Inside Canada House

Canada HouseThere’s always something new to do in London, and my new thing this week is visiting Canada House in Trafalgar Square. It’s home to the High Commission of Canada in the UK and it’s recently undergone an extensive refurbishment. To showcase the result they’re running public tours on selected Fridays – so I went along to see what it’s like. Continue reading

Monk’s House Rodmell, Virginia Woolf’s country home

Monk's House RodmellI went down to Sussex this week to visit an old friend, and we spent a very pleasant, sunny afternoon visiting Monk’s House, the former home of writer Virginia Woolf, in Rodmell, a pretty village not far from Lewes. Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard bought it in 1919, and it became the country retreat for the Bloomsbury Group. Continue reading

Commune with the bees in the Hive in Kew Gardens

The Hive at Kew

So what exactly is the hive? Well, it’s a new attraction at Kew that hopefully will help visitors understand the life of the bee. It’s a gleaming seventeen-metre-high aluminium structure that’s like a beehive you can walk into. Plus it’s an immersive, multi-sensory experience which is driven by activity in a real beehive in the gardens that activates lights and music. With me so far?  Continue reading

The Wallace Collection – French art for free in the heart of London

Wallace CollectionA lot of Londoners have a soft spot for the Wallace Collection. It’s just round the back of Oxford St and it’s free, so you can pop in for a browse any time you like. And it’s quite spectacular, filled with French eighteenth century painting, furniture and porcelain with famous Old Master paintings and, the icing on the cake, a world class armoury. So how does it come to be there? Continue reading

Fenton House: Hampstead’s hidden gem

Fenton House HampsteadA short (uphill) walk from Hampstead tube station takes you to a little enclave of old houses, where a seventeenth-century merchant’s house and its walled garden occupy a quiet corner. Grade I listed Fenton House, now owned by the National Trust (bequeathed to them in 1952 by Lady Binning, its last owner and resident), is a lovely place to visit on a fine spring day, as Yannick and I recently discovered.  Continue reading

Kenwood House – a North London Treasure

IMG_2388Kenwood House is a North London treasure. Perhaps it’s because of its position, right at the top of Hampstead Heath, gazing down over the rest of the city; perhaps it’s because, thanks to the terms of the Iveagh Bequest, it’s free to visit and always will be. Or perhaps it’s just because it’s so lovely. Continue reading

You’d never get tired of London in Dr Johnson’s House

Dr JohnsonVisiting Dr Johnson’s House is a bit like going round a house you’re thinking of buying – it’s such a nice size, so well laid out, so conveniently situated, that you almost feel like making an offer there and then. But chances are it’ll be out of your range. That convenient location is right in the centre of London, just off Fleet St and the house, built at the end of the seventeenth century, is Grade I listed. Still, we can dream, can’t we? Continue reading

Christmas Past at the Geffrye Museum

Christmas tree Geffrye MuseumEvery year I have my first mince pie of the season at the Geffrye Museum Friends Christmas party, and revisit their annual Christmas Past exhibition. The exhibition has been running for over twenty-five years and it takes the staff hours to painstakingly decorate each room in the style of the relevant period. The result never fails to enchant. Continue reading

The loveliest staircase in London – at St Pancras Hotel

St Pancras HotelIt’s a bit like a fairy story where the princess is stolen from her parents and raised in poverty until her beauty and grace identify her as a true aristocrat. Only the princess in this case is a building; the present day St Pancras Hotel, which began life in 1873 as the Midland Grand Hotel, one of the most beautiful buildings in London, fell on hard times, and was triumphantly rescued by a prince in the form of the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman. Continue reading

Riceyman Steps – a Clerkenwell Tour in the footsteps of Arnold Bennett

Riceyman Steps - Hanslip Fletcher

I doubt that Riceyman Steps would be the first title you thought of if I challenged you to name something by Arnold Bennett, even though it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1923. You’d be more likely to come up with one of his stories set in the Five Towns, and to think of him as a Northern writer. Riceyman Steps, though, is a London novel, set in a specific and still recognisable part of Clerkenwell. But how much of it still stands? Join Arnold and me on a little tour and we’ll find out. Continue reading