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Little did I expect to encounter peacocks, both dead and alive, in London yesterday…

I had planned to visit the National Portrait Gallery by Trafalgar Square yesterday.  Unfortunately, it was also the day that students were planning a massive march on London to protest increased tuition fees at universities.  The march was scheduled to go right past the National Portrait Gallery.  Previous student demonstrations have been marred by violence and arrests, so police were also planning to have lots of officers around to prevent any problems.  We decided it was a good idea to see something else… Leighton House in Kensington, on the other side of London.

Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton

Image of Frederic Leighton via Wikipedia

Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896) was a leading Victorian painter and sculptor who served as the President of the Royal Academy.  His house is open to the public, providing an opportunity to see his Islamic tile collection and some of his work.  For me, the highlight of the house is the Arab Hall, where many of the tiles from his collection decorate the walls.

The Staircase Hall at Leighton House

This photo of the Staircase Hall shows the stuffed peacock, a symbol of a Victorian art movement called the Aesthetic Movement, which Leighton is often associated with.  These artists wanted to bring more beauty into the often ugly Victorian world, frequently incorporating art from other cultures.

After visiting the House, we walked through Holland Park, including a delightful Japanese garden.

Holland Park Japanese garden

Peacocks roam freely through the garden and koi fish populate the pond.  If you click on the above photo, you can probably see some of the peacocks wandering around.

Peacocks in Holland Park

Koi in the Japanese Garden

After wandering around the park and the shops of Kensington, including a very large Whole Foods Market, I took the tube back to our flat.  Some of the streets near our flat were still blocked by police officers and police helicopters were buzzing overhead, but the student demonstrations ended by early evening without too much trouble.