Wednesday, October 30, 2013

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

As I began to look through the photographs I took during my visit to the United Kingdom, I realized that there are too many for just one post.  I also realized how many more places and friends I could have seen if only I could have stayed at least one more week.  I do hope that those of you whom I just could not manage to meet up with this time will forgive me.  Perhaps 2014 will provide me with more travel opportunities.

And with that introduction, please allow me to show you some of what I recently saw and did.  My London base was the Rembrandt Hotel, where I have stayed on many prior holiday visits.  It's in a very convenient location and the staff are wonderful.

I was assigned a room over one of the little balconies like those you can see in the above photograph, and so my view was of the magnificent Victoria and Albert Museum, just over the road.

I am a great fan of the V&A and, as a member, was able to visit not only the beautiful permanent collection galleries, but also several of the special exhibits.  One was Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s; the other was Masterpieces of Chinese Painting.  They could not have been more different, and I am delighted to have been able to see them both.

While in London, I visited several other museums, including the Tate Britain and Tate Modern.  On my way to the Tate Britain, I came across some acrobatic tree trimmers, working without a net.  I admired their bravery, but wondered about how the trees might have felt about their winter haircuts.

If you see what I mean.  Lots of noisy mulching was also going on.

The Tate Britain is in the midst of some external maintenance, and so it was necessary to enter via the side door.  My mission was to see the L. S. Lowry exhibit, with its many depictions of the life of workers during the time of the industrial revolution.  One of my British friends calls Lowry an acquired taste, and it is true that what he depicted is not always pretty, but it does seem true.

Back to the V&A, where I made wonderful use of the cafe for many lunches and afternoon cakes and coffee.  Unfortunately, although the weather was mostly fine, the interior open courtyard was closed to the public as some exhibition-related work was underway.

The following picture shows my little journal book on the window seat overlooking the courtyard.  It was a fine place to sit and make some notes of my daily experiences.

Not all of my art observation occurred in museums.  I am a fan of the artists who've been using spray paints to decorate various walls in the East End.  This is done with the approval of the owners of the walls.

And this one.

And this view of a very grand bird and an octopus hybrid.

On Hanford Street, I came upon three fellows who were working on adjacent paintings.  Only the fellow on the right of the following photograph was making use of a mask over his nose and mouth.  He was also using a ladder.

 It takes quite a while to complete these works.

Apparently, these wall paintings are now being subjected to curatorial interest.  True.

The photo below shows another artist beginning to sketch in his design from a sketch on paper he's holding in his left hand.

I am a great fan of the warm hospitality and wonderful traditional food served at the E. Pellicci restaurant at 332 Bethnal Green Road.  I would recommend this place to any of you who enjoy a welcoming atmosphere.

I first became aware of Pellicci's and other East End locations via the excellent Spitalfields Life blog, written by the Gentle Author.

It was my great pleasure on this London trip to be able to attend the launch party for the Gentle Author's newest book.  The launch was held in the remarkably beautiful Christ Church.  It was a grand event. Those of you all who do not yet know the wonders of  the Spitalfields Life  posts will benefit from a visit.

During the launch, I got to meet many folks who've been written about in the Gentle Author's posts.

One of these folks  is Barn the Spoon, who maintains a tiny shop at 260 Hackney Road.  It is pictured below just behind the traffic light.

Barn is a very talented craftsman, and I am now the proud owner of a sycamore wooden spoon that is definitely a one of a kind creation.  Isn't it splendid?  I would greatly recommend any of you who treasure well made objects and those who make them make a visit to Barn, Friday through Tuesday, 10 to 5.

Just to prove I can take some touristy photographs, here is a view of a red bus and a lamp post.

And this would be Trafalgar Square.

And strangely, this would also be a view in Trafalgar Square.  The plinth gets lots of things landing on it over the years.

Corporate designers are taking tips from those adventurous aerosol spray painters.  The amber leaves are not real.

 The artwork in the following photo may be found in the Rough Trade Records shop in the old Truman Brewery building off Brick Lane.  It was created by Robson Cezar from many, many bottle caps.

I did not spend all my time in London.  In my next post I'll be showing some places a bit further afield.  Hoping you will enjoy this initial holiday report and will keep an eye out for more to come.

Please note that some of the links I wish to add to this post are not currently operating...I will return later today to see if I can get them up and running.

Update...I have been able to correctly set the link to the Spitalfields Life post.


  1. Hallo Frances, Glad you enjoyed your trip and reached home again safely. You certainly seem to have been busy. I haven't visited half those places (or so it seems). Interesting also to see London being given the New York treatment. Look forward to the next instalment.

  2. It is many years since I visited London, but there is always somewhere of interest to see unusual things going on. I am not a fan of the graffiti paintings, but recognise that they are very cleverly done.
    Glad you enjoyed your visit, Frances.

  3. Like Fennie, I'm sitting here amazed at all the places you've discovered that I've never even heard of, let alone visited. It was a revelation seeing London through your eyes, thank you. (And on, how very tender is that spoon!).xx

  4. I am sure by now you know London better than most Brits. I was fascinated to learn about Barn the Spoon and now I can see his craftsmanship in your photograph.

    The V and A is always worth a visit, I bet you could nor resist their amazing shops either.

    We grew up with Lowry paintings, those dark mills and crowded streets still existed in the northern mill towns when I was a girl...many moons ago.

  5. Ah a good dollop of culture. So glad you enjoyed your trip Frances. I also grew up with Lowry -my parents had a one in the dining room (not a real one I hasten to add). I'm not sure he painted scenes from the Industrial Revolution though, certainly working class scenes of industry but of the 20s and 30s rahter than the 18th and 19th centuries.

    I really must get to London more often and take in some galleries.

  6. Thank you all for your comments. So far, I am not having success with my link to the Spitalfields Life site. So...if you would like to the post that shows the gala launch, you can go to and find the post done on October 20, 2013. It's lots of fun.

    Sue, I guess I was being a little ironic about the timing of the Industrial Revolution.

    I will keep working on sorting out the links. xo

  7. I love your post about Londen, you show special places!

  8. Love all your London adventures!
    Looking forward to hearing all your tales!

  9. You certainly found some interesting corners of London! I like seeing graffiti artists, some are a real talent. It's great to see our capital city with Frances-Eyes xx

  10. Goodness me, Frances. I lived and worked in London for 25 years and I haven’t been to many of the places you describe. Museums, yes, of course, but Spitalfields and Bethnal Green?

    You know what? The next time you come across the pond I am going to meet you in London and have you take me around as my personal guide.

  11. So nice to see London with you Frances on this virtual tour – you did show us some very interesting spots. What fun it must have been for you to attend your blogging friend’s book launch and visit with all the attendees. I’ll look forward to more fun in London with you.

  12. Oh Frances, wish I had known. Would love to have met up. Brilliant area to stay in, know vicinity well as son just completed an MA at Royal College of Art. Know Bethnal Green well too as its my husband's place of birth and he lived there for 30 years. We still venture up there and to exhibitions inI. Brick Lane. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures xxx

  13. You have certainly made the most of your time in London Frances. Thank you for showing me places I've never visited in the time I've lived here!

  14. Oh wish I'd known.... Would have loved to have met you. Know the areas you frequented well. Son just completed MA at Royal College of Art, and Bethnal Green is my husbands home patch. Look forward to reading more of your adventures xx

  15. Welcome home, Frances!

    It's wonderful to read about your travels in London and, I think, we would get on like a house on fire as you have visited quite a few of my favourite haunts in London! The V&A is my most favourite of all.

    And, I am left wondering when you will be travelling to France? :-) I would love to meet up with you.

    Warmest wishes,


  16. Frances,

    How ironic it was that your visit to the UK precisely coincided with ours to China! I guessed that you would revisit some of your East End haunts. Did you find the bagel shop (or beigels, as they call them here) at the top end of Brick Lane? They really are the best beigels and chollah in the world (and I know a New Yorker will take a bit of convincing on that account)! Pleased you had a good time. Perhaps we can see you next year?


  17. Lovely pics - adore the Pelican in particular - that looks a bit like Hackney - is it nearabouts? So wish I'd realised you were over here...would have loved to have met up after all these years. So yes, you MUST come back. xxxxxx

  18. What a fabulous trip ... I do so appreciate reading reports from folk who've looked behind the tourist fa├žade, and who've made good use of London's wonderful galleries. And places like Pellicci's ... it's the wonderful retro shop fronts that catch my eye ... I always want to photograph them :)

  19. dear frances,
    would i love to jump in your pocket and travel along with you. this is the next best thing the spoon and reading about barn, and if you don't mind me asking, what is that lovely knit it's laying on??
    glad you are home safe and sound.
    xoxo lori

  20. Hi Frances,
    Lovely blog post and interesting to see London through the eyes of a visitor. I love many of the places you mention and it's certainly a fun city to live in.
    Looking forward to your next instalment of your journey.
    xoxo Ingrid

  21. Hello Frances
    What a wonderful time you had in London!
    Making the most of ALL the art of display, some of the most interesting pieces are not curated!
    Great photos - I've noted your hotel if we travel there again - thank you!
    Shane x

  22. I must have missed the post saying you were coming to the UK so you have been and gone without me knowing! I so enjoyed the London pics and look forward to hearing where else you went. I also liked the spoon. I am glad you strayed away from all the touristy places and saw some of the real old London (my birthplace).

  23. Hi Frances .. good to meet you - I've come over from Friko's blog .. whom I met recently when I was in the Shropshire part of the world.

    Loved your take on England .. and the Rembrandt is very central isn't it .. I went to the Lowry and was fascinated at the record he's created through his paintings of life in the 21st century ... I wasn't going to visit, then a friend said she'd be happy to go again .. so we came up from Sussex - I was delighted I did.

    The Gentle Author from Spitalfields Life is amazing isn't he - I went to hear him when his book came out last year ... and I saw Barn the Spoon's shop too ... incredible woodcarver ...

    Looking forward to your next Pond posting! Cheers Hilary

  24. Well you've shown me places I didn't know about and I call myself a Londoner! I'm looking forward to the revelations in your next post all described with your usual flair and eye for detail.

  25. What fun to follow you on your trip! I love that heron on the wall -- and I look forward to the next post.

  26. Reading this in parts reminded me of Helen Hanff's half of the correspondence with the shop owner of 84 Charing Cross Road. I re-read this book often and watch the film on DVD too. That's all a roundabout way of saying that whilst I know London a little, I so enjoyed seeing it through your eyes. Thank you.

  27. Oh,and like acornmoon, I also grew up with prints of Lowry, so depressing I thought, though true to life in those places at that time. Yet there must have been humour too, at times. One hopes so....

  28. I enjoyed seeing your own special take on your visit to London, including seeing places I am familiar with through your eyes, Frances. A wonderful mix that captures so many elements of the city. I grew up with Lowry prints too, and always liked them, but when I saw his less well known sea paintings I liked them even more. Thank you for a very interesting post.
    Helen x