Christmas is one of my favourite times of year in London, the buzz, the festive events, the mulled wine and carols, but mainly because of the Christmas lights. London is lit up so beautifully that even those of us who have seen many many Christmases are still enchanted by the sights. Each area has its own style from classic to wacky, with Carnaby Street winning the prize for the latter! Take a stroll with me to enjoy the lights from the warmth of your own home.
We never learn! The British summer is unreliable at best and yet we love to have outdoor events which test our stoical nature and inevitably involve a lot of plastic! Continue reading
You may have heard already and it’s true, we are having great weather this year in London and this spring has been the warmest and driest on record. Londoners really know how to make the most of any bit of sunshine and my trip to Somerset House last week gave me the chance to see a perfect example of this. That visit was topped with a trip to the theatre to take in a new play.
Somerset House is an amazing place, dating from 1801 and is most famous to Brits as where all the birth certificates were kept. It was also: the nation’s Stamp Office where every newspaper was stamped before distribution; where the Royal Academy of Arts began; and, the home to various government offices. It still houses government departments but it is more famous for its wonderful courtyard (which was once just a car park!) and fountains, its restaurant, its exhibition and the events in the courtyard. Currently in the courtyard is an amazing exhibition by Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese artist who was behind the Olympic Birdsnest stadium in Beijing and the Sunflower Seeds exhibition of 100 million pieces in the Tate Modern. Sadly at the moment he is in prison in China but his work speaks out for him. Here we have 12 massive bronze animal heads depicting the traditional Chinese zodiac called Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. This is his first major outdoor exhibition in London and Somerset House’s first outdoor modern sculpture display.
The day I went to see them was very warm and sunny so we could enjoy the heads while families enjoyed themselves running in and out of the fountains. People of all ages couldn’t resist running through the changing fountains and the kids stripped off to their swimmers and there was no stopping them! We however enjoyed a light lunch at Tom’s Kitchen within the main building and remained fully clothed!
Another good reason for visiting Somerset House is the Courtauld art gallery where you can view a wonderful collection ranging from some of the most famous impressionists and post impressionist work – Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Degas – and some more modern pieces – Bacon, Hepworth and Nicholson – and many older pieces too – Ruebens and Brueghel. For a mere £4.50 entry to what is termed a small museum, you can treat yourself to a journey through some great art.
Photos are: a view of the full courtyard; various shots of the zodiac heads and people playing in the fountains.
This week’s theatre trip was to see Butley at the Duchess Theatre, a piece by set in the world of academia in the 1970s. The undoubted star of the play was Dominic West, playing the once great professor whose decent into drink has lead him to rail against the world and those closest to him. We were treated to a question and answer session with the whole cast afterwards which was great as we were in the front row for this and I was reminded of my close up moment with Dominic West when he was at the Donmar so here’s our photo!
Nearly the end of the year and this is the last blog before Christmas, and depending on how the travelling goes next week, it could be the last of the year. England has had more snow than it can cope with on the roads, railways and at our airports which has been very sad for people trying to get home to be with friends and family for the festive period. I’m off to Kent first and then to Dartmouth for New Year so fingers crossed I get to both…. And I hope you get to where you want to be as well.
The last weeks of 2010 have been snow dominated which is really surprising for this time of year s we don’t usually get this much snow until February and it’s been colder than for many decades – global warning eh! London had a couple of major ‘dumps’ as they are called tho’ it seems an odd word to me. So of course here are a set of photos from my locality including the biggest bus queue in London where at least 12 number 52s were stuck due to the smallest hill – poor show! See if you can spot the snowman…
It’s May and we’ve had sun, warmth, rain and chills already but the blossom is out and if you can dodge the rain and keep a scarf to hand it’s looking beautiful. Here’s a photo of Westbourne Grove at its finest and I’ll spare you the shots of the rain! The May gathering of narrow boats at Little Venice was a victim of the weather but was still very jolly and the photo attached is – I have to admit – from last year’s event but it looked just the same this year apart from the sun when we popped in for a look this morning! It’s a wonderful sight right in the middle of London.
There was a good stand up comedy show at the Amused Moose with the compere Mark Dolan being our favourite. The venue was unusual as the comedy section was a set of chairs on the dance floor of a nightclub which was all mirrors and lights but the acts were funny and we left before the nightclub really got going…..
With a visit to the theatre on the sunniest afternoon of the year so far, an art exhibition at the Tate and a boat ride on the rainiest one, Somerset House in the sun, a Michelin star (well 2 stars actually) lunch, and a film preview, it’s been a good week.
Last week’s theatrical theme carried on into this week with 2 more stage based evenings. One was high octane A list as we got much sought after tickets for the Misanthrope starring Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis. An excellent expose of shallow lives in rhyming couplets. The second visit was the local pantomine (oh no it wasn’t!!) which was performed with gusto and enthusiasm and the chaos on stage only added to the fun. We had the chance to sing along Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas ..everyone’ which really put us in the festive mood. It was directed by Alfie Allen, brother of Lily Allen who I went to see in concert at the Brixton 02 Academy a few days after so it was a family week and their Dad was at Lily’s show. It was a snowy night but worth the effort to see her perform what she said will be her last show but let’s hope not.
Yes we had snow in London! It didn’t lay in the centre of town but caused huge excitement for a few hours.
Lots of lovely London Christmas lights to show you in these photos. The most beautiful were the delicate cut out fairytale images at Tiffany’s in Bond Street but the most fun were in Carnaby Street – see previous posting. The most comic was the penguin with the pink wig in Ted Baker South Molton Street, a pedestrianised shopping street which also gave us this original blue arch look. Also worth a mention is St Christopher’s Place, another pedestrian shopping area with lovely hanging lights.
London is full of ice rinks during December and they all fight to be considered the best location which is a tough competition between Tower of London, Natural History Museum and my winner, Somerset House. This weekend they also had a Christmas fair where a few more unusual presents were purchased but I can’t tell you what just in case the recipients are reading this!