Churchill Arms at Christmas

More London Christmas lights

Have you soon my last post on London’s Christmas lights? Check it out here.  There are so many great lights cheering us up that I thought a second post was called for.

My favourite is the Tate Britain, not the most obvious place to look for festive lights but they do have some previous successes in the form of festive slugs a few years ago!  This year’s display is a brilliant use of lights and packs in so many ideas.  The building looks great day and night and is really popular with people travelling just to see it – if they can while we are under the current regulations.

The display by Chila Kumani Singh Burman called Remembering a Brave New World  celebrates a range of cultures in swirling colour and neon light and is a message of hope at this difficult time. Can you spot the Hindu mythology, Bollywood imagery as well as British traditions?  This is a Diwali celebration, the festival of light and its message fits well with Christmas.   I loved the tiger and the ice cream van!

Tate Britain Tate Britain

Tate Britain Xmas Tate Britain Xmas








St Pancras station always brings us a dramatic and elegant tree and this year is no exception.  This pink beauty from EL&N is made up of thousands of ribbons with messages of hope from  NHS and key workers.  In the background you can see Tracey Emin’s ‘I want my time with you’ in purple neon.

Christmas tree in St Pancras

The Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street is a riot of lights and they must take the prize for the most festive pub in London.  Sadly closed at the moment but still giving us joy.

Some lights manage to be impressive in daylight (see the Tate Britain above) and these reindeer, fox, bird combination by the Thames does just that.  In a great position with Tower Bridge in the background, they brightened a dull day in London.

Mayfair put up its usual elegant and dramatic crowns.

Xmas in Mayfair

Covent Garden’s mistletoe and disco baubles cheered up a visit during lockdown where everything was shut but the lights gave us hope that things would get better.

Xmas in Covent Garden

Hamley’s famous and huge toy store went all Harry Potter on us with this traditional Christmas window.

Christmas lights in London

I’ve saved the best for last.  In a side street near RIchmond park this nativity was made with such love and thanks to all the NHS and care workers .  Congratulations to this family for this great celebration of the Christmas spirit!


I send festive wishes to you all and all the very best for 2021.


Burlington Arcade

Christmas lights brighten up London

It’s been a tough few months so I was keen to head to the West End of London to see the Christmas lights 2020 and taken on some Christmas spirit.  They did not disappoint and I’d like you to join me on my first tour around these famous illuminations.

Burlington Arcade is a top end passage of shops and said to be the world’s first shopping arcade.  Its simple colour scheme and tasteful decorations are a delight and Moet & Chandon have set up a tempting photo opportunity which I could not resist!

Burlington Arcade

Burlington Arcade

Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly is a beautiful shop inside and out  Famous for its teas it loves to mark Christmas with its customary style and flair.  This year the exterior is one huge advent calendar with a section for each leading up to the 25th and a massive 2020 down the side of the building.  Their shop windows are commemorating 8 famous displays from the past from 1930 through to 2020. Inside it is a masterclass in Christmas decorations and symmetrical design.

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Carnaby Street is usually my favourite decoration with its off the wall and over the top approach but this year they seem rather subdued although the message is strong.

Carnaby Street

Seven Dials just near Covent Garden have excelled themselves this year with a stunning  halo of lights with coloured baubles and sliver birch sprays around their famous centre.  The overall them is Festive Woodland.

Seven Dials

Oxford Street have gone for big banners with lights and text which changes rapidly so you have to be patient to see any full messages.

Christmas lights in London Oxford Street

Regent Street has returned with its beautiful angels which have been on display for many Christmases but still delight

Christmas lights in London Regent Street

The Mayfair shops always push the boat out and Cartier take the prize this year with their jaguar themed bright red shop front.

Christmas lights in London Mayfair

I hope you enjoyed this tour around some of London’s Christmas lights. There are plenty more so watch out for another blog post to come featuring South Molton Street, Tate Britain, Trafalgar Square and many more

Merry Christmas.


Kimono by Yamamoto

Kimonos at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The VIctoria and Albert Museum has reopened and I’m really looking forward to returning to one of London’s great, world leading museums.

Just before lockdown I visited their Kimono : Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition and am delighted that is has returned and remains there  through to October this year.   This exhibition is a delight to the eye as we are guided through stunning kimonos, paintings from Japan and then onto the influence of these styles have had on the wider world and in particular fashion.  The displays are beautifully put together

To start with here is a selection of the extraordinarily beautiful kimonos on display. As you go round the displays, you can learn of the significance of the pieces, the importance of the garments and cloth in Japanese society and how they developed over the centuries.  Captions explain how the kimonos were worn and the extraordinary craftsmanship required to produce them.

Kimonos at the V&A

Kimonos at the V&A

Kimonos at the V&A

Kimonos at the V&A


Kimonos at the V&A

Delicate and detailed paintings of people wearing kimonos feature heavily and add a great deal of interest as we can see how these garments looked on the wearers of that time in the classic Japanese art style.  Through the artworks you get to hear of the complexities of the layers of society, the world of entertainment including geishas and the messages sent out through their dress by men and women.

Japanese painting at the V&A

Japanese painting at the V&A Japanese painting at the V&A

Japanese painting at the V&A

Japanese painting at the V&A Japanese painting at the V&A

Fast forward a couple of centuries (missing out many interesting displays in several rooms of the exhibtion) and we arrive at the world of modern fashion.  Stunning pieces show the influence of the kimono on modern fashion and culture including pop music stars and films. As always the fabulous display work by the V&A shows them off at their best and the colours and shapes are breath-taking.

Kimono by Galliano

Kimono by Galliano

Kimono by Yamamoto

Kimono by Yamamoto

Kimono amd Bjork

Bjork and her McQueen kimono

Star Wars

Star Wars Obi Wan’s kimono

Star Wars

Star Wars Queen Apailana’s kimono

Kimono by Galliano

Madonna’s kimono by Galliano

Every good museum needs a quality gift shop and the V&A is no exeption. Among an array of lovely smaller items and books this rack of colourful kimonos was extremely tempting!

Kimonos in the V&A shop

For more information about Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which runs to 25th October, entry prices to this special exhibition as well as free pre-booked entry to the rest of this wonderful museum:

Full disclosure:  I am a V&A member and pay for this myself so I am able to visit V&A’s great special exhibitions whenever I like.

Charles Dickens in colour

Charles Dickens London home

The Charles Dickens Museum has reopened!  It’s a very special place as it is Dickens’s only surviving London home  where he lived from 1837 to 1839 and wrote 3 of his most famous novels:  Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers, and Nicholas Nickleby.

He moved to 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine and first child and this is where his fame grew as well as his family. The museum offers you the chance to see where he lived, entertained and wrote and to top that there is a new special exhibition called Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens – more on this further down.

Charles Dickens museum

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Lockdown London

Photos from lockdown London

As we begin to emerge from lockdown in London, it seemed a good time to reflect on what it was like over the last 3 months, while really hoping lockdown does not have to return.   During lockdown I’ve been volunteering at the Unity Kitchen in Victoria preparing meal to go out to those in real need. As well as being a good thing to do, this has meant I’ve been travelling to the heart of Westminster and experienced a very different London from the normal hustle and bustle.

Here are my photos showing the strangeness of these times when central London had no visitors and no office workers, when hotels and restaurants were shut, when theatres and cinemas went dark and the streets were empty.  Plenty of signs were erected to remind us of the rules.

Lockdown London rules

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Armada Portait Queen's House

3 Queens are even better than 1 at the Queen’s House, Greenwich.

You can see Queen Elizabeth l in all her regal glory in the Armada portrait at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. It turns out  2 other versions of this iconic paintng also exist in England, one to be found at Woburn Abbey and and the other in the National Portrait Gallery.  Now, you can enjoy these 3 copies of this famous portrait as they have been brought together for the first time at the Queen’s House in their new exhibition Faces of a Queen and it’s a real treat to see them together.

3 Armada Portraits

L-R Paintings from Woburn, The Queen’s House and National Portrait Gallery

They were all painted very shortly after the Armada victory in 1588, from left to right they are: the Woburn Abbey version – largest and most complete; the Queen’s House own version which is  the clearest and pops with detail and colour; and, the National Gallery version which has been cropped at some point.  They are almost identical in that the costume and jewels are the same but there are differences for example in the Queen’s House version the ships in the left window have been updated from the original Armada ships to contemporary verssions from the 18th century when there was a major restoration of the painting.

I was intrigued how there came to be 3 almost identical paintings after we were told that they were likely to be the work of different artists.   They are so similar and yet I found it hard to believe that Queen Elizabeth would  have sat for 3  separate painters or even for 3 at once.  I posed this question to Allison Goudie, Curator at the Queen’s House, and she told me that it is now thought the paintings were all based on a single original miniature painting by one of the queen’s favourite artists, Nicholas Hilliard.  Other copies may exist but these 3 were contemporary versions making them so precious.

We see Elizabeth surrounded by symbols of power, majesty and virginity. Her hand on the globe in the Woborn and Queen’s House versions shows her growing dominance across the globe.  The seascapes show the defeat of the Spanish Armada, a victory for England and Elizabeth but also for Protestanism over Catholicism.  The crown and her costume reinforce her majesty. The profusion of pearls speak to her virginity as they are associated with this and her status as the ‘VIrgin Queen’ married to her country.

Queen Elizabeth was born in Greenwich Palace, sadly no longer in existance, as was Mary her sister as it was the main London seat of their father Henry Vlll and they spent a good deal of their youth at the palace.. He married his first and fourth queens there and his son Edward lV died there  although after his father’s death.  Elizabeth’s Council planned the Armada Campaign from the palace, so another strong connection with the paintings.

The opportunity to get really close up to 3 faces of Elizabeth was fascinating as the rest of her body is obscured by her sumptuous costume.  She is thought to be 55 at the time these were painted and I was looking for signs of the life she had lived but I guess the painters were charged with making her look younger.  Here is your chance for a close up:

Elizabeth 1 close up Elizabeth 1 close up Elizabeth 1 close up

The Armada Portraits are the focal point of the Queen’s House exhibits at the moment but there is so much more to see in their permanent collection. In addition they have the Woburn Treasures currently on display around the house.  Woburn Abbey is undergoing a major renovation project so its treasures including their Armada Portrait can go out on loan.  Many works from this significant private collection are to be found in the Queen’s House. There is a  great deal to see and through the pieces visitors can learn about the Russell family who’ve lived at Woburn and their closeness to royalty over the centuries.

Matthew Hirst, the curator at Woburn Abbey, took us through the many rooms at the Queen’s House where their treasures can now be found.  The Russell family have been great patrons and collectors of art and architecture.  This exhibition

Here are just a few of my highlights from the Woburn Treasures:

This picture of Queen Mary 1 and her husband Phillip ll of Spain has the most extraordinary legs and faces! Positioned under their royal crests the couple and their faithful dogs demonstrate the style of the time which did not always use realistic perspective.Thepainting sits well in an exhibition containging the Armada Portraits as it was Phillip who launched the ill fated seaborne invasion of England against Mary’s sister Elizabeth.

Inigo Jones appears on the walls and it is fitting that his portrait should visit the Queen’s House as he was commissioned by Anne of Denmark as architect of the house.  Inigo Jones brought the popular classical Palladian style of architecture to England and you can see his work in the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. 

The dramatic bust of Olaudah Equiano dominates one room, a famous ex slave who became a key figure in the fight to abolish slavery.  His book documenting his experiences as a slave had a huge impact in his day and this modern bronze bust commemorates his crucial role in British history.

This portrait of Lady Jane Grey being offered the Crown, fits well with the other roayl portraits and is part of the bloody tale of the Tudor reign. Her sad tale  is one of a young girl being manipulated by powerful forces, including her own family, to put her on the throne of England.They succeeded but 9 days later Mary gathered her forces and deposed Jane. Poor Jane, just 16, was beheaded by Mary to removed any threat,  so this moment of glory was very shortlived.


The Queen’s House is a star of any visit so do take the time to enjoy the fabulous Tulip Stairs and Great Hall among other delights:

Tulip Stairs, Queen's House Grand Hall , Queen's House


To find out more about visiting these exhibtions and the Queen’s House check their website:

Full disclosure: as is customary in the travel industry I was invited by the Queen’s House to their curator led preview visit.  This has not influenced my views and was not a monetary offer as entrance to the Queen’s House is free.