This January-in-review blog post is brought to us all by Sue Hillman of It’s Your London touring company. Providing custom tours tailored to your personal interests, It’s Your London will help you make the most of your time in this phenonemonal city. (For more information, see our previous blog on It’s Your London as well visit www.itsyourlondon.co.uk)
If you’d like to see the beautifully festive photos that Sue has included with this post, please view them in our Facebook photo album at the following public link: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=12914&id=100000078146572&l=40bf9298fd
Your London Relocation review of January 2010 comes a bit early as I’m off to Africa for a few weeks but didn’t want you to miss out and there seems to be plenty to tell you about even in a shortened month.
For those of you who live in places that have snowy, cold winters you’ll think we’ve been making a huge fuss here about our snow and freezing temperatures. However, it’s the worst spell of wintry weather since 1963 so it’s been a bit of a shock for us all! Snow laying on the streets and pavements in here is an unusual sight and has made life difficult for many, but on the upside it has been beautiful at times. I’ve posted some photos for you to see Portobello Road empty of its famous market and one of Notting Hill’s beautiful little gardens for which it is well known and one of our local flower stalls.
This is a key city in the art world and at any one time has amazing exhibitions. In January I got to see 2 contrasting but equally interesting shows on the South Bank of the river Thames which has a wonderful concentration of galleries, theatres, sights and is a great walk at any time of year. A short list of what you can find there includes: the London Eye, National Theatre, Hayward Gallery, British Film Institute, Royal Festival Hall, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre and Tower Bridge – phew! Up to about 10-15 years ago this area was very underdeveloped but local and Millennium funding has transformed it into a must see and must walk destination. It was first cleared as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain which aimed to lift post war spirits, an arts complex was then built in the 60/70s but this century has seen it find its proper place for locals and tourists alike.
The Hayward Gallery was hosting Ed Ruscha: 50 Years of Painting, a fascinating show of power of words and graphics in an American context. The Tate Modern was our second venue, an amazing ex power station which hosts changing exhibitions in the massive space of its turbine hall. Miroslaw Balka’s huge black box was an intriguing and disturbing experience. You walk into the gaping entrance to a 13 metre high steel box and ease your way to the back into the increasingly black interior. Hands were held and other hands put out in front in case of banging into the rear wall as you really can’t see anything. We eventually met the velvet end and turned round to see that from a different angle the box was flooded with light. The thinking behind it references Polish history of the ghettos and concentration camp trains, which is especially sobering as we saw it in the week that the last of Anne Frank’s helpers has died. I have attached a photo of the exterior of the Tate Modern as it’s a wonderful building.
Restaurants and pubs to mention this month are La Sauterelle and Langtry’s. La Sauterelle is in the Royal Exchange, which was founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham as a centre of commerce for the city. This is the third building on the site and was completed in 1844. It is no longer used for the original form of trading but is now an upmarket shopping area and bar and restaurant. The photos show you the impressive exterior and interior of the building which make a wonderful setting for a meal. The restaurant’s name La Sauterelle is grasshopper in French and comes from the building’s weathervane which incorporates the Gresham family crest. The food is excellent and we took advantage of one of the many January special deals so didn’t have to break the bank (which would have been ironic as the Bank of England is just next door!).
One more restaurant to mention is Langtry’s which was more notable for its history than for its food. Lily Langtry, a well educated vicar’s daughter from the island of Jersey who rose to be a London socialite, Prince’s mistress and actress, lived on the site of the restaurant. It was during her stay here, when the building was the Cadogan Hotel that one night in 1895 in room 118 Oscar Wilde was arrested. History does not tell us whether she was in that night and whether she saw what was happening! Lily, of course, went on to tour America as an actress and eventually become an American citizen trading in horses and producing wine. Oscar sadly went to prison for 2 years of hard labour and died penniless but also abroad, in France. London is full of amazing history at every turn and even a restaurant visit can leave one full of new information as well as a meal!
I’ll be back to report on February and although only half will be spent here, I’m sure they’ll be plenty to tell you about.