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Welltravbrit's London Sojourn - An Ongoing Trip Report

Welltravbrit's London Sojourn - An Ongoing Trip Report

Old Apr 23rd, 2015, 10:35 AM
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Annhig,- I was exactly the same, I've been meaning to make it out to Dulwich for YEARS! It feels slightly surreal to have the opportunity to finally make it to all these places. However, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. In Paris my school girl French meant I couldn't go to a lot of stuff and I didn't have a full understanding of all that was on. In London things are quite different, plus there are friends and family to juggle. I'm working through a list in my head that has been built over years and I'm researching everything that's on - crazy really!

Today I managed to get my husband on a last minute cancellation to an Art Fund House of Lords tour this evening. Unfortunately they only had one ticket so I threw myself on my sword!

Don't worry I'm also hitting the old favorites, today I was at the British Museum this afternoon.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2015, 11:00 AM
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how noble of you, WTB. and it should give you a chance to catch your breath!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2015, 05:38 PM
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Hi again WTB,

Still tagging along.

"It was an easy jaunt out to Dulwich on the train from Victoria, you can use your Oyster card for these short train trips which makes it easy. it's a short walk out to the museum..." Glad to hear it.

The DULWICH is another museum which I wanted to "do" but thought was rather circuitous to get to. Maybe next time? Thanks for the description.

Re: Sir John Soane, he also designed the original Bank of England. A replica of his office (counting house a la Dickens?) can be seen at the BANK OF ENGLAND MUSEUM in the City, across from MANSION HOUSE. A very interesting FREE museum - not that you need any more suggestions, eh?

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/educa...g/default.aspx

Really enjoying your report and missing London....
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 05:15 AM
  #104  
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Glad you are still following along.

Yes, very noble lol! But self-sacrifice+ignorance= foolishness, it turns out I could have booked the tour directly, though to be fair they were probably booked up months ago!. Here's the link for anyone who is interested, though it isn't available till August! However, you can take an audio tour on Saturdays and during parliamentary recess.,

http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/vi...and-splendour/

My husband really enjoyed the "Royalty and Splendor" tour and found the guide very good. He said the interiors have to be seen to be believed with every surface decorated and or carved. There was lots of historical detail and a quick look at the Commons too. He recommended it highly.

Thanks for the heads up on the Bank of England, I'd forgotten Soane's involvement.

TRANSPORTATION
So far all of the day trips (which seemed in my head to be a lot of bother before I set off) turned out to be very easy to navigate. Overall, my advice would be don't be put off by a short train ride, these are all commuter country destinations and the trains go quite often. Though you should always check journeys on a Sunday as it's often the time they do work on the line.

Incidentally I've found the CITYMAPPER app to be an invaluable way to get around town, with great estimates on bus times and walking routes etc. It is very much worth looking into and it's free.

So, I have two more museums to tell you about. I had a rather late start yesterday but once I got moving I saw quite a lot - this is a typical pattern which is always a problem on the continent where things are closed for lunch right around the time

I get moving! I've always loved the buses in London and that hasn't changed. I will take the tube but I tend to opt for it only when I'm taking a longer journey right across town.I love the views from the bus, yes they can take more time but they are cheaper and I feel I'm learning more about the city. Each ride is £1:50 and the Oyster card caps out at £4:40 per day, meaning any additional bus journeys will be included in what you have paid.

Note, you can't use cash for the buses you have to have a card.

I'm now seeing the city from the perspective of the following bus routes, the 55, 26 and the 48 which all pass regularly from the bus stop only 150 yards from my flat. All of a sudden I'm most interested in the places that this public transport trio can take me. They cover quite a bit. The 26 goes through the City, past St Paul's, down the Strand, past Charing Cross to Waterloo and the South Bank, perfect for the theatre. The 55 heads through Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Holborn to Oxford Circus. It drops me off at Russell Sq for an easy walk to the British Museum. Finally there's the 48 which heads through Shoreditch, to the City, past the Monument and over London Bridge, this is a great route for Borough Market, or the riverfront piers.

DESIGN MUSEUM
So, I took the trusty 48 to London Bridge and headed east along the riverfront. I'd never been up here and it's lovely looking out at Tower Bridge and the Tower itself on a sunny day. The Walkie Talkie is a scar of the skyline from this angle, a bulbous blight, overinflated with a sense of it's own importance it looks strangely distorted with it's expanding waistline and is somehow out of sync with the buildings around it. However, I love the beautiful new City Hall (designed by Norman Foster) and built right on the water front at the foot of Tower Bridge. There's plenty of room around it and so you can really see the sweep of the building which is like a modern glass egg laid down in the middle of London. Apparently the downstair cafe (which serves affordable lunches) is worth checking out.

I walked east of Tower Bridge past the shopping center in Hays Galleria. This is a converted warehouse district and there are a number of restaurants along the river - including Pont de la Tour which has been around for an age, I was astonished to see they have a £15 two course lunch in their downstairs bar/grill where you can sit outside on a charming terrace. I'll definitely be back for that, hopefully on another sunny day.

There was my destination in a rather shabby small building and after all that I'm going to tell you that in 2016 (this date keeps changing, as it was meant to be this year) it's relocating to the old Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. I can tell I've been out of London for decades, because I didn't know that the Commonwealth Institute had close, apparently in 2002!

I'd come to see the WOMEN, FASHION AND POWER exhibit and all I can tell you is don't feel badly if you didn't make it to this one. I was bitterly disappointed, lots of fashion but not much power if you ask me. Given the great names they had involved in this (including Zaha Hadid) it was rather pedestrian and it had the problem that all the least interesting fashion exhibits have lots of stiff mannequins with no character, animation or context. Lesson learned - I should have read the reader reviews at TimeOut not the PR hype in the papers which seemed to be talking about the exhibit before, rather than reviewing it after it opened.

https://designmuseum.org/exhibitions...-fashion-power

The best bit was a display of outfits (shoved in a corner) in which women explained why these particular clothes made them feel powerful, but all the blubs were down at the mannequins feet so you had to squat down to read them, not the most powerful feeling position for most of us. Ohh well, a lost opportunity there. In order to rescue my day I decided to hit one more fashion exhibit and see if they were doing a better job...

THE MUSEUM OF FASHION AND TEXTILE
After a lovely walk through the warehouses and homes of Bermondsey (i would certainly consider a flat rental in this area) I turned the corner to see the saffron and pink exterior of the museum. If I hadn't know it already, the colors should have confirmed the involvement of the designer Zandra Rhodes.

http://ftmlondon.org/ftm-exhibitions...bohemian-chic/

I loved the exhibit here which focused on the life and designs of Thea Porter who was responsible for much of the bohemian chic of the 1960's and 1970's including; caftans, diaphanous patterned shifts, and Middle Eastern influences dresses. The displays had so much more heart and interest than those at the Design Museum which felt half dead and didactic at worst. Here the mannequins were displayed mainly in a diorama style with ephemera, decorative items, fabrics and furniture (and indeed music) from the period. There was even a Pink Floyd album cover featuring the lads in her jackets! All in all a good exhibit, it runs till May 3rd for anyone who may be interested.

FYI there are quite a number of fashion exhibits in London right now, including a Vivienne Westwood exhibit at Danson House in Bexley and the Alexander McQueen one at the V &A, both of which I will try to catch.

It feels great to be seeing so many of the museums I've wondered about for years but I'm thinking of trying to focus on getting to know the British Museum and the V &A a little better too. The BM has eye opener tours which spend 30-40 minutes introducing parts of the collection you may not know (Assyrian Reliefs, Africa etc.) so I'm hoping to take at least a few of those in the next few months.

Hope some of the babble is useful...
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 06:39 AM
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As a male Engineer the Design Museum has been a disappointment for me over the years so I'm not surprised that they mucked up the Women's input. It seems to me they have limited themselves to buckyspheres, plastic mouldings of the last 50 years, Dyson's designs (he has been on t'committee) and that is about that. You can learn more about design in a good bookshop, which is a pity as British design is rather good
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 07:03 AM
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Thanks for the warning about the Design Museum - it's been on my list for some time. Now I can take it off and not feel guilty. But I will replace it with the Museum of Fashion and Textile, which I didn't know about, so the list isn't any shorter!
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 07:22 AM
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Gariem,
Thanks for the heads up on the Corner Room at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. We had a wonderful mid-week meal over there the other night and both of us were impressed. The food was excellent, well though out and executed. We had mackerel to start which was superb, I loved the pork tenderloin and my husband loved the lamb. The flavors were fresh and interesting and I agree it's well priced for the quality. As you said the ambience of the place is very nice. We will have to try their fancy downstairs restaurant the Typing Room as well as their trendy cocktail bar the Peg and Patriot.
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 07:29 AM
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Fyi, neither the Design Museum nor the Fashion and Textile Museum have permanent galleries so in each case it's all about the quality of their temporary shows, which is why I'll be checking the reviews more carefully from now on!

bilboburgler - the building and layout was so bad that I couldn't imagine it was a "design" space!

Thursdaysd - I'm not sure this monster thread is going to make anyone's list shorter, apologies in advance!
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 07:48 AM
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welltravel, I know I got lost looking for the way out and ended up in a basement (that was years ago), incredible really when they have the V&A so close. Even the Bucky presentation missed out on some of his better buildings. I suspect they are caught between trying to enthuse children and trying to be even handed with praise for great design and as a result satisfy neither.
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Old Apr 25th, 2015, 12:08 PM
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WTB, back again,

Not sure - have you folks done the tour of Parliament yet? What a treat - I don't recall that being offered when I was in London during the last few years. Personally, my best travel memory was a private tour of Parliament in 2011 with the family of one of my students in the States - her uncle was an MP from North Wales. We went to many areas inaccessible to the general public including St. Mary's Undercroft (magnificent chapel), MPs dining room, family room etc.

Good for you getting around on buses. I only tried a few so relied mostly on the Tube. Quite a workout on those stairs and underground "subways," eh?

Interesting about all those fashion exhibits. I found the V&A a bit overwhelming. Still tagging along...
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Old Apr 26th, 2015, 02:29 AM
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Still loving your report. I won't get to meet you -I miscalculated my flying time and don't arrive until Tuesday . I loved the Dulwich gallery ( first public gallery ) and it has a pleasant restaurant . The school nearby was doing a choral event in the church and invited us in to hear.
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Old Apr 26th, 2015, 03:48 AM
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Glad you're all tagging along and sorry we will miss you on Tuesday Northie. I hope the journey isn't too bad and you recover from the jet lag asap!

Latedaytraveler, my husband went to parliament and enjoyed it, it sounds like you had a great tour.

A quick THEATRE TIP for everyone, of course day tickets are available at many theatres but the National has started a new online rush in the last couple of weeks. On Fridays they release twenty pound tickets for the upcoming week. There are even holding back tickets for sold out shows including the phenomenal Man and Superman with Ralph Fiennes.

http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/yo...iday-rush-faqs

Fyi the Donmar has something similar on a Monday.
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Old Apr 26th, 2015, 09:16 AM
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Cool, thanks wtb.
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Old Apr 26th, 2015, 02:56 PM
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The converted warehouse area is called Butlers Wharf. I like the Chop House bar there, and L'apprentice. I'm not sure whether the latter is still open but the former definitely is.
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Old Apr 27th, 2015, 11:38 AM
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Yes, Butler's Wharf, thanks RM67!


THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT

I was in the V&A today and had a fabulous time, though I only ended up here because my bus ended up stuck in traffic and switched to the tube at Liverpool St. Once on the underground I though, "I well I might as well go across town" and s, on a whim, I headed to Kensington!
On the way in I stopped to ask a volunteer a couple of questions and she suggested I head over to the Cast Courts. Here's the thing, I've been to the V&A many, many times (mostly for special exhibitions) but I don't know the permanent collection particularly well. The truth is I know both the Louvre and the Met much better. But, that's something I'm hoping to change in the next couple of months.

The Cast Courts are Just lovely and they really take you back to Prince Albert and the foundation of the collection. These rooms really shows you what the museum was like when it opened A part of the educational mandate for the museum ( in the Nineteenth Century) they made plaster cast copies of European works which were displayed to the public, most of who didn't have the means to travel abroad.Things like David, Trajan's Column (life sized!) and lots of other European treasures including sculptures, fonts etc.

It's like a wander through a museum time capsule, fabulous and over time these casts have been a repository of knowledge for conservationists when the originals have been destroyed (during WW II) or degraded through pollution.

After the Cast Courts I joined one of the wonderful one hour introductory tours which was great. Apparently they are often different but I loved the tour which spent a lot of time in the amazing jewelry collection. Tte Bollinger Jewelry Gallery is certainly a museum highlight. The quality of the display is extraordinary, not just the stuff but also the presentation which is relatively new, it opened in 2008. Its so beautifully lit. I would have loved to see more of certain things (Lalique and Cartier) but they pride is that they have one of everything represented, there is incredible breadth here though it should rightly be described as Western jewelry.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/galleri...llery-gallery/

The tour was so good I joined another one, this time through the rather quieter British Galleries. Again it was very well led and quite fascinating, she took an interesting detour to the Raphael Cartoons which was most enjoyable. Overall they whetted my appetite for a return visit to see the same galleries in more detail on my own as well as to take more of their tours!

Afterwards I did the obligatory visit to the cafe for tea and a scone. You MUST come here if you're in the museum. The cafe is lovely and the reason everyone recommends it is because it's so beautiful. These were the original "refreshment rooms" and they are decorated with wonderful telework and paintings, one of the rooms was designed by William Morris and Burne Jones. Anyway, there are more details on the architecture here...

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/article...rupted-vision/


After I finished at the V&A I took a lovely walk through the park to the Central line at Lancaster Gate. My parents spent six months in flat here in the 1980's and the park looked quite different to me as they've restored the Italian Gardens so beautifully with money from Tiffany's. It really is quite lovely right now with all the tulips out.
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Old Apr 27th, 2015, 01:46 PM
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WTB: Have been following along with you on your fantastic journey in and around London and thoroughly enjoying it.

We will certainly use some of your tips and recommendations when we visit this Sept.
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Old Apr 28th, 2015, 10:47 AM
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More great ideas for my trip as well!

I had wanted to see the British Museum again - will definitely do a tour this time.
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Old Apr 29th, 2015, 12:26 PM
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Glad the tips were useful, I'm on parental duty this week so things are moving at a slower speed. Of course the day my mother is visiting would be the day it pours with rain and the apartment building does major maintenance so there was no water or electricity. Oh joy!

A trip to the Courtauld today helped rescue things and and tickets to see Felicity Kendall in Hayfever tomorrow is our big event.

We had a lovely time last night at the Fodorite get together, it's always fun to meet such nice people and to see there are indeed real people behind those screen names. I made people promise to say we are all terribly good looking and great company - so if you hear that from anyone you know it's all very dodgy.

I've finally finished up my Egyptian blogging so I'll be posting on London fairly soon.
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Old Apr 30th, 2015, 03:02 AM
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Sorry I missed the GTG but janisj and I (and dh) had a great meeting at The National Portrait gallery restaurant .we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary courtesy of janisj.
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Old Apr 30th, 2015, 03:07 AM
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northie, sorry we missed you too and Happy Anniversary! Did you enjoy the Seargent exhibit, I haven't made it there yet.
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