26 September 2010

Arts by day, sciences by night

It was an exciting week at the Natural History Museum as they treated us to a late opening on Friday night so we could meet their scientists. It was mobbed with people and we could hardly get through the crowds at each desk waiting to ask about dinosaurs, plants, rocks and mammals. This event was happening in 200 cities across Europe in other science institutions. It was a fun evening as the bars were open and everyone was wondering around with drinks enjoying the atmosphere and the special tours of the key areas. Hopefully they will do this again as everyone was having a good time in this most wonderful of buildings. Have a look at these 2 photos, one of the outside wonderfully lit and the other putting you face on to the dinosaur you see as you enter this home of natural science, an enormous diplodocus.

Art was on all around London as these weeks in September are the peak time for art exhibitions and shows. There was London Fashion Week, Decorex, 100% Design, Origins and Tent to name just some of them and this week I went to visit the last two. Origins was in Spitalfields Market where the central hall was given over to this year's show entitled Made not Manufactured. There were hundreds of stalls selling a wide range of original pieces from small traders from glass, pottery and jewellery through to leather goods and hats and scarves. We stopped for lunch at Spitalfields as this area is really good for restaurants and we visited John Torode's Luxe. They were busy but the wait for the food was worth it as it was very high quality. From there we went on to Tent in the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane where newer designers and more experimental work was on sale/being exhibited. Photos here are the posters at Origins, the outside of the Luxe cafe and the landmark chimney at the Truman Brewery, now an exhibition space.

More art on Wednesday as I visited three galleries that show glass items with a friend of mine who is a glass artist and we are working on how best to market her lovely creations. We went to Flow and Vessel Galleries in Notting Hill and Zest in Earl's Court and all the folk were really friendly and helpful. They have great stuff too so do poke your nose in their doors.

I had a treat on Wednesday night as I went to a party at the Hospital private members club which was thrown by Wolf and Badger. Lots of champagne is always fun and we had a great night. We'd had lunch at Taqueria in Notting Hill where you can taste more original and authentic Mexican snacks than you find at most places. They serve one of my favourites which is hot black beans with crumbled cheese.

Bye for now,

19 September 2010

Maps and sneaky peeking on OpenHouse weekend

I love maps and can spend hours looking at even the most ordinary ones so the chance to go to an exhibition at the British Library called Magnificent Maps was not to be missed! The British Library is not somewhere I go normally as you have to have a readers' pass to see most of the books but I think I should go more often as this exhibition was wonderful. They also have the most amazing permanent exhibition in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery of world class treasures (as they say) and I really didn't have enough time to do them justice on this visit.

Back to the maps, which ranged from 11th century Mappa Mundi (my favourites) and maps from the first explorers to a Grayson Perry take off and the satirical map of London called the Island from 2008. They have 80 beautiful maps from tiny psalter map from 1265 to the largest atlas in the world. They explore the themes of maps as art, as propaganda for pride and expressions of power. I was amazed at the accuracy of some of the early works and the skill of these early map makers. The British Library itself is a great modern building and they claim to have 14 million books tho' I wonder if they are all in this building. I've put in a couple of photos to show you entrance to this 1997 building and courtyard with its statue of Isaac Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi and one of the wonderful interior.

London threw its doors open this weekend so we could put our noses into buildings that are normally closed to the public. The brochure arrived a week ago and was overwhelming with the amount of choice so we had to put a programme together for the day and set off this morning to see some new sights. Three highlights are shown in the photos: a synagogue in Notting Hill, an old newspaper building and a great hall. The synagogue dates from the Victorian era and is grade 11 listed with magnificent, and newly restored interior mixing a range of architectural styles. We were given a talk and we able to walk around the interior floor which is normally only open to men, to see the Torah scrolls and ceremonial items. Our next visit was to the magnificent Art Deco foyer of the former Daily Express building on Fleet Street. It was all chrome with those wonderful art deco shapes including a snake handrail and it has a striking exterior. One more to mention is the Middle Temple Hall, described as London's finest surviving Elizabethan hall dating from 1562 and is virtually unaltered today. A bomb fell onto the building during the Second World War damaging one end which has been restored but the wooden hammer beam roof somehow came through undamaged.

A couple of restaurants worth a mention this week were Hix at the Albemarle and Khans. Hix is another Mark Hix venture this time in the luxurious surroundings of Brown's Hotel in Mayfair. His menu majors on British fare and we really enjoyed our Kent ceps for starters and our Hix cocktail with sparking wine from Sussex. Khans on Westbourne Grove is a contrasting place with pillars which turn into palm trees, countryside scenes painted on the walls and no alcohol but they serve a great curry so well worth the visit. One more fun thing on the eating/drinking/entertainment topic was a birthday do. A local gallery was hosting the first birthday party of West London Living, lifestyle magazine and this proved a fun evening with cocktails and entertainment including from a 40s styled trio called the Scarlet Starlets. Here's a photo of the Scarlets and from the look you can imagine the sounds.

I think that's enough for this week so bye for now.


12 September 2010

I had the pleasure of a second half day with my It's Your London client (see last week's blog for part one) and we had another jam packed few hours together! We started with Westminster Cathedral, just a week ahead of the Pope's arrival next week. The mosaics are amazing and it is a very impressive building with its Byzantine design which is so unusual for London as you can see in the photo. We then did the classic walk by of Houses Parliament, Parliament Square, Downing Street, Horse Guards Parade with the Changing of the Guard thrown in. The Changing of the Guard is an impressive sight especially as my visitor loves horses so here's a shot of them. Then a stroll through St James's Park with a coffee on the roof of the Inn the Park, finishing up with a visit to Buckingham Palace. The tour around the Queen's House is well worth it and as they say on the audio guide - a rare chance to see inside the house of a working monarch. She was on her holidays in Scotland so we could walk around the sumptuous state rooms and have a coffee in the cafe in the magnificent and huge gardens. The cafe staff have an extraordinary attention to detail and I couldn't resist taking this photo of coffee and cake Buck House style - the chocolate on the top of the cappuccino was in the shape of a crown which made us laugh and realise it was no ordinary cafe!

I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the great comedian Jason Byrne recording a radio at BBC Broadcasting House. We were very close to the stage and it was very funny - both the recorded sections and the warm up and ad libs. Broadcasting House is where the BBC started and is undergoing major changes at the moment with a new wing being added to house all the news and world service staff. The iconic main building has been cleaned up and looks great with its Eric Gill statue on the front and its fine art deco lines. The church of All Souls next door looks amazing day or night and here's a night photo to go with the Broadcasting House one.

I went to my first London Bloggers MeetUp where a bunch of fellow bloggers get together in a pub to talk about the fun of blogging and meet other fans. This month there were some good folk from PR agencies to put their side of the story. Some of these good bloggers post something everyday so I felt rather an amateur with my weekly efforts!

Only 1 year 318 days to go to the Olympics! Must go to visit the main site again soon. So much to get to see in London - never enough time...
Bye for now,

7 September 2010

Good fun with visitors..

I had 2 sets of visitors in town last week so there was lots of good sightseeing and enjoying London through others' eyes which is always good fun.

The first visitor was an old friend from America who was here on a flying visit for less than a day, en route to elsewhere, so we needed to pack in as much as we could. The first stop was Spitalfields market which is one of the best in London tho' I have to love Portobello more as it is my local market and Camden is pretty good too! Spitalfields has great one off clothing, inventive jewellery, yummy food, a covered hall, side shops, and loads more. And just as we were arriving we saw a dance company called La Troupe Delicieux doing trailers for their forthcoming acrobatic show called Deja Vu. The power and grace was amazing to see and all to a thumping Shirley Bassey track. We shopped amidst the crowds and then took a glass of wine at Galvin cafe next to the lovely Galvin La Chapelle - worth checking out their Sunday lunch deal but we were in a rush so went for the curry in a hurry!

Here you can see the Galvin La Chapelle exterior, the Deja Vu pose and the crowds in the market.

After this burst of retail delight we went to Waterloo Station to see the Railway Children which was staged on the platform of the old Eurostar terminal (which moved to St Pancras). It was very close in storyline to the film of the same title and was so imaginatively staged it even treated the audience to a real steam train coming into the middle of the stage! We loved it and so did all the kids there, young and old ! Sadly no photos allowed and the sneaky ones on the phone didn't work (but don't tell them I tried....)

Following this we went for a marvellous dinner at the Wolseley restaurant on Picadilly. It's a grand room, great menu and lots of celeb spotting and our treat was the beautiful Joanna Lumley who joined us in taking the prize for 'last to leave the restaurant'!

My second visitor was a client of my tour company It's Your London. A businesswoman on a first trip to London she wanted a couple of half days as an introduction to London seeing the big sights and some Harry Potter! I have to admit to not know much about Harry Potter so did some research and arranged us a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross, Diagon Alley and the entrance to Leaky Cauldron., both in Leadenhall Market. My favourite is the platform which surprisingly is hidden away in station and has no signs to it so you have to know... We also visited the British Museum, Tower of London and Trafalgar Square with a trip down the Thames thrown in. They even raised Tower Bridge while we were there - how amazing! Here's a few shots of what we saw:

A second trip to the theatre was a completely different show to the Railway Children as we saw La Bete which was costume piece in rhyming couplets with an amazing cast starring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumely (yes her again - twice in one week!). I must say I didn't warm to it although some of my fellow theatre goers really liked it. But had much more of a laugh at Stewart Francis's DVD recording on Friday with a show full of one liners and comic timing. Watch out for the release of the DVD later this year and I might even be on it!
That's enough for this week and I'm packing in loads of stuff to tell you about next Monday.
Bye for now