Tuesday, November 12, 2013

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York.

I woke up this morning to see very light snow flurries.  It is too early in November for any snow, and I was glad to see the sun put an end to those tiny white flakes.

I'm now going to return via some photographs to a glorious autumn day that I had the great pleasure to spend with a marvelous guide, Celia Hart, showing me around Cambridge, a place that she knows very, very well.

It was a day just made for walking, and getting caught up with each other's current goings on.  I was fortunate to meet Celia in London last year, and having this year's opportunity to visit her in East Anglia was a real treat.

As we wandered through various areas of Cambridge, it was delightful to see many things that I had never noticed or even known about on my other visits to this city over the years.  Did you have any idea that there was a museum that displays plaster casts?  

It's a fascinating place, and the casts have been arranged in very witty compositions.  Note the head in the next photo...the original statue inspired the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty that now stands in our own New York harbor.

The intricate curves of this more modern sculpture were inspired by DNA to honor scholars who made a certain important discovery nearby.

Celia and I saw waterways and pathways, punters and pedestrians.  And hundreds of bicycles, both in use and at rest.

What a magnificent place.

As we were walking along this pathway, Celia pointed out a beautiful wooden door in the stone wall.  She commented, "My Dad made that door."  I had been thinking that the door was many centuries old.  Silly American visitor!

Of course, I then had to take Celia's picture in front of her Dad's door.

Might I mention that not only is Celia a fabulous artist, but also a very fine knitter.  I very much admired her pale green cardigan.

All our walking around was under lovely sunshine.  Celia showed me the Cambridge Contemporary Art gallery, where she exhibits her prints.  Next door, on Trinity Street, was the marvelous Michaelhouse Cafe, where we had a delicious and refreshing lunch.  I took this opportunity to sample elderflower cordial for the very first time.  It was delicious...now I understand why I keep reading about folks making their own versions at a certain time of the year.

After this little break, we headed towards a particular destination of this particular visit, Kettle's Yard.  Those of you who have been to this remarkable place will know what a truly remarkable and unusual place it is.

Once upon a time, it was the home of Jim and Helen Ede.  Mr Ede was a Tate Gallery curator who became friends with many artists and began to collect their works, not just for the Tate.

The immense pleasure of visiting Kettle's Yard is having the sense that, when you are admitted through the front door by one of the invigilators, you are a guest in a remarkable home.  Celia had been there many, many times.  It was my first visit.  We received a very special greeting from a knowledgeable lady who had actually known the Edes.  She allowed us to wander about as we pleased, but added so much to this experience by her telling wonderful anecdotes and thoroughly answering any of our questions.  She seemed to really enjoy sharing our enthusiasm.

What a day!  I did buy the beautiful book pictured below featuring works of one of the artists that the Edes called a friend.  The book also contains a number of fine photos of the interior of Kettle's Yard.  Visitors are allowed to take photographs, as long as no flash is used.  I did not take any photographs, feeling that stopping to look at the place through my camera's viewfinder would lessen the impact of that afternoon's joy.

I would recommend that any art lover who plans to visit Cambridge might wish to include a visit to Kettle's Yard.  I've never seen a place quite like it, and thank Celia so very much for guiding me there.

More beautiful building with their glorious spires.  More bicycles, too.  

I kept reminding myself of all the scholars who have walked along the same paths that we strolled.  How many discoveries had been made, how many books written and read.  All this made for a great feeling of appreciation.

The sun had set by the time Celia drove me to the station where my train would take me back to London.  I had a remarkable day.

While on that train, I began to contemplate what a fine time I had experienced during my entire holiday, and began to get those initial feelings of regret that I would have only a few more days in London, and then it would be time to return to New York.

On my last Friday in London, I returned for another fine lunch at Pellicci's and was able to sample Friday's being "Fish Day."  Delicious!  The following photo of Anna and Nevio Pellicci is very out of focus.  These two folks are never still, always in motion, making sure that each person entering the door of their family's restaurant feels totally a home.

From Bethnal Green Road, I took the Tube up to Islington to visit a legendary yarn shop, called Loop.  It is on that quiet little Camden Passage that on Saturdays becomes an antiques haven.

I've been to Camden Passage many, many times over the years, but had only visited Loop once before.  On that visit, I made a huge mistake and did not realize that there was An Upstairs Room.  The upstairs seems larger than the street level floor and has a truly cozy, welcoming atmosphere, just as a yarn shop should do.

I am including the following photo of the extensive cubbyhole shelving that contains a great range of Jamieson's Shetland wool, to keep a pledge to Lori.  Lori, you will love this place.  Of course, I had to buy just one skein as a souvenir of sorts.  The color is duck egg blue.

Back in my South Kensington hotel's neighborhood, I went over to the Victoria & Albert Museum for one last view, and realized that I could gain entry to a members' preview of a magnificent new exhibit, Masterpieces of Chinese Painting.  I urge those of you who live close enough to see this show before it closes on January 19 to see it.

Leaving the Masterpieces, I discovered that the sun was setting, and that the clouds were very beautiful.  My imagination can almost detect a face in that sky with the clouds composing flowing hair.

My last full London day was Saturday, and just for fun, I did get myself up early and over to a quick look at what Portobello Road has become.  I did not buy a thing, not really seeing anything that charmed me in the way that some items did many years ago.  However, it was fun to discover that the dealers still engage in a particular sotto voce style of conversation amongst themselves.  Very amusing to eavesdrop a bit.

I then went over to do a similar walk along Kings Road, remembering ghosts of places I once enjoyed visiting.  Along the way, outside a Marks & Spencer shop, I bought a red poppy to pin on my grey jumper/sweater.

I was able to discover that the relocated Stockpot restaurant, that once under the name Chelsea Kitchen fed lots of folks near Sloane Square, was doing its best to keep the old spirit going.

The atmosphere was friendly, the food nourishing, simple,  and the prices reasonable.  The clientele was varied, with young couples, old and young single people, and family groups including babies and little boys and girls.

This new location is just west of the marvelous Green and Stone, an art supply store that has a very special quality.  It's very different from the New York City discount art supply stores like Blick and Utrecht's.  

I recommend a visit to Green and Stone to complement your visit to The Stockpot.

Rain became a feature of Saturday afternoon, and somewhat darkened the colors of this lady's beautiful flower stand.

Heading north from Kings Road, I passed by this pretty old church, which was participating in a Charles Dickens anniversary.  Dickens apparently was married in this church.

I admit to having been a little melancholy as I returned to my hotel room, and began to think about packing my suitcase.

It cheered me a bit to gaze out my window, at the little cab drivers' tea shed, and see a red bus and lot of folks who were enjoying their Saturday afternoon in one of my favorite cities.

And so I returned home.  My flight was smooth.  The bus ride from JFK airport into Manhattan was anything but smooth.  It was good to be home, but I am clinging to my many memories of this holiday.

I hope that you all will have enjoyed my recounting of some of these travel experiences.  I have been enjoying seeing your comments.  Next time I get across the Atlantic, I hope to be able to meet more of you all.


  1. Frances, it has been lovely to see a bit of England through your eyes! It is many years since I visited Cambridge, but I loved it then. Next time, travel further West!

  2. dear frances,

    i LOVED this and have a deep desire to see everything you did. i love how you share and show us things we may not have noticed on our own. you have a definite sweetness, charm , je ne sais quoi that makes you the perfect ambassador for our country. cambridge, kettle's yard, camden passage, it is a treat to see these places through your eyes... and loop! someday! and hi celia! amazing door!

  3. You crammed such a lot into your short stay Frances! Kettles Yard is a fantastic place, though I haven't been there for many years and Cambridge is a beautiful city. So nice to see Celia and put a name to a face at last. (I have just sent a card to Loop and am hoping they think me worthy of doing a workshop there).
    Such lovely photos of your time here, you pick out the best bits of Great Britain.

  4. Gosh what a lot of things you packed into your week! And I was honoured to be your guide around some of my favourite corners of Cambridge. I'm also pleased that Kettles Yard lived up to your expectations - did you write to the lady who told us her precious anecdotes of the place?
    I'm noting down the Chinese Exhibition and the other gems you found in London - it's not far away, I really should visit more often!

  5. Love your travels Frances - seeing the world through your eyes. I'm ashamed to say I have never been to Cambridge but you've pointed out just how much I have missed.

  6. Loved all these photos -particularly the Cambridge ones and the wool shop!
    Totally blissful and gorgeous.
    Such envy from this end.

  7. I am so glad the sun shone on your day with Celia. Kettle's Yard has been on my wish list for ages but you have reminded me once more to visit.

  8. I have only been to Cambridge once, many years ago, so I loved this tour. You make such a fine tour guide, not just in your home city either! I am off to Ludlow now with you.

  9. Our son lives in Cambridge just across Jesus Green and Midsummer Common.He lives,with his wife and young family in a three storey Victorian house and fairly close to Kettles Yard.I am so glad you enjoyed your visit.Now a trip to Loop is something I would love to do.All that scrummy yarn.

  10. Cambridge is my old stomping ground. My sister lives only about 15 miles away, so often visit when I'm in the UK

    Kettles Yard is a great place to visit and free. I love just wandering around the house and I found the light to be wonderful there.


  11. Cambridge is lovely! I've visited Oxford twice but haven't yet been to The Other Place in person. I see that it should go onto my list...

  12. I am so envious of all your meetings with lovely UK bloggers who I would like to know better. It does look like you had a fabulous trip Frances :)

  13. What a grand tour! And you had some very fine weather as well. I believe Winifred is the wife of artist William Nicholson - I think you would enjoy his still lifes very much.
    I think i want to be an invigilator...sounds menacing.

  14. What a lot you managed to pack into your trip Frances. And how I wished I could have joined you on your day in Cambridge as I'm only just up the road. Another time maybe.

  15. Hi Frances,
    I'm so glad to hear that you had such a lovely time in the UK. There is always so much to see. Cambridge is a wonderful place.
    I'm glad I inspired you to try some new flowers - the ornamental cabbage. Have fun with it!
    Have a great weekend!
    xoxo Ingrid

  16. me gusta tu blog, me hago seguidora de él, saludos desde España

  17. Good morning and thank you for calling round.

    I have enjoyed this trip round my own country through your eyes this morning! I lived in London for 20 years and whilst a student I was a frequent visitor to the Stockpot (the food was always cheap and hot!) : my sister and I were discussing the virtues of this establishment only recently. In fact many of the places that you mention were 'old haunts' : I was a nurse at the old Westminster Hospital and would visit The Tate during my lunch break to gaze upon 'Ophelia' in all her glory! I would trail round all the London markets and pick up bargains before I started my shift for work - though Camden Passage was a bit more expensive I still have things that I bought there thirty years ago!
    Thank you again
    Best wishes