Where has time gone again? With Christmas done and dusted already, we are now preparing ourselves – mentally and physically, I’m sure – to welcome in the New Year. I sincerely hope you’ve had joyful and restorative festivities so far!
While I’m currently spending the Christmas holidays with my family in sleepy Luxembourg (and surprisingly enjoying it), I haven’t forgotten all about the multiple charms of London. The people, the energy and … the many delights of afternoon tea, of course. As corny as it may sound, I must admit it’s true what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder and I already can’t wait to be back amidst the city’s intoxicating frenzy!
As 2013 is quickly drawing to a close (tick tock), I thought it would be a fun idea to share with you this year’s highlights from my ever-expanding archive of London photographs. While this is going to be a rather lengthy post (send your complaints to the Ministry of Blogging Affairs), I shall try to keep this article light on words and heavy on pictures. After all, it’s the end of the year, a time to take it easy, right? 😉
2013 has been an especially rich year and provided plenty of opportunities for exploring London. With my trusted smartphone in hand (could one truly ask for a better sidekick?), my adventures have taken me to familiar haunts (the Victoria & Albert Museum), hidden gems (the Freemasons’ Hall) as well as some old favourites (such as the Secret Garden in Regent’s Park). It has become almost a second nature to me to snap a few pictures to publish on Twitter or on this blog and I must acknowledge that I have very patient friends who a) don’t mind me taking lots of time to take pictures b) are fervent bloggers themselves. (Most recently, I have to thank D. and L. for being very clement with me while I was snapping away a few pictures of Luxembourg City!) But enough rambling on for now …
Without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for London to be the … of this show!
While I know the British Museum fairly well (full disclosure: I’m a volunteer at the Bloomsbury behemoth), I took me six years to finally visit Kew Gardens in Richmond – I loved their Orchids Festival and I can’t wait to go back next year. Find both institutions immortalized below with their magnificently patterned ceilings.
Speaking of gardens and all things horticultural, these two splendid beds of flowers – spotted in Golden Square, Soho, towards the beginning of May – delivered a much needed pop of colour in what seemed an endless winter. Oh, cruel Mother Nature!
What would life be without colour and light? Those questions were pondered at the Hayward Gallery‘s excellent Light Show exhibition (reviewed here by @lafeeculturelle). While the pictures below are from a similar (?) installation at Tate Modern, they reminded me of what was by far one of the most striking art exhibitions of the year.
As you might have gathered from my (momentarily dormant) Grand Staircases series (to be resumed in 2014), I do love my majestic staircases and, in my opinion, they are truly able to make or break a space. While we have lost many grand staircases (Carlton House, Holland House, etc.), many fine examples, old and new, are still to be found in London.
From temporary art installations to shops, restaurants and even museums, London loves (or loathes, depending on who you ask) its multitude of pop-ups. This passion for all things ephemeral can, of course, also be witnessed in the city’s many seasonal blooms.
Running around London to catch the latest temporary art installations is almost akin to a sport. It keeps us Londoners fit – or gives us another excuse to eat cake, let’s be honest here – and it can get a bit competitive too, in terms of who can get pictures from the latest opening first. (Just kidding, it’s not that bad, I’m only exaggerating … a bit!)
We are about half-way through this post now – I warned you it was going to be a long one, didn’t I? Have a little snack! – but things are are about to get juicy! One of London’s hidden gems, The Freemasons’ Hall near Covent Garden, is hiding in plain sight. I attended two of their daily free tours (Mon to Fri) this year – and while I still have no clue what the Freemasons actually do – the splendid architecture and fine craftsmanship that went into decorating the building will certainly keep me going back.
London is a city that likes to celebrate eccentricity like no other place on earth. Why be like everyone else when you can be individualistic? Londoners have seen it all and won’t even bat an eyelash. As such, even topiaries in the Big Smoke come in different shapes and sizes. Oh, quirky London, that’s why we love you and we wouldn’t want it any other way!
There have been discussions lately about how allowing photography in museum is detrimental to learning, enjoyment, etc. Are we only consuming culture? Personally, I don’t mind a little bit of photography in museums as long as the artefacts and artworks are kept safe. For me it represents a form of creative engagement and who wouldn’t to indulge in London’s plethora of cultural institutions? (I’m sure you were all expecting me to say this, right?)
In addition to my passion for dramatic staircases (as witnessed above), I’m now also starting to develop a serious crush for grand chandeliers too. From (mock?) period lustres to modernistic ones, I can’t get enough of these decorative extravaganzas. Gosh, they like to be play coy though, and are sometimes very hard to photograph!
In my highly esteemed opinion (oops!), fall brings out the best of London. (Some naysayers might argue that exactly the same thing could be said about spring, but don’t listen to them!). 2013’s autumnal vintage has been particularly outstanding this year and the luscious colours of fall have certainly transformed the city’s green arteries into the dreamiest of landscapes.
Finally, but certainly not least, I’d like to highlight how London allows us to escape the present. As a guide in search of lost times, it’s extraordinary to notice how every building or street – as insignificant as they may seem – has a story that wants to be told. The past, if we care to look for it, is all around us and can takes us onto interesting journeys of discoveries.
Oh dear, I’ve done it again and stayed up way past my bedtime. Although you’d been warned at the very beginning – a long time ago, I must admit – I profusely apologize once again for this rather long-winded post.
Consider yourself lucky though, this is the short version. Very much like London, blogging can be a bit excessive! (The uncut version would have included scary museum dolls and (wrong) golden statues, but let’s just not go there today …)
Thank you for staying until the very end and there’s only one thing left for me to wish you:
Happy New Year 2014!
Take care and see you soon,