West London is an area of London that I love, but have not had the pleasure of spending all that much time in as yet. I remember spending a lovely afternoon last September walking from South Kensington, around the Kings Road/Sloane Square area and through the back streets of Kensington back to Gloucester Road station before getting back on the tube to head home. Besides that and visiting museums and the Royal Albert Hall, I’ve not spent loads of time there but on Thursday I had the pleasure of spending the day there with my Mum.
My Mum’s been visiting for the week to use up her unused holiday from work so I collected her from an event we were both at in Coventry last Sunday and brought her back down to our home in Essex.
She’s spent the rest of the week pottering about, going to the Royal Academy Exhibition I wrote about here and exploring the National Gallery whilst I’ve been at work. On the Thursday though I took the day off and we had a whole day together.
We started off with Breakfast at Dishoom, a fantastic chain of 5 restaurants across the capital and one in Edinburgh. Set in 1920s art deco surroundings, echoing that of the Irani cafes of Bombay that it recreates, it’s a wonderful dining experience especially for Breakfast. Mum and I tucked in to a sausage and a bacon naan roll respectively. The meat is good quality from great sources such as The Ginger Pig for the Bacon and Maynard’s Farm for the sausages. It tastes absolutely delicious and is cooked to order in beautiful naan breads and served with a chilli ketchup. Delicious! And absolutely perfect for a breakfast date when you’re trying to impress your Mum!
After that, we had a battle against trains to try and meet my friend Beth before her lecture started at the V&A so we could get a sneaky free entry into one of the exhibitions. We lost the battle but arrived at the V&A about half past 10 and decided to look at what was on to decide what we wanted to do.
The Victoria and Albert museum is one of the best I’ve ever been to. It has such interesting aspects of art and design and I love going there but I have a bad habit of going round the same bit each time as I discover more and more in the Early Modern Europe section! It’s a habit I’m determined to break at some point but this time, we decided to concentrate on exhibitions.
I’m all about exhibitions. I think they’re a great way to learn lots in a short space of time about things you didn’t really know you were all that interested in, some of them I go to because it’s something I know a lot about or have a great love of already, but some I go to because I think it may be interesting and I love the idea of finding out more. This morning it was most certainly the latter as we decided to head to the Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibition. I’ll admit, this was a bit of a fallback option to start with as we’d arrived too late to meet Beth but it soon turned into a brilliant decision.
The exhibition takes you through the history of the liners, their place in the history of the time, including the political conversations as countries competed for the Blue Riband, fastest Atlantic Crossing title and Western Political Heavyweights such as the UK, US, France, Germany, Scandinavia and Italy flexed their political prowess muscles via their leading engineers and ship-builders. It also looked at the effect and evolution of fashions, architecture and art on board ships as tastes changed and the stringent class system that would overarch any design work. It also looked at costume history as the fashions of the day, especially of the upper elite, dictated the style of the times and influenced fashion in a wider context. It was an absolutely great exhibition and it’s on until the 17th of June.
I think this poster was my very favourite thing to see because of the little shock you get seeing it for the first time and realising that these would have been printed and prepared way in advance of anyone predicting what tragic events would happen. This is the poster advertising the Titanic’s first voyage back from America to Europe, set to depart New York 6 days after the fateful day it was lost to the sea. These posters would inevitably have been up around the city for weeks, if not months, before it’s departure as excited travellers prepared to head back to Europe, it’s strange to see such an innocent looking poster and think on the fact that journey never took place and remember the lives of all those who were making that maiden voyage that was hailed to be the leading liner travel of the time.
After a thoroughly enjoyable morning in the exhibition, we then headed to the cafe to meet Beth for lunch. It was so lovely to catch up over some food, hear about what we’d all been getting up to and find out more about the research paper she’s currently writing. Although it was brief, it was time well spent and she was then able to let us into our second exhibition of the day and the one we’d been aiming to see all along.
We’d fully intended having arrived late to just go and buy some tickets but it’s such a popular exhibition that it was completely sold out so Beth was our only way in now! Time to go and relive my childhood with my very favourite book character. I like this guy even more than the Moomins, and I really, really like the Moomins!
Winnie The Pooh: Exploring a Classic is a truly charming exhibition. Exploring the life of one of the nations most loved children’s characters, the exhibition provides so much for both adults and children. There are plaques specially for children, getting them to think about their family and friends as the exhibitions looks at the friendship between A.A Milne and E.H Shepherd that makes the books so successful but then goes on to encourage young minds to think about the themes of the book, friendships, logical thinking, discovery and adventure. There are places in the exhibition to play such as a slide, the door to Pooh’s house (complete with bell) and an interactive floor and bridge to play Poohsticks on as well as colouring in/craft as well as all the beautiful pictures and sketches. For the big kids there’s a lovely set of plaques to follow round exploring the relationship between Milne and Shepherd and their families and where they drew their inspiration from including family photo albums and two of the same teddies that Winnie the Pooh was based on.
The exhibition is full of Shepherd’s sketches and line drawings, letters between the two men and a look at how the works became so popular, it’s truly a lovely, lovely way to spend and afternoon and I was genuinely a bit sad when it was all over.
I bought myself two prints of line drawings, my personal favourite Piglet and one of the whole group of characters as a souvenir and I’m looking forward to framing them up and hanging them at home.
After a full day at the museum, Mum and I had a couple of hours to kill until Aidan was meeting us for dinner so spent the last part of our day wandering through Kensington Gardens. We started off heading past the Albert Memorial. Opened in 1872, the Gothic Revival style monument designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, was erected in memory of Queen Victoria’s late husband Albert who’d died 10 years earlier. It’s a beautiful and ornate piece of work, typical of the Gothic Revival style that Gilbert Scott was so well known for (he built many famous buildings in the style in both London and Glasgow, amongst other places). It’s also HUGE. I know that seems like I’m stating the obvious but having only seen it from a distance before, I didn’t appreciate until now just how ginormous it is!
We headed to the back of the memorial to grab hot drinks and a cookie and then enjoyed watching lots and lots of dogs scampering by as we sat for a while on a bench with the sun warming our backs. It felt a little bit like spring was on the horizon!
We then headed up through the park and unfortunately, as the sun dipped away behind increasing cloud cover and a bitter wind picked up, we curtailed our walk, which I was aiming would take us around the Round Pond to go and see Kensington Palace. We headed back towards Lancaster Gate station and had a brief wander around the Italian Gardens at the top of the Long Water, watching the wildfowl before heading on the train to Covent Garden for a brief look around the shops followed by dinner.
All in all, a lovely day in West London and the West End.