Fabulous French Impressionists at the Courtauld Gallery

Monet, Vase of FlowersA casual visit to the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House last week brought a reminder of just how fantastic its collection of French Impressionist paintings is. All the great pictures are there – the best works of Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir hang on its walls, all displayed in a matchless historical setting. That’s the treasure house of the Courtauld. Continue reading

Decorated cats on Heal’s Cat Design Trail

Heal's Cat trailCats – that’s a good start. Elegant elongated cats and a spiral staircase to boot – even better. Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road know this. They’ve had a cat guarding their Cecil Brewer staircase since 1916, a slim elegant feline perched on a window ledge surveying all that passes. Now, to celebrate the staircase’s centenary, they’ve commissioned ten designers to decorate replicas of their cat, and the results couldn’t be more different. Continue reading

God’s own Junkyard – where Neon never Dies

God's own JunkyardWalthamstow is full of secrets. Who’d have thought that this quiet suburb at the end of the Victoria Line would turn out to be home not only to the William Morris Gallery but possibly the most unusual arthouse you’ll ever visit – a cavernous shed lined with neon signs, gloriously jammed together in no particular order, all fully lit and fighting for your attention.  Continue reading

Flying fish and warring roses – what kind of bank is this?

Lloyds Bank Law courts BranchThe thing about London is, stuff gets reused. Buildings get reused. There used to be a restaurant at Aldwych called Bank because, you guessed it, the building used to be a bank. And the most fantastical bank in town used to be a restaurant.  Continue reading

Jazz Age Fashion and Art Deco in Bermondsey

Jazz Age fashionWho doesn’t love the Jazz Age, that decade of zinging fashion and wild behaviour that gave us the flapper, the drop-waist dress, silk pyjamas and Art Deco style? The Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, just along from the Shard, knows we can’t resist it, so they’ve brought together a stunning display of haute couture and ready to wear fashion from 1919 to 1929 and teamed it with a fascinating series of talks about 1920’s life and style. Continue reading

Aga Khan Museum Toronto 

Aga Khan Museum Toronto2016 seems to be my year for visiting brand new museums. After the Tate Modern extension last month, I can add the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto to my haul. Not quite so new as the Tate, as it opened in 2014, but my excuse is it’s further to go. And a spectacular catch it is too, particularly impressive on the day we visited when the sun blazed down and the temperature was in the thirties. Continue reading

Temple Gardens – Hidden Shade in the Heart of London

Middle Temple GardensAt last summer has arrived, and, like the ungrateful folk we are, we’ve started sighing for respite from the sun beating down on hot city pavements. But where can you find a cool garden when you want one when you’re in the middle of London? Come with me to a hidden enclave a few minutes walk from the Strand and I’ll show you. Continue reading

The Big Zipper – the Serpentine Pavilion 2016

Serpentine Pavilion 2016Every year the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens commissions a temporary summer pavilion to stand next to the gallery and showcase new architecture. They’re always amazing structures, innovative and completely different to each other, and the architect is always one who hasn’t yet built anything in the UK. This year we’ve been spoilt – besides the main pavilion there are four summer houses by different architects to choose from. Continue reading

Lincoln’s Inn, where the seventeenth century comes to life

Lincoln's Inn Wildy & Sons LtdFirst things first: Lincoln’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn Fields are not the same place, though they are next to each other. Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a public open space with tennis courts and a café; Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court and it’s private. But, despite the sign on the entrance saying you can’t go in, it’s okay to visit on weekdays. Just wander through one of its arched gates and you’re there. Continue reading

Five odd places to visit in London

Oldest phone box in LondonSo you’re on a trip to London and you’ve seen all the obvious places. Big Ben? Tick. Buckingham Palace? Tick. Tower of London? Tick. Now you want somewhere that’s different, not full of crowds of people doing the same thing you are. Somewhere your friends have never heard of. Welcome to my odd places to visit. Continue reading