Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Farewell (for now)

Well, hello! I know, it's been six weeks without even the slightest peep from me. I am sorry, lovely readers but sadly I'm not here to say that I'm back.

I've decided to take a year off from blogging at Emm in London. This time it's not my Muse that is letting me down, escaping to warmer climes and deserting me when I need her most.

Rather, it's just me realising that I can't do it all. The paper I've just written was the first of five professional papers and it absolutely consumed me for the better part of six weeks.

I'm secretly hoping that this is a red herring, that I'll say goodbye and then find myself back in a couple of months. That would be nice. But it's quite unlikely.

So what does this mean? It means that I won't be posting on Emm in London but it also means that I probably won't be visiting and commenting on other blogs. As you know, I've always considered supporting other bloggers to be as important as writing my own posts but it does all take time that I don't have.

I will still be around. I'm on Instagram, Google + and Twitter and I also have a Tumblr if you'd like to subscribe to a feed of my photos.

I'll still be posting reviews on my other blog and I'm also on Goodreads.

Finally, do feel free to email me should you ever want to get in touch. I'm always happy to meet up for tea or brunch so definitely get in touch if you're in London or Kent.

Before I go, I'd like to wish you all a very happy new year and extend my heartfelt thanks for all the support and friendship you've shown me in 9 years of blogging at Emm in London. You're all truly lovely and I'm so happy to have encountered you in the Blogosphere.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Exploring Antoni Gaudí’s Palau Guëll

Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

I'm just going to take five photos, I thought to myself. I don't actually have to take a hundred photos of every place I visit, making it ever more difficult to choose a couple and write about it. I suspect that many readers familiar with Palau Guëll in Barcelona are already enjoying a hearty laugh at my expense. It is safe to say that this wonderful example of Antoni Gaudí design far exceeded my expectations in every way. 

The Basement in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

We began our tour of the palace in the basement where the horses were kept and we had a chance to see the original canine hitching posts. I loved the light in the basement which was enhanced by both the central skylight and the light streaming in from the windows at street level. 

Dog hitching post in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell


Paraballic arches in Antoni Gaudi's Palau Guell

We moved to the ground floor next where we admired the parabolic arches above the main doors and ascended the central staircase to the mezzanine level. We admired the original wooden door, complete with the most beautiful peep hole. The lamp in the photo below is original as is the tropical red bullet wood ceiling. 

Central staircase leading up to the Mezzanine level in Antoni Gaudi's Palau Guell

Original lamp in Antoni Gaudi's Palau Guell

We took the stairs to the main floor and turned towards the Hall of Intimates. I was quite fascinated by the name of this space alone and this is where the Guëll daughters gave piano concerts and where the family dined with their closest friends. The walnut table and oak chairs finished with embossed leather are all original to the Guëll era. 

The Hall of Intimates in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

Outside of the Hall of Intimates, I saw an unremarkable corridor and could not fathom why I was being directed to look down it. It was only after I brought my camera to my eye and looked down the viewfinder that I saw it. The light flowing through the stained glass windows was simply exquisite.

Corridor in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

This corridor connected the palace with the family residence on nearby La Rambla where Guëll's father resided. 

Neighbouring buildings in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

We soon emerged on to the southern terrace where I admired the rear facade of the building as well as the neighbouring residences. What a difference in style!

The Room of Lost Steps in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

We retraced our steps and found ourselves in the Hall of Lost Steps. By now I was loving the names of all the different rooms. I am sad to admit that I have no idea why the hall has this name. I think it is because of its unique acoustic properties. What is notable about this space, apart from the fact that it leads to the Central Hall, is that Gaudí made use of the bay window area by erecting three arches and thus creating the illusion of a slightly wider space. 

The Ceiling of the Visitor's Room in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

I wandered next into the Visitor's Hall which afforded a view of the dressing room where female guests could prepare for occasions. The Visitor's Hall had the most beautiful oak, wrought iron and gold leaf ceiling and stained glass windows looking on to the street. To the top left in the photo below is a lattice window that allowed the Guëlls to observe guests without being seen. How intriguing!

The Visitor's Room in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

We moved back into the Hall of Lost steps and it was finally time to admire the Central Hall which was quite exquisite. Looking up we could see the parabolic dome as well as the pipes of the organ.

Looking up in the Central Hall in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

From the Musician's Gallery, we were afforded quite a view of the hall. The doors ahead are the doors to the chapel. When they were open, the halls was used for religious services and when they were closed, the hall was used for recitals, concerts and other gatherings. 

The Central Hall in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

The screen separating the Musician's Gallery from the central hall was made of rosewood and ebony and designed in the Arabian style that appealed to Gaudí. 

Arabian Style Screen in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

Ascending the stairs to the bedroom level, we found  ourselves in another Hall of Intimates, this time used by the family as a sitting room. I especially liked the painting of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary above the fireplace. It was done by Alexandre de Riquer and was done with gold and stone inlay in marble. 

St Elizabeth in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

From the hall of intimates, we gained a fantastic view of the organ pipes and I admired the windows that opened on to the central hall too.

Pipe Organ in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

Art Deco Windows Looking Out To Central Hall in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

On this level, we also saw the bedrooms of Eusebi Guëll, his wife Isabel López and their six children. There was an exhibition of Guëll furniture, including this art nouveau screen and a dressing table belonging to the eldest of the Guëll daughters, Isabel. 

Art Nouveau Screen in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

Before escaping the heat of the bedroom level, we paused only to admire these geometric bathroom tiles before rushing to the attic. 

Geometric bathroom tiles  in Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

The servants used to stay on the attic level and laundry and kitchen tasks were performed there too. The attic seems lovely and airy today but it's hard to believe that eleven bedrooms were crammed up there together with a kitchen and laundry. 

Attic level of  Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

I peeked out of the window and took another opportunity to admire the houses behind. I do love seeing how people live. 

Houses behind Antoni Gaudi's Palau Guell

Finally it was time to climb our final set of stairs to the roof level. If I broke my five photo rule in the house then I smashed it completely on the roof which is why it deserves its own post. Here is just a taster.

Central spire on roof of Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

Mosaic chimney stacks on roof of Antonio Gaudi's Palau Guell

Palau Guëll costs just €12 to get in and the admission charge includes the use of an especially interesting and informative audio guide which is very helpful. Of all the places I’ve paid to enter in recent months, this was the money best spent and I would absolutely recommend a visit. Also worth noting is that Palau Guëll open their doors for free on the first Sunday of each month but tickets are naturally limited and you must be there at 10am or 3pm in order to claim tickets.

Palau Guëll
Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5
08001 Barcelona


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A Night at the Opera: Tosca at the ENO

ENO Tosca Company (c) Richard Hubert Smith

My love for opera is quite new. I was always in love with the idea of opera, inspired by countless films in which the characters sat in the balcony at the opera and silently wept, but my first night out at the opera was last year. Of course, that was all it took. Seeing Puccini's La Bohème at the ENO was incredibly moving and I knew then that I had become a lifelong fan.

Naturally I was delighted when the ENO contacted me to ask if I would like to see Puccini’s Tosca, on at the ENO until December. I said yes straight away and was thus treated to an evening of tragedy, colourful costumes and breathtaking sets.

The Story

Tosca is set in Rome during the time of Napoleon's invasion of Italy. It is the story of betrayal, political sabotage and a politician who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. It is also the story of a love that knows no parallel.

ENO Tosca Gwyn Hughes Jones and Keri Alkema 1 (c) Richard Hubert Smith

Tosca is an opera singer known across all of Rome for her talent and beauty. She is deeply in love with the artist Cavaradossi but her jealousy stands ever at the fringe of their relationship. When Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, flees to the Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome, Cavaradossi agrees to hide him but it is a decision that will change his life forever. Suddenly, sadistic police chief Scarpia has his sights on Cavaradossi but it is Tosca who he really wants.

What follows is a story of unbearable treachery and murder, sweetened only by a love that knows no bounds.

The Production

Tosca at the ENO is an extravaganza of colour, sound and incredible set design. It really was a feast for all of the senses and made for a highly entertaining evening.

ENO Tosca Gwyn Hughes Jones and Robert Winslade Anderson (c) Richard Hubert Smith

Soprano Keri Alkema is Tosca and she captures the audience’s imagination as the passionate and playful opera singer. Her lover Cavaradossi is played by Gwyn Hughes Jones, notable for his dedication to Tosca and his defiance in the face of adversity.

Craig Colclough plays Scarpia and he was utterly convincing and quite frightening as the nasty and dastardly villain. He was thoroughly horrible.

ENO Tosca Keri Alkema and Craig Colclough 1 (c) Richard Hubert Smith

The dramatic storyline is accompanied by Puccini’s powerful score and the orchestra was conducted by noted Puccini specialist Oleg Caetani.


If you’ve ever wanted to see the opera but aren’t sure where to start, then the English National Opera is the place to start. Their aim is to bring opera to the masses and they do everything in their power to ensure that people without an in-depth knowledge of foreign languages or famous plays can enjoy a night out at the opera. The performances are in English with surtitles above the stage to assist the audience in following the story. I’d also highly recommend the ENO programmes too, they are full of information about the writers, the social and political environment in which the operas were drafted and notable performances over the years.

ENO Tosca Craig Colclough and Gwyn Hughes Jones (c) Richard Hubert Smith

Opera Undressed

The ENO have also gone one step further with their brand new Opera Undressed events. If you sign up for a free Opera Undressed membership, you can experience your first opera for just £20 plus booking fee and also attend a pre-performance talk about the production plus a post-show party with the cast. Not only is this incredible value but we found the pre-performance talk to be especially informative and interesting.

The Trailer


Tosca at the ENO is on until 3 December 2016 and is highly recommended.

London Coliseum
St Martin’s Lane

I’d like to thank the ENO for inviting me along to the Opera Undressed event for Tosca at the London Coliseum.

All photos © Richard Hubert Smith


Sunday, 6 November 2016

October: The Month That Was

Autumn in Rye

Well, it’s November. With two blinks of the eye this year will be over and there seems to be no chance of slowing it down. The good news, is that I’m really settling into this autumn. There has been a lot of lazy days involving socks, tea and books as well as some days out and an overseas guest.

What I Got Up To

Jean-Michel Jarre in Concert

Jean-Michel Jarre at the O2

I’ve been a fan of Jean-Michel Jarre since the late 70s when Equinoxe was first released. I remember listening to it while my parents drove from Preston back to Merseyside and at one point, there is a giant crash of thunder and my little infant brother woke up with one heck of a fright. Thankfully, it didn’t scar him and on 7 October, my mum, brother and I went to see Jarre in concert at the O2. It was superb, easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

Tosca at the ENO

The ceiling of the ENO

Stephen and I got to go to the ENO again to see Tosca and it was marvellous. We went as part of a special Opera Undressed evening and also got to see the view of the theatre from the Royal box. It was a great night out and I have a post scheduled to go out about it this week. The photo above is of the ceiling at the ENO.

The Arrival of the Bestie

Gatwick London map

Like most people, I have a handful of people I call my absolute besties and this month I was delighted to welcome one of those friends to the UK as a brand new expat. V works for a big company and secured a transfer to their Reading office and I can’t wait to begin our adventures together. The photo above was taken at Gatwick airport.

The Big Wedding


I absolutely love weddings and I love nothing more than seeing people I love get married. October saw the last of the big weddings this year and it was a lot of fun indeed. And of course the bride looked gorgeous! Congratulations K+S!

A Day Out in Rye

Mermaid Street Rye

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I read blog posts or scroll through Instagram and get quite envious. I know that envy is one of the deadly sins but what can I say, I fall victim to it. Thankfully, it doesn’t bring the worst out in me and sometimes it makes for wonderful day trips. I can’t wait to tell you all about Rye. The photo above is of Mermaid Street and the photo at the top of the post is of St Mary’s Church in Rye.

Returning to Abbey Wood

Abbey Wood

While V was staying with me, before she moved to her swanky new house in Wokingham, near Reading, I decided to take her to Lesnes Abbey and nearby Abbey Wood. We had a lovely day, even if my lovely old Labrador did decide to try adopt another couple. It seems she’ll settle for any strapping young man!

Where I Am

I was successful in slowing things down a bit and have definitely felt better for it. I’m so glad I did too because things went ballistic at work. I’m sure there is a more grammatically correct word for it but I’m not sure how else to describe a year end where I not only take on a brand new company but one that is winding down too.  Apparently my proven track record for achieving the near impossible during the year end process has gotten the best of me.

A Resolution

I mentioned the fear of missing out in my previous monthly recap and I’ve been thinking about that a lot this month. I miss London, a lot. Working close to home is amazing but I definitely think I’ll be working back in London once I’ve completed the Interminable Qualification. I miss after work drinks and quick trips to galleries. I miss lunch time concerts and long walks through London before work. Mostly I miss my friends, the lovely, lovely people I got to know and hang out with over the years. Knowing that I have at least a year before moving back to London, I realise that I need to be more proactive and ensure that I still get to see everyone from time to time. With that in mind, I’m slowly making plans to see people both in London and in Kent. If you’d like to get together and join in any of my adventures, please do get in touch! I’d love to plan something.

I also have to admit that once again, I fell a little behind on commenting and visiting blogs. I blame it entirely on work and month end. Now that I am working on two companies, with two different month ends, I get to lose an entire 14 days to month end a month. Joy. I’ll be making it up this week, I promise and thank you as always for your patience!

What have you been up to? Are you enjoying autumn or are you lucky enough to be experiencing spring?

© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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