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