Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Gardens of Eltham Palace

Remember when I visited Eltham Palace and told you that the gardens were so exquisite that they deserved a post of their own? Well, here is a bumper post full of photos of the gardens, mainly because, I couldn’t stop taking photos!

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (4)

The Great Hall and Art Deco residence, as seen from the gardens. In the foreground, you can see the medieval jousting post. You can visit Eltham Palace in June each year to cheer on knights as they take part in a medieval jousting tournament.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (3)

This is the old bridge that goes over the moat.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (2)

Oh, look! What’s down there?

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (5)

Pretty flowers and secret gates.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (6)

A view of the bridge…

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (7)

… and a peek at the rock garden designed by Isabelle Van Groeningen.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (8)

The views from the Eltham Palace gardens are amazing. Here you can see all the way to Westminster and the City of London.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (9)

I can spot Strata, the London Eye, the BT Tower, Shard, 20 Fenchurch Street, Leadenhall Building and 30 St Mary Axe in the photo above.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (10)

The gardens are a great place to explore with children…

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (11)

… and if you’re very lucky, the sun might just come out.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (12)

If you cross the bridge over the moat, there are some fantastic views of Eltham Palace…

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (13)The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (14)

…and lots of plant life to examine.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (15)Perseus

There is also a host of art work and sculptures in the gardens, such as this statue of Perseus, the Greek hero who slew Medusa. There is a Gorgon’s head at his feet.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (17)

All too soon, our day at Eltham Palace was over but I was not quite ready to leave.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (18)

I took a moment in the beautiful greenhouse to enjoy a ginger beer and orange cake.

The Gardens Of Eltham Palace (19)

Eltham Palace and Gardens
Court Yard

Nearest station: Mottingham

Open: Sunday to Thursday 10am to 5pm


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Puccini’s La bohème at the London Coliseum

A scene from La Boheme by Puccini @ London Coliseum. An English National Opera production
(Opening 16-10-15)
©Tristram Kenton

It is one of the greatest love stories of all time. One Christmas Eve in Paris, young bohemian Rodolfo receives a knock on the door of his tiny, freezing apartment. It is his neighbour Mimi, weak with cold and hunger. Within moments of meeting, Mimi and Rodolfo realise that they are falling in love but can their love survive the treacherous Parisian winter?

Starring Corinne Winters as Mimi and American tenor Zach Borichevsky as Rodolfo, Puccini’s La bohème is showing at the London Coliseum, home of English National Opera, until 26 November 2015.

A scene from La Boheme by Puccini @ London Coliseum. An English National Opera production
(Opening 16-10-15)
©Tristram Kenton

The Emotion

La bohème is, in a word, unforgettable. From the moment the performance began, I was mesmerised by the beauty and energy on the stage below. It is one thing to hear recordings of opera or see it on screen but to hear that medley of soprano, tenor, baritone and base voices live is incredible.

I was quite unprepared for the depth of emotion that I would feel during the performance. I knew that opera could be an emotional experience and this was one of the reasons that I had wanted to visit for so long. In my mind, I recalled countless films where characters sat in the gallery, transfixed by the performance below, a tear rolling down one cheek.

I just didn’t realise it would happen to me.

A scene from La Boheme by Puccini @ London Coliseum. An English National Opera production
(Opening 16-10-15)
©Tristram Kenton

There I was, beaming with joy as the first act opened, smiling like a child at Christmas. Towards the end of the first act, when Rodolfo and Mimi first mention the word ‘love’, I felt a surge of emotion, a lump in my throat and goose bumps all over my body. I looked around and was pleased to see that I was not the only one touched by the performance. I won’t give the story away but I’m sure you can guess that La bohème is a tragedy and I cried quite unashamedly at the end.

A scene from La Boheme by Puccini @ London Coliseum. An English National Opera production
(Opening 16-10-15)
©Tristram Kenton

The Performance

The cast of La bohème was brilliant. Naturally, I loved Corinne Winters and Zach Borichevsky as lovers Mimi and Rodolfo but was also impressed by soprano Rhian Lois in her role as Musetta. The Bohemians were especially well cast with baritones Duncan Rock as painter Marcello and Ashley Riches as musician Schaunard and bass Nicholas Masters as scholar Colline.

One of the most impressive aspects of La bohème at the Coliseum was the set design. There were street scenes and scenes in Parisian cafes, snowy Christmas scenes and scenes during early spring and set changes were all achieved with precision.

The costumes were really interesting too. La bohème was written in 1895 and certain aspects of the story, for instance almost freezing to death on Christmas Eve and needing a match for a candle, were very much in line with that time. Other aspects were quite modern, the currency was Euros and the men all had hipster beards. However, the costumes seemed to place the story firmly in the 1960s and there were definite allusions to the resurgence of Bohemian ideals in the 1960s and Andy Warhol’s Factory. I quite liked the timeless quality this gave the performance.

The orchestra was superb and I loved that they brought conductor Xian Zhang on stage after the performance for she certainly deserved the applause.

A scene from La Boheme by Puccini @ London Coliseum. An English National Opera production
(Opening 16-10-15)
©Tristram Kenton


I’ve wanted to go to the opera for the longest time but this was one dream that simply wasn’t coming to fruition. As a complete beginner, I had no idea where to start and I was more than a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to follow the story. In my mind, I expected opera to be expensive and I didn’t want to spend a sizeable amount of money on a performance that I couldn’t follow.

This is where the ENO comes in. The English National Opera is founded on the belief that opera of the highest quality should be accessible to everyone. Performances are in English and a large proportion of the tickets are made available at affordable prices. There are surtitles above the stage which makes the show super easy to follow too.

Does this detract from the original performance? Not at all. I completely concur with the ENO’s ideal. Watching the show in this format made it accessible to me and I enjoyed my experience so much that I’m already planning to watch Puccini’s Madam Butterfly when it returns to the London Coliseum in May 2016.

The Trailer

Unforgettable and moving, I would absolutely recommend this production of La bohème and if, like me, you’ve wanted to go to the opera for the longest time, I’d recommend that you hesitate no longer and make a booking! You won’t regret it.

Puccini's La bohème
London Coliseum
St Martin's Lane

I’d like to thank the ENO for inviting me to this performance and opening up the world of opera to me!

All images © Tristram Kenton


Saturday, 31 October 2015

An Afternoon of Art and Decadence at Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

Since arriving in England in 2007, I have never lived more than 9 miles away from Eltham Palace and in fact, I lived within walking distance of it for a year. You might be surprised then, given my love of all things Art Deco, to learn that I had never visited this fabulous location before this year.

Eltham Palace dates back to medieval times when the Bishop of Durham gave the palace to Edward II in 1305. Edward II was son of Edward I who built the castles at Beaumaris and Caernarfon that we visited in Wales.

In the 1930s, millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld acquired the lease on the site. They restored the Great Hall of Eltham Palace and built an adjoining Art Deco mansion.

There is so much to see at Eltham Palace that I’m already planning to go back there in the near future. These were my favourite parts.

The Ground Floor

Eltham Palace - The Dining Room

The Dining Room with Greek key motif, a common feature of Art Deco design.

Eltham Palace - The Italian Drawing Room

The Italian Drawing Room where Stephen’s collection of Italian Renaissance paintings and ceramics was kept.

Eltham Palace - The Boudoir

The Boudoir designed for Ginie (as Virginia Courtauld was affectionately called) featured an early example of built-in furniture. This was my favourite room in the house.

Eltham Palace - Classic Magazines

On the table above you can see these classic publications dating back to the 1930s and 1950s. (No publications were touched in the taking of this photo!)

Eltham Palace - The Library

The Library which was Stephen’s private working space. In my home, it is me who needs a private study!

The First Floor

The bedrooms were located on the first floor with a corridor leading to the balcony of the Great Hall.

Eltham Palace - Virginia's Bedroom

Virginia’s bedroom was said to be inspired by a round, classical temple with her bed in the middle.

Eltham Palace - Virginia's Bathroom

Virginia’s bathroom was absolutely stunning. I loved the golden tiles, marble bath and statue of Psyche.

Eltham Palace - Stephen's Bedroom

Stephen’s bedroom was certainly more masculine, with wood panelling and sensible decor.

Eltham Palace - Stephen's Bathroom

Stephen’s bathroom was another of my favourite rooms in the house. I loved the blue tiles and fixtures and fittings. I often find bathrooms to be the most interesting rooms in the house – other rooms receive frequent redecoration but bathrooms often give us a real glimpse into the style of a bygone era.

The Great Hall

Eltham Palace - The Great Hall

The Great Hall was built by Edward IV in the late 15th century and is said to feature the third-largest hammerbeam roof in England.

The Wartime Bunker

Eltham Palace - Entrance to Wartime Bunker

The area of the house that most captured my imagination was the wartime bunker. Eltham suffered badly during the Blitz and more than 450 bombs fell on the area between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941.

Eltham Palace - Corridor in Wartime Bunker

Naturally, the family took to the basement to seek safety and good that they did. Four bombs landed on the Great Hall, damaging the east end of the roof and bombs damaged the glasshouses too.

Eltham Palace - War time bunker

As one might imagine, this was a somewhat luxurious bomb shelter compared to what most Londoners had access too.

Eltham Palace - Sleeping Quarters in Wartime Bunker

There was even a billiards room and bar for entertainment.

Eltham Palace - Billiards Room in Wartime bunker

The gardens of Eltham Palace were so exquisite that they warrant their own post. Expect moats and bridges, stone walls and a rock garden!

Eltham Palace and Gardens
Court Yard

Nearest station: Mottingham

Open: Sunday to Thursday 10am to 5pm

At £13, I consider Eltham Palace to be quite expensive to visit and so I finally decided to join English Heritage to try get a little bit more value for money. We took advantage of a 20% off special offer and spent £59 for an adult and senior membership for my mum and I. Over the next year, I’ll be giving you a running total of how much money I have saved or lost.

Annual Membership £59
Eltham Palace £13
Remaining £46


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Open Garden Squares Weekend – An Adventure

Fountain Detail - Lincoln's Inn Fields

Each year in June, London hosts the Open Garden Squares Weekend. For one weekend, the gates open to the city’s secret and hidden gardens and members of the public can wander their green spaces. This year my friend Yannick gave me a ticket for the event and so with a minimum of preparation, I decided to stroll around and see what I could find.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Fountain - Lincoln's Inn Fields

My first quest was to try find Lincoln’s Inn Gardens at the south east corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. What I love most about these adventures is that I find myself really looking at my surroundings as opposed to simply walking through them. I’ve also learned that adventures don’t always end up as planned but that is also okay.

I loved this fountain – the inscription reads “Fear of the Lord is a Fountain of Life”. Lincoln’s Inn Fields is an enclosed square garden and was designed by Inigo Jones in the 17th century.

Margaret McDonald Memorial

I went to what I was sure was the south east corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields and didn’t find any hidden gardens and so I approached the guard at Lincoln’s Inn to enquire where they might be. Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London where barristers have their offices and is definitely not usually open to the public. The guard informed me that the gardens were situated inside Lincoln’s Inn but that I had arrived on the wrong day!

I decided not to argue the point of Open Garden Squares Weekend with the guard seeing that I had actually visited once before on A Secret Visit to Lincoln's Inn, Holborn.

Lincoln's Inn Area

I decided to walk through Holborn towards the Royal Courts of Justice to see if I could access Temple. This is one of my favourite areas of London and I just love all the Gothic Revival buildings.

The Seven Stars

Royal Courts of Justice

Below are the Royal Courts of Justice which houses the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. I think they look like a fairy tale castle and I’m simply unable to walk past them without taking tons of photos.

Royal Courts of Justice

After taking this photo, I turned around and walked down Essex Street and down the steps to Victoria Embankment. I was hoping to sneak into Temple but the side gate looked as foreboding as ever. Like Lincoln’s Inn, Temple is notoriously closed off to the public. I did once walk through Temple, I was dressed very smart and walked quickly and with purpose and none of the guards paid any notice to me. They would have done so if I’d tried to take photos though!

Taxi - J Seward Johnson Junior

Slightly frustrated at the state of my adventure, I walked along Victoria Embankment toward Cannon Street Station. I took a moment to chat with J Seward Johnson’s 1963 bronze statue “Taxi” and I saw the World Naked Bike Ride speed past and then I was on my way.

Cleary Gardens

Cleary Gardens - City of London

My next stop was Cleary Gardens and it was an absolute treat. Cleary Gardens is open to the public all year round but I can’t tell you how many times I have walked right by the site in the past without realising that there is a garden here.

Cleary Gardens

Cleary Gardens is named after Fred Cleary who was instrumental in planting trees and creating green spaces in the City of London during the 1970s.

Cleary Gardens - The City

The garden is spread out over three tiers with ample space to sit, read a book and relax.

Cleary Gardens - The City of London

Cleary Gardens stands in a site that is rich in culture and history. The lawns cover the site of a Roman bathhouse and the vines on the terrace mark importance of this area in the City’s wine trade during medieval times.

The Rooftop Garden at Nomura International

My final destination for the day was the rooftop garden at Nomura International. The first thing you will notice when you enter the roof terrace is that it offers incredible views over London.

The Shard

In this photo you can see the Shard and Southwark Cathedral to the right.

Nomura Gardens

The gardens were created by staff at Nomura International. Each day, before work and during their lunch hours, they work in the gardens and have created the most beautiful, tranquil place.

Slugbell - Nomura Gardens

I chatted to one lady from Nomura and she took me through some of the features of the vegetable gardens. There are slug bells to chase away the slugs and plastic CDs that catch the light and chase away birds. All rather ingenious if you ask me.

Carrots - Nomura Gardens

Most importantly, the gardens provide relaxation for those tending them and a quiet place for the rest of the Nomura staff.

Falcon - Nomura Gardens

There was a falconry exhibition on the roof too that day. I waited a long time for one of the birds to remain still in order for me to take a photo!

Cannon Street From Nomura Gardens

Then again, the gardens were so beautiful that I was quite happy to while away the time on a sunny afternoon.

Shard from Nomura Gardens

I may have taken a few too many photos of the Shard that day…

Tower Bridge from Nomura Gardens

… and of Tower Bridge too.

All told, I’d say that my adventure was a success. I saw places that I wouldn’t normally see and I spent a glorious summer day strolling through London.

Open Garden Squares Weekend will return on 18-19 June 2016. Tickets cost £10 before the event and give you access to all participating gardens on both Saturday and Sunday.

Did you attend Open Garden Squares Weekend this year? Where did you explore?


Join Us On Facebook

Add me on Google+


Copyright © 2008- Mandy Southgate / Emm in London