit manageable.

As luck would have it, the museum had several Hanukkah-related activities today. There was a children choir singing in Hebrew in the Raphael hall. There were a make-your-own-dreidel workshops in the lunchroom – only our girls ended up just coloring dreidel and menorah pictures on the account of the museum having run out of dreidel supplies.

There was also a puppet show in the Lecture Theater. Oy vey! A couple of hundred little kids – none within a couple of years of Becky – mostly ignored by their parents. The audience was overwhelmingly Jewish (most men wore yarmulkes), but of rather upscale and reformist nature. The din in the theater was unmistakably Jewish. We left in the middle of the performance; I, with temporary deafness in one ear, caused by a cutest one-year-old who positioned himself directly behind me and periodically patted me on the head while expressing his contentment in loud fashion…

The pricey but otherwise quite nice museum cafe provided the necessary break halfway through the viewing of exhibits. With the aborted performance, the worskhop, and several stops for Kimmy to draw pictures of dresses, designs and animals, we accomplished the task of not overloading children, yet managed to get a pretty nice experience out of it ourselves.

Upon return home, Natasha fashioned an excellent dinner, and the day was officially declared another success.