UK, London – Canary Wharf, Tower of London early viewing, cheese, Pre-raphaelites exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and lunch in a county pub

I’m staying in Canary Wharf on this trip – a place I never liked working in but really have enjoyed living in for the past two months. It is much more lively than it used to be in the evenings and at weekends and has much more of a community feel. Loads of shops, restaurants and great transport into central London. Another attraction for me is the vast number of fabulous sculptures all around – including a Henry Moore that is on loan to Tower Hamlets for a few years. Here are some examples.

Sculptures in Canary Wharf including the reclining lady by Henry Moore and the sitting man who is so life like you want to go and chat with him!

I’ve taken the opportunity on this trip to search out some unusual walks and tours and last week I used walks.org for a pre-opening visit to the Tower of London. This means you get in before opening time, watch the opening key ceremony where the Tower is officially opened (only about 20 of us) and then you are able to get in to see the Crown Jewels before anyone else has got there (sadly no photos) but this is definitely the way to visit the Tower. Our guide was a “Blue Badge” which means she has studied all aspects of London history and she was very knowledgeable as she took us around the interior and exterior parts of this wonderful structure.

Old and new in close proximity – the Tower is slap bang in the middle of the City of London and has many famous modern buildings within sight. Only in London!

Below the beefeater who explained the ceremony plus the Royal Guards and keeper of the keys march to the East gate to open up the Tower. Apparently this ceremony take place because whoever was King at the time I visited the Tower one day and just waltzed in without anyone checking who he was (those were the days) and so he introduced a daily opening and locking of the Tower – it has been done twice every day since the 14th century!

The ceremony of the Keys

I thought the sculptures below were some sort of temporary work by a resident artist for no good reason but actually these sculptures tell a story – from the 1200s the Tower of London used to house a menagerie of exotic animals – most sent as gifts by foreign countries. Sadly most of the animals died quite quickly as they didn’t like the climate and they were cramped. In 1835 150 animals were dispatched to their brand new home – the London Zoo at Regent’s Park. I never knew about that!

Memorial at bottom left is close to the site where royals – including Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard were beheaded. Apparently Queen Victoria wanted a memorial for Anne Boleyn – no-one quite knows why but some think the stories about her that circulated were a set up and she was not as naughty as she is often made out to be.

At the National Portrait Gallery, a new exhibit called the Pre-Raphaelite sisters opened. In my teens and early 20’s I always enjoyed the image of these ladies – long flowing copper coloured curly hair, languid looks and colourful gowns – effectively these ladies seemed the complete antithesis to me so they always fascinated me.

This exhibit takes an interesting approach as each room is dedicated to one of the ladies in the group and shows artworks of them, tells their personal story and also shows art by many of them – many were talented artists in their own right not just vacuous models but they had less appreciation – as always seems to be the case. They and the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood had very close relations – and I mean close (next book I have to find is a history of all the characters – it will be saucy!). Some of these ladies came from high class families and some from working class but they were certainly fairly Bohemian in their style. Loved this exhibit – paintings by Rosetti, Burne-Jones, Millais, William Morris and many others. If you are in London it is a definite – GO!

Check out the hair – so envious!

Allegorical Parintins and drawings – love the swathes of colour

more gorgeous paintings

And of course – Millais’ Ophelia.

Elizabeth Siddal one of the Pre-Raphaelite sisters sat in a bath for this one – for a very long time. The water got very cold and she got very sick. Artists!!

A quick stop to 20th Century Art and I snapped some of my favourite female rock icons – also from my teens and early 20s.

Sade, Kate Bush, Blondie and Annie Lennox – strong female role modes of the 80s

And below a cheese moment – one of my favourite shops is La Fromagerie in Marylebone High Street – now expanded to include a café – also delicious. Well worth going to if cheese is your thing.

Is there a cheese they don’t have?

Yes this is a lunch of cauliflower cheese and burrata. No judgement!

Autumn has arrived and I met my friend Terry for a lovely pub lunch at the Duke of Cumberland in the village of Easebourne -Henley – in West Sussex. I was very impressed with the outdoor smoking area top right – yes that is a fire and plenty of room for smokers to sit and chat. Also interesting that many old telephone boxes in small villages, rather than being pulled down due to lack of use in a digital world, have been repurposed as storage for defibrillators – great idea.

Those views on a sunny Autumn day – bliss

9 thoughts on “UK, London – Canary Wharf, Tower of London early viewing, cheese, Pre-raphaelites exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery and lunch in a county pub

  1. tirzaha

    Hi Susie,

    It looks like you are staying close to home for a while. I think it feels good to come back to your hometown for a while, catchup with family and friends, before going back on the road. Looking forward to see you here one day when you feel like it.

    Tirza

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  2. Ursel Dougherty

    “Memorial at bottom left is close to the site where royals – including Ann Boleyn and Katherine Howard were beheaded.” How long has it been like this? I recall in 1976 when I took a group of American automotive journalists to Europe, starting in London, we were shown a “cold” stone in the pavement and told that’s where Anne Boleyn lost her head. No memorial then…;-)

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  3. Muriel Dowle

    Hi Susie, This post is fabulous, I’ve sent it to my painter friends as we sometimes do art trips together. Love the pre-raphaelites! I must do them when I next come to London. No idea when as I seem to be doing Scotland these days. Jeff and I are in Az now for another month plus, then home early December. Stay well, enjoy London Muriel x

    Sent from Muriel’s iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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