London Diaries (Part 1)

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August 29th 2011
Published: December 11th 2011
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I am sorry for the lack of entries between my last blog (May 2011) and this one. I am so busy these days and I do not have the time to blog as much as I used to. Since my Adriatic cruise adventures in May I made a number trips down to London. Being a big musical theatre fan, a lot of things were happing in the musical theatre world and this required me to make a number of trips down there.

As well as seeing shows and meeting up with like minded friends, I took an opportunity to take in some sights, some I have been to before and others I have not visited yet, in both central London and its western boroughs.

June 2011

I was down for the West End Live for that weekend but had an opportunity to some sightseeing and did the following:

I paid a visit to Somerset House where the site formerly housed the Duke of Somerset's Tudor Palace which was demolished in 1775 and soon after, in 1780, government offices were built. Today it is a cultural centre where the centre hosts a variety of art events and exhibitions including the permanent collection at Courtauld Gallery. I had a look around the gallery and enjoyed their exhibitions especially the Cezanne's and Manet's paintings. There was a temporary exhibition, Beyond the Moulin Rouge, which featured arts of works celebrating the lives of Toulouse-Lautrac and Jane Avril during bohemian Paris betwen 1832-83.

I rode on the London Eye for the second time (the first being when it just opened in 2000). It was an expensive experience even for an advance ticket holder but I would recommend the ride for the great views of the London skyline including Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. The ticket price also includes the 4D experience where we received an enjoyable presentation of a life journey with the use of unique views and multi-senory effects. Expensive but recommendable.

I joined a Society of London Theatre Tour on my final day of the trip. We learnt the history of London theatres and the theatreland. It was an interesting and informative tour where we started at The Old Vic where we continued on to visit off West End, Southbank and the West End Theatres which play the hit musicals themselves.

July 2011

I went down at the end of the month for my birthday weekend. As well as meeting up with many friends and seeing shows, I took the opportunity to make a couple of trips outside central London. I was in need of seeing some green and having more space so I took the opportunities. As much as I love London I sometimes find central London too busy and crowded and need to escape for a few hours for some respite.

I spent a day, my actual birthday, in South Kensington where I saw The Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. I paid a visit the Victoria & Albert Museum. This was my second visit and there is so much to see and to there! In order for me not to be overwhelmed by it all, I decided to join in two free tours, The Introductory Tour and the Theatre & Performance Galleries Tour. Doing the enjoyable tours made me appreciate the museum even more. I wandered through Kensington Gardens but found the park very crowded like a lot of the London parks! So I decided to seek respite in West London!

On another day I took the District Line tube out to Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. I have been before and this was a long time ago with my family in 1991. I always wanted to return and 20 years later I came back! I spent four to five hours exploring the park including a visit to Kew Palace. I enjoyed visiting Palm House, Kew Garden's iconic building; Waterlily House, for the large waterlilies; Kew Palace, I learnt about King George II and Queen Caroline and their life there; Orangery Restaurant, a stunning place for coffee and cake; Rhizotron and Xstrata Walkway; Temperate House and Glasshouse Walkway and the Japanese Pagoda. There were other gardens I did not have chance to visit because I ran out of the time but there is always will be another opportunity.

I always wanted to visit Chiswick House & Gardens since studying Roman and Italian architectural design in one of my humanities modules. Chiswick House was created by the third Earl of Burlington whose European Grand Tour experiences are reflected in the house's designs. It is the first Neo-Palladian building based on the works of Palladio, an Renaissance architect. The villa was completed in the early 18th Century and Burlington used it
River Thames, LondonRiver Thames, LondonRiver Thames, London

On a summer's night!
to showcase his architectural experients and his arts collections to his friends. I thorougly enjoyed exploring the house and learning more about the architectural designs and its interior treasures especially the sphinx sculpture and blue velvet room ceiling whilst looking round - they were exquisite😊

I also enjoyed looking around the house's gardens and admiring the archictural gems such as the Ionic temple that are dotted across the gardens and its foilage. The gardens are significant because it's the birthplace of English Landscape Movement which led the inspiration for designing well known gardens across the world.

August 2011

I made a couple of trips down to London. Firstly, to take Mum down to see a show she wanted to see and, secondly, to be with friends over the Bank Holiday Weekend where we met up and saw shows especially the final show of Love Never Dies on the Saturday evening. Nevertheless, I did tons of sightseeing especially in West London.

Mum and I spent a few hours at Gunnersbury Park and Museum in West London. Gunnersbury Park estate went back to the 1700s where Princess Amelia resided and the estate became fashionable. The park was purchased
Off West EndOff West EndOff West End

London, UK
in 1835 by the Rothschild Family and it became their home for 90 years until the estate was sold to the local councils. One of the large mansions houses the museum and the interesting exhibits reflected local life and work and industry in that area. The musuem was free to go in.

Unfortunately, we had heavy rain when we came out the museum so we spent rest of the time keeping dry in the cafe. However, I managed to have a quick wander in the heavy rain and took some photos. I feel I could do with returning some day and take some more photos - sunshine permitting😊

I made a trip to Ealing one afternoon during one of my stays. Since I studied about John Soane, an architect in the 19th Century, in one of my humanities modules I always wanted to visit Pitzhanger Manor House. I had already visited Sir John Soane's Museum in central London. So here I was having a look round his former villa and estates.

Pitzhanger Manor was completed in 1804 where Soane and his redesigned and renovated the house to his unique architectural style. Soane used the house as a
Royal Albert HallRoyal Albert HallRoyal Albert Hall

From the Albert Memorial, South Kensington, London
weekend retreat for entertaining guests and has his large collection of items including his fragments and architectural drawings but now at the museum. Subsequently the house was sold to Ealing District Council at the beginning of the 20th Century where it had become a library but today it has been recreated to its former glory.

As well as the house, I enjoyed wandering in his grounds but because of the rain I did not give it any justice. The gardens and parklands are now part of Walpole Park which is a municipal park. There is also a gallery which is attached to the house and there are usually a number of contemporary collections and art work from local artists. Both the house and gallery are free to look round.

I was based in Kensington for first leg of my August Bank Holiday weekend. I stayed in a historic hostel in Holland Park and during my stay I visited Leighton House nearby. The former home of Frederic Leighton is now a museum and it was nice visiting the former rooms of the Yorkshire painter and learning about the Aesthetic Movement during the Victiroian era. Leighton was the President of
Victoria & Albert MuseumVictoria & Albert MuseumVictoria & Albert Museum

South Kensington, London
the Royal Academy of Arts and Queen Victoria purchased his first major painting. He is the only British artist to have been buried at St Paul's Cathedral.

I also took in the usual popular sights in central London. However, I enjoyed visiting Westminster Cathedral (Not Westmister Abbey) in Victoria. This Catholic Cathedral opened in 1903 and was designed in a Byzantine style by John Francis Bentley. The campinile Bell Tower was built in 1910 and is 273 ft high. I rode up the tower for the views of central London and it was nice taking them in once you have reached the top. It was nice visiting a sight which a London visitor will not have on top of their list of things to do. Apart from going up the tower it does not cost to look around although donations are encouraged.

Part 2 is to be continued in the next blog

Additional photos below
Photos: 48, Displayed: 28


Dawn at Keystone HostelDawn at Keystone Hostel
Dawn at Keystone Hostel

One of my digs for my London adventures.
Gunnersbury ParkGunnersbury Park
Gunnersbury Park

West London
Holland ParkHolland Park
Holland Park

Kensington, London
Having Breakfast at Patisserie ValerieHaving Breakfast at Patisserie Valerie
Having Breakfast at Patisserie Valerie

Holland Park, Kensington, London
Pitzhanger ManorPitzhanger Manor
Pitzhanger Manor

Ealing, West London
Walpole ParkWalpole Park
Walpole Park

Ealing, West London
View from the TowerView from the Tower
View from the Tower

Westminster Cathedral, London

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