On Friday 20th January, 2012 seventeen members of our Art Appreciation Group were lucky enough to visit an astonishing exhibition “Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at the National Gallery, London. This was a unique opportunity to look at the largest ever showing of Leonardo’s surviving paintings, as well as many of his glorious drawings which show how much preparation and work he put into getting details right while reflecting the proportions of nature as well as producing an ideal beauty in his work. We all agreed the exhibition, although hot and overcrowded, was an unforgettable experience not to be missed.

As our train sped towards London, I gazed in awe at the beautifully presented finger buffet being enjoyed by four of the most sophisticated members of our Seaham Harbour U3A Art Appreciation Group. They had produced wine glasses from their luggage in the manner of a magician pulling rabbits from a hat and were quaffing white wine in great style. Little did the other occupants of the carriage realise we were “doing London and Leonardo on a shoestring.”

We were able to spend as much time as we wanted in the National Gallery exhibition and, although it was too hot and too crowded, this was truly a remarkable experience.

This exhibition entitled “ Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” brought together nine of his fifteen surviving paintings.There are so few paintings by Leonardo and they are so precious it was amazing to see so much of his work brought together. The fact that many of the paintings, in the first exhibition celebrating his work as painter, have never been seen in Britain before made this extra special. We did not expect to see so many of his drawings and were awestruck by his power of observation and accuracy.

Saturday dawned and London lay before us with a diversity of cultural and shopping opportunities. Two of us spent the day enjoying the British Museum in all its magnificence while four of our group enjoyed Mayhew Bourne’s production of The Nutcracker at Saddler Wells. Two of our members found The Lady killers at the Garfield Theatre highly entertaining while others took in a William Morris exhibition at the V and A. We all ended up enjoying the magnificence of St. Pancras Station, conveniently situated next to King’s Cross Station. This meant we could relax over a good meal or indulge in a little last minute shopping. On the train we were able to settle down, compare notes about our successful day and the exhibition, play with I pods, read kindles (or even books) and do what U3A members should all be good at-SNOOZE.