The National Gallery
For anyone interested in art and, in particular, visiting the National Gallery during their stay in London, we highly recommend spending an hour doing an introductory tour with art expert Steven Barrett. A huge art museum like the National Gallery can be quite daunting and, unless you have a particular agenda, it is quite possible to find yourself wandering for hours from room to room, trying to take it all in!
I met up with Steven on a Sunday morning, and left an hour later feeling I had learned a lot about the different periods of art featured in the gallery, including my particular interest, Impressionist art. Steven has worked in museum and gallery education since 2004, mostly at the National Gallery, but also at both the London Tates and at Somerset House. As a freelance tutor and guide he offers bespoke tours at all the main museums and galleries in London. Please get in touch with us for Steven’s direct contact details.
This month marks the bicentenary of the birth of Queen Victoria. To honour the occasion, Kensington Palace, the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria, is hosting two exhibitions dedicated to her life. From a childhood ‘behaviour’ journal written by 12-year-old Princess Victoria, to a dress designed by her husband Prince Albert for the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851, there are plenty of gems to discover in these two fascinating exhibitions.
The first exhibition gives an insight into Queen Victoria’s private life, as a wife, mother, Queen and widow. Focusing on the person behind her public image, a selection of her clothes are on show, including the black dresses she wore every day for the rest of her life following Prince Albert’s death. Reflecting the close relationship she had with India, visitors will also see the jacket and slippers of her friend, Maharaja Duleep Singh, as well as touching on the role played by her Indian servant Abdul Karim, who taught her to read and write Urdu.
The second exhibition focuses on the early years of Victoria’s life at Kensington Palace. After her father’s (the Duke of Kent) early death in 1820 she was raised by her mother and governess Baroness Louise Lehzen. The exhibition also touches on her relationship with John Conroy, who had worked for Victoria’s father before his death, and then became secretary to the widowed Duchess of Kent, using his position to gain influence in the royal household – and described by Victoria as ‘a monster and demon incarnate’. It was Victoria’s uncle, Leopold, who was to be her much loved ally and advisor.
24 May 1836 Victoria turned 17 and her mother held a lavish ball, to which several possible suitors were invited… one of them being her first cousin, Albert … and the rest is history. They wed in 1840 and were married for 21 years. Almost as soon as soon as Victoria was crowned she moved into Buckingham Palace, to start her new life as monarch at just 18 years old.
The two exhibitions will run until 20th January 2020.
The Design Museum
A very pretty walk through Holland Park, will bring you to the Design Museum, and the wonderful Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition.
With an addiction to cinema, I was really looking forward to this exhibition, a homage to one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century – and definitely a ‘must to visit’ for all film enthusiasts. With over 900 objects on display, as well as clips from his films, it is quite overwhelming to witness the creative process of Stanley Kubrick. His notebooks, and lengthy notes with instructions, are proof of his meticulous attention to details and obsessive preparation and research (sometimes over years) to guarantee authenticity.
His links to the UK go back to 1962 when he moved from New York to London to film Lolita, and ended up staying for 40 years. It is impressive in itself that, although most of his films are in different global locations (including outer space), they were all shot in the UK – including the battlefields in Vietnam for Full Metal Jacket, the sinister hotel in the Rocky Mountains for The Shining, and the lunar landscapes for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
On the whole, the exhibition is arranged not chronologically, but thematically, with Paths of Glory, Spartacus and Full Metal Jacket, for instance, being grouped together as war films. Visitors will also see costumes from several films (Barry Lyndon, Spartacus and the green dresses worn by the two little girls in The Shining).
Until 15 September 2019.
The V&A Museum
Having been to the wonderful Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition held at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in summer 2017, it was fun to repeat the experience recently here in London. Spanning 1947 to the present day, the exhibition features a fabulous and impressive selection of garments by Dior, undoubtedly one of the 20th century's most famous couturiers.
Although the exhibition is now sold out if you are searching on-line, it’s still worth a try, as extra tickets are released monthly, for the month ahead. Very limited tickets are also available to purchase daily at 10am from the Grand Entrance on a first-come, first-served basis; these tickets are for times throughout the day on that day only. Alternatively, to ensure access you might like to purchase a yearly membership to the V&A.
The exhibition runs until 1st September.
Also at the V&A (and with tickets still available) is a very different major fashion retrospective, featuring Mary Quant. In total contrast to Dior, Mary Quant’s ethos was wearable fashion which was available to everyone:
The exhibition follows the 20 years of the designer’s career from 1955, when she opened her famous Bazaar boutique on King’s Road, to 1975, by which time she had established a global fashion empire. Her popular, fun, and very accessible clothes and style, were undoubtedly a reaction to, what was at the time, a drab and austere post-war London.
On two floors, the lower level showcases many of her designs while, on the higher level, free standing glass boxes have been arranged to represent Quant’s iconic daisy logo, and include examples of her accessories, cosmetics, and home furnishings.
On now until 16 February 2020.
Last week I booked myself on an early evening Italian Street Food course at La Cucina Caldesi cooking school, which is just behind the popular Caldesi Italian restaurant, on Marylebone Lane in London’s West End. The hands-on 1 ½ hour course (6 pm – 7.30 pm) with chef Stefano Borella is just one of many courses offered here by Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi, and Stefano, and visiting celebrity chefs too.
With a variety of cooking courses from different regions in Italy, this is a great way to become better acquainted with Italian food. The street food course was a particularly rewarding way to spend an early evening on a Friday, learning new skills and recipes, as well as enjoying the camaraderie of a group of other food enthusiasts! We were shown how to make five recipes, then divided up into couples to try ourselves and… with a certain amount of guidance from Stefano… it was a great success on the whole!
We certainly all enjoyed sampling the end result of our hard work, at a large table, with the dishes accompanied by a nice glass of wine. I particularly loved the Farro salad with mozzarella, tomato and cucumber, the Frittata Romana (stuffed with ricotta and parmesan), and there was a delicious mouth-watering dessert to finish with (Whipped Ricotta with Rum and Fresh Seasonal Berry Compote)!
We strongly recommend the courses offered at the La Cucina Caldesi to guests coming to London, and interested in Italian cooking. Details of the range of courses can be found on their website, as well as a tantalizing list of beautiful cookbooks (many covering Italian regions and cities) by Katie Caldesi.
4 Guests | 2 Bedrooms
A two bedroom/2 bathroom apartment in a listed period building, in a quiet street, just a few minutes walk from Kensington Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall. Kensington High Street, with a great selection of restaurants and shopping choices, is also just a short walk away and, a little further is the Design Museum and Holland Park. With newly refurbished interiors, the apartment offers accommodation which is both comfortable and luxurious, in a wonderful London location.
2 - 4 Guests | 1 - 2 Bedrooms
These luxurious studios, one and two bedroom serviced apartments are right in Marylebone village, one of the most desirable areas in the West End. Within a historic building, the interiors have been renovated to a very high standard. Guests will be surrounded by tempting cafés, restaurants and shops, and very close to Oxford Street and Bond Street, and an easy walk from Regents Park. The beautiful Wallace Collection museum is just a few minutes walk away.
4 Guests | 2 Bedrooms
Royalty Mews 1 is one of four beautiful apartments to rent in a mews right in the heart of Soho. Famous as one of the most vibrant areas of central London, guests here will be within easy walk of a great selection of international restaurants, bars and theatres. The accommodation here is light and spacious, and includes a beautifully furnished living room, dining area.and kitchen. The two bedrooms and the kitchen open to a small furnished terrace.