The word 'museum' puts me in mind of a school trip. No matter how many interactive, state-of-the-art spaces I visit, I still imagine that museum visits will invariably involve trailing around some fusty gallery pretending to read the explanations of exhibits I couldn't give a monkeys about while secretly thinking about what's in my packed lunch. As attitudes go, I realise that mine is far from cultured, and fortunately I frequently manage to shelve it: for a while at least.
Travel and museums go hand in hand. Pick up a copy of any guidebook and you're bound to find more than one museum listed as a must-see. Art galleries, museums of national or indeed natural history, science museums... they're all lurking between those glossy pages, waiting to be ticked off like answers in an exam. Perhaps this prescriptive idea that museums simply must be explored otherwise you've failed in the cultured traveller stakes is what brings out the teenage rebel in me: after a guidebook-inspired schlep around a particularly dull maritime museum in Dieppe which failed to stimulate any of my senses other than smell (owing to the pungent presence of dried salt cod among the exhibits), I certainly wanted to stamp my feet and whine 'I don't WANT to go to any more museums'.
It wasn't until I met M that I realised everyone has their own museum visiting style. No, I don't mean putting on your favourite frou-frou frock and accessorising with a cute clutch in the manner of Carrie Bradshaw: it's how you visit a museum that makes all the difference. Some people arrive early; a rucksack full of supplies and plan their way around the space, prioritising which exhibitions to see first. Others might pop in to peruse just one or two rooms, returning at a later date to see more. Me? I aim for speed. The ideal museum visit lasts no longer than 2 hours (and is framed at either end by a tea break). That way, I get to see my personal highlights without reverting to my stroppy teenage years. And believe me, that's a bonus for my fellow visitors.
|M at the Biennial. I think she's heading for the exit.|
M and I met in Seville in 2008. We were both keen to see all the city's sights, even going so far as to write a list of everything we wanted to do during our three-month stay. But it wasn't until we visited the Contemporary Art Biennial that I realised we shared more than just a list of priorities. By the time we'd skimmed over most of the exhibits, lingering longer over those that held particular interest for us, our friend R was still in the first room. When she called us several hours later to ask if we were ready to leave, we were shopping in the town centre. Much like a child on a school trip, my attention span is short: I enjoy museum visits as long as I'm in the right frame of mind and able to choose when to leave.
|Me outside the Biennial. I've already exited.|
It's no surprise that my favourite museum visit was a trip taken with M a couple of years later. In Bilbao for the weekend, we made tracks to the gallery that has transformed the city's fortunes and made it into a top Spanish destination: the Guggenheim. But we didn't go there to admire the art: we went for the food. At €19 for a delicious three-course meal with a bottle of wine, this was the museum's highlight. Yes, the wine-fuelled visit around the gallery afterwards was entertaining, but the restaurant stole the show. Hey, that's my museum visiting style.
You can read the other Travel Belles' posts on this topic (no doubt more cultured than mine) here.