Friday, April 15, 2011

Quintessential London

For my last post on my London visit, I want to discuss the most illuminating experience I had on my trip--Dinner at The Athenaeum Club.

The Athenaeum Club is an exclusive members only club (which was originally only open to men) where members can "enjoy the life of the mind" -- it is a beautiful building filled with more incredible books then I could have ever imagined, over 80,000 books to be precise. The majority of the members, including our host "are professionals concerned with science, engineering or medicine, but the clergy, lawyers, writers, artists, civil servants and academics of all disciplines are also heavily represented on the roll, with a small number from business and politics." It is my assumption that the club is open daily where members can go to have a drink, read, research, work, relax, or mingle with other members over dinner or brandy. The club also hosts special events for it's members including concerts, guest speakers, wine tastings, and discussions where members can gather and "stimulate friendship and satisfy the urge to good fellowship."

We started with drinks in a private library, where my sense of propriety over ruled my mischievous inklings. This room was just the beginning but overwhelmingly perfect and exactly what a proper library should look like, at least to me. Every wall, around every window, and even the door, was covered, floor to ceiling with books. Amazing books. Books that when you pulled one off the shelf and blew across the top, a real cloud of dust would puff off. Surreal. My sister-in-law who knows me well asked if I could take photos, seemingly embarrassed that she asked on my behalf, I was actually thrilled that she did and ever more excited when they said yes!

This was the secret library where we had drinks. I wanted to sit at that perfect little writing desk so badly---and carve my initials in it. But I didn't.

A few glasses of champagne later and we were off, down the beautiful staircase, passed incredibly beautiful portraits of seemingly important people. Dinner was another experience as I tried to recall every proper table manner I possessed. We were the only women in the dining room, there were 7 of us along with our host, clearly he was outnumbered and even though we all "tried" to be well mannered, I am sure we were a bit loud for some of the member's liking. While I stopped taking pictures passed the library, just because it didn't seem right, I was lucky to find that their website has some really lovely photos!

The Great Staircase

Dining Room

Finally after dinner and before heading home we went for a quick drink in the Drawing Room.

I didn't want to leave, I knew there was much more of that building I wanted to see and probably wasn't allowed. But what was I going to do, ask for a private architectural tour from the only member I knew and only met a few hours prior? I had to just use my imagination---until I found more photos online. It seems the areas I didn't see, are just as I had imagined them. Incredibly beautiful.


Blue said...

Oh! Wow! It's nor often I use the phrase OMG but, OMG!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

What a wonderful experience and one which you so clearly enjoyed. There is something very satisfying in being able to explore the interior of a building not generally open to the public.

We do hope that the dinner was equally good!

Yummy Scrumptious said...

Blue-so glad that you are so excited! I love when you get excited!

J&L-the actual dinner wasn't great, but the whole experience and great company made up for it!

Melanie said...

This piece is SO beautifully written!!

Yummy Scrumptious said...

I think it's a pretty accurate depiction of what went on and how I felt. I was fabulous and intimidating all at the same time. Miss you Melly.