Welcome to my first London post – we’ve finally made it here together!
After spending all this (virtual) time in Paris, I have, alas, run out of bloggable* (look at the end of this post for a definition) material about the City of Lights, and I am led to believe that moving on to talk about the Big Smoke – the city I actually do live in – might prove a beneficial change for this fledgling blog. My tagline also mentions I’m a London Tour Guide, so there’s that too …
Today I have decided to start talking about the grand or – as I like to call them – dramatic staircases of London. This will be an on-going series on the blog and I’ll be looking for suggestions from you on which places to visit next. Sound off in the comments below!
We Londoners know a thing or two about using stairs. We climb them up and down to access our flats. We use them to go find our seats at the opera or at the theater. (I wish!) We walk them up and down – once again – to use the Tube or catch a train. (I remember, when I first came to London, I used to frown down upon those people who were running down escalators to go quicker, but now, sadly, I have joined their ranks too. How times change! In the end, the rat race gets to the best of us …)
In contrast to regular stairs, dramatic staircases, however, manage the unthinkable and they make us, mighty Londoners, stop in our tracks. Displays of grandeur and wealth, these out-of-the-ordinary stairs are often stunning works of art in their own right and turn us right into tourists again. A good place to start off this continuing odyssey through London is the majestic staircase at the Courtauld Gallery which can be found in the Strand Block of Somerset House.
On a whim, @kathrynsdaniels and I decided to visit the Courtauld Gallery on a very hot summer’s day (yes, in London!) and the freezing temperatures inside the Institute provided a much-welcomed relief from the heat. Who needs Van Gogh, Manet or Picasso when you can have superb air-conditioning, right? Masterpieces are overrated, anyway … All kidding aside, the first-class nature of the collection – made up of iconic Impressionist paintings, drawings and sculptures – often distracts visitors from the sheer beauty of the actual building.
The Courtauld Gallery is now located in the former exhibition rooms of the Royal Academy of Arts, which used to be based at Old and New Somerset House between 1771 an 1837. In the late 18th century, the renowned architect Sir William Chambers was commissioned to redevelop Somerset House and he is credited for designing this swirling staircase, including ‘decorated landings, or “stations of repose” from which spectators, “might find entertainment, to compensate for the labour past, and be encouraged to proceed”.’ And what a sight to behold from those stations, indeed, especially if you were to look up!
When Katy and I visited, we also managed to take in the Courtauld Gallery’s latest exhibition, Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courtauld in the ’20s, which we both highly enjoyed and recommend. The show follows in a series of smaller (and thus much more focused) exhibitions of late here in London, such as Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure at the National Gallery and Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910-1940 at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Just before I let you go, here’s a little tip for you when it comes to visiting the Courtauld Gallery. On Mondays, the Institute reduces admission charges to £3, a 50% mark-down. (I do wonder if @SkintLondon knows about this bargain deal? Only one way to find out …)
See you soon again!
*bloggable (@FranPickering™): Adjective used to describe any material (photographs, interviews, visits, etc.) that is essentially fodder for a blog post. This word can be highly controversial, especially when uttered in the presence of partners and friends who are not bloggers themselves or ‘online’. Beware, using this expression in public might induce an eyebrow-raising or two!)