Capturing Moments: An Instagram Tour of Milan

I was trying to explain to a group of new friends the other day that I see a difference between the art of photography and capturing images on Instagram. For me, Instagram is about moods, impressions and observations. Using filters, text and hash tags, we capture a moment in time, much like our parents did on Polaroid film. Before I take you on a tour of the fabulous things we saw in Milan, I thought I’d show you my first and last impressions of Milan along with my original comments.

Via Emilio Milan

Milan. Oh so pretty and stylish

Bike and courtyard in Milan

Milan. Cosmopolitan and metropolitan.

Tagging in Milan

Milan. Gritty and urban.

View from Hotel Palladio, Milan

Milan. A room with a view.

Courtyard Hotel Palladio

Milan. Stylish. The courtyard of our hotel.

Brera, Milan

Brera, Milan.

Raining in Brera, Milan

It rained in Milan today.


One last look at Brera

Leonardo da Vinci, Piazza Scala

Leonardo, Piazza delle Scala

Urban Milan

Lone figure at a window. (Arrivederci Milan)

Milan really surprised me. I was worried that there would be little to do, that I might not enjoy it but I really did like it and would love to revisit the city.

What do you think? Do you think I captured the mood and tone of Milan?

A Fabulous Art Deco in Bloomsbury Tour

The Art Deco movement was an international design style that relates to buildings built between 1926 and 1937. The origin of the movement has been traced to the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925. Of course, this was a movement, and while designers and architects soon began to design in similar ways, the term 'Art Deco' was only really coined in the subsequent revival in the 1960s and applied to the work of the 1920s and 1930s.

Art Deco was a rejection of the Art Nouveau movement and reflected the increasing influence of modernity with its decidedly futuristic style and focus on geometric and linear contours and lavish ornamentation.

Despite its short reign, cut short by the Second World War, the Art Deco movement left its mark with skyscrapers, cinemas, mansion houses, petrol stations and diners across the world.

Last weekend, I was very lucky to attend a free Art Deco in Bloomsbury walking tour given by Yannick Pucci as part of the Bloomsbury Festival in London.  The tour was superb and as you will see from the post below, I am really enthusiastic about what we saw and how much we learned. To be honest, once I’d written the post, I was a little stunned by its length and detail and wondered if I should cut it short. I don’t want to give away too much but the majority of my fellow Art Deco lover readers are in Australia, America and South Africa.

I’ve decided to leave it as is, for the benefit of my international readers. If you’re in London, quickly scroll through this post to look at the pretty photos and then rush over immediately to book Yannick’s next Art Deco walks on November 2nd or 30th.

Russell Court

Art Deco Russell Court

This mansion block was built in 1937 and celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. Russell Court reflected the Art Deco fashion for communal living and was divided into 500 single occupancy units.

It is anyone's guess who lived there in 1937, some say bachelors, spinsters or war widows and some even suggest mistresses! Nevertheless, one can assume that only the wealthy live there now. Russell Court cost £250,000 to complete in 1937 but today you won't find a single apartment for less than that.

The Art Deco styling can be recognised in the geometric lines and bay windows of Russell Court.

Daimler Hire Garage

Art Deco The Daimler Hire Garage

Now the offices of McCann Erikson. Built in 1931, the Daimler Hire garage was home to the luxury car company hiring out chauffeur-driven limousines to the rich and famous. Yannick noted that this would not be the last time we matched the influence of automobiles with Art Deco.

On the right of the building is a ramp and the cars would have driven up the ramp and been displayed in the glass-fronted showrooms on the first and second floors.

The ground floor would have been office space where another rising modern invention would have been prominent: telephones.

The Daimler Hire garage was designed by Wallis Gilbert & Partners, the same architects who designed the Hoover Building and has been said to be of the Streamline Moderne style or Miami Deco.

Yannick told us a tale, which he warned was most certainly an urban legend, claiming that the famous Fisher Price garage was modelled after the Daimler Hire garage. You know, I can almost believe it and as a massive Fisher Price fan, I have to say that it's my favourite urban legend of all time.

School of Pharmacy, University of London

Art Deco UCL School of Pharmacy

The School of Pharmacy was in Bloomsbury Square for 135 years before deciding to expand to their own premises on Brunswick Square. The building was designed by Liverpudlian Art Deco architect Herbert Rowse in 1935 and work began in 1938. Sadly, the building was never really finished; work was disrupted in 1939 when the Second World War broke out and a temporary roof had to be installed. With the lack of money and resources following the war, work on the buillding only restarted in the 1950s and when it was officially reopened in 1960, it was described as the ‘oldest new building in London’.

The flat roof, ornate railings and stylised lamp posts mark the School of Pharmacy as an excellent example of Art Deco.

Clare Court

Art Deco Clare Court London

This residential building was built sometime in the 1920s but sadly there is little further information known about the building. It is a shame because, with it’s central column and bay windows, Clare Court is a perfect example of Art Deco design. I liked the distinctive Art Deco lettering of the building name (just visible at the bottom of the photo above) and the lines of the central column that draw your eyes up to the sky.

Woburn Walk

Art Deco Woburn Walk

Woburn Walk was London’s first pedestrian shopping street and was designed by architect Thomas Cubitt in 1822. It lay on the edge of the opulent Bloomsbury suburb near to the Euston Road. While architecturally, Woburn Walk was built long before the Art Deco trend, the flat roof, balconies and ornamentation of the early 20th century redesign make this a good inclusion on our tour.

Tavistock Court

Art Deco Tavistock Court

I realised on this walk that I had to discard everything I had learned about photographic composition. Art Deco is best captured in balanced, symmetrical photos that captures the geometric lines and contours of the buildings.

The first thing I noticed about Tavistock Court were its wonderful friezes which you can see in more detail in this album on the Emm in London Facebook page. Do look out for the frieze of the deer and the soldier which tells the story of St Hubert who encountered a deer while out hunting after the loss of his wife and child. The deer had a golden crucifix between his antlers which brought St Hubert back to the church

Tavistock Court was built in 1935 by the National Free Churches Council. The organisation is now known as Churches United and they still own and occupy space in the building, while the remaining 72 one- to four-room flats are rented out.

Senate House

Art Deco Senate House

As we walked around the edges of Russell Square past SOAS and turned into the Senate House compound, my breath was literally taken away by the majestic splendour of Senate House. Yannick mentioned that many Londoners had been critical of this structure, likening it to an Aztec temple (strange, I thought it looks exactly like a ziggurat) and I can see that. I wonder if I might have disliked it too in my younger days, just as I once disliked brutalism?

Senate House was London’s first skyscraper completed in 1937 at 64 metres high. It was second only in height to the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, a record it held until the 1960s.  Senate House was designed by Charles Holden who also designed St James’s Park tube station.

Apparently, Holden had originally designed a massive 370 metre long structure leading all the way down to Torrington Street and it was actually approved! Thank goodness that construction was cut short by the Second World War because Holden wanted his building to last for 500 years and we’d be stuck with a massive behemoth now.

Senate House is 19 stories high and built almost entirely of Portland stone as Holden didn’t believe in using steel in his constructions.

Apparently, George Orwell took his inspiration for the Ministry of Truth from Senate House. Orwell's wife had worked here during the war when it was the Ministry of Information.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Art Deco London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

From a distance, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has definite Classical qualities, including laurels wrapping the top of the building but it also has clear Art Deco features including the stylised friezes, geometric lines, balconies and gilded animals representing pests such as mosquitos, serpents and rats.

Throughout his talk about the frieze above, based on the design of ancient Greek coins, Yannick referred to the serpent which I couldn’t for the life of me see. Of course, I see it now, clear as day!

Bloomsbury Service Station

Art Deco Bloomsbury Service Station

Bloomsbury Service Station was possibly the oldest petrol station in London and it closed in 2008 after a failed attempt to gain listed status. This will be the only structure where I show you two photos because I wanted to show both the commissioned artwork above and the sleek Art Deco lines of the former petrol station below.

The artwork by Brian James was commissioned by The Bedford Estates who own much of the land in this area. It is a snapshot of the history of the Bedford family in Bloomsbury and shows the original Ridgmount Petrol Station as it was in the 1920s. Also visible is a a Bedford van, sports car in the Bedford family horseracing colours (purple with white stripe) and biplane in homage to Mary Duchess of Bedford who was an aviator in the 1920s and 1930s, having learned to fly in her 60s and who disappeared in 1937 while on a solo flight.

Art Deco Bloomsbury Petrol Station

Because it closed so recently, we are very lucky to have a clear idea of what this structure looked like as a service station and you can see a photo here. The glass fronted curve above covers much of what would once have been the station forecourt.

Gower Street Mews

Art Deco Gower Street Mews

The final stop on our superb tour was Gower Street Mews. This was an interesting street because we saw the converted Art Deco mews in front of us, with flat roof, stylised railings and bay windows but behind us stood the original Victorian mews.

Click to view the full Art Deco in Bloomsbury Facebook album featuring 33 more photos, including the Victorian side of Gower Street Mews. I’d be ever so grateful if you liked my Facebook page while you are there!

Yannick was an excellent guide and I will definitely be joining him on his Holland Park walking tour in the future. You can catch up with Yannick on Twitter where he is @ypldn or on his blog London Art Deco Tours. Thanks for the great tour Yannick!

Capturing Italy: A Journey in Five Colours

When the fabulous Bridgekeeping Traveller Mariella nominated me to take part in the Capture the Colour challenge, I knew exactly what I was going to do and I set off to Italy with my plans in mind. Of course, I have since realised that the challenge is an actual competition, the deadline of which I have long missed in my post-travel gloom. So here is my non-official and entirely for fun interpretation.


Duomo Milan

White would have to be the famous Duomo in Milan, the first city we visited in on our Italian tour. On that first afternoon in Milan, we emerged from the Metro onto the Piazza del Duomo and our breath was taken away by the Duomo looming above us. I immediately knew that this would be my choice for the colour white, even though I was surprised two days later to see the Duomo up close and discover that it is actually cream coloured not white.


Juliet's balcony Verona

My original choice for green had been a beautiful late afternoon view of the river Adige as it winds around the city of Verona. The only problem was that while the photo itself was indeed beautiful, the piercing blue sky reflected off the water and the overall scene was more blue than green. I wasn’t too worried as this photo of Juliet’s balcony had been my second choice. I was most disappointed to learn that Shakespeare had not invented the story of Romeo and Juliet himself but greatly enjoyed visiting the supposed homes of Romeo and Juliet in Verona.


Gondolas in Venice

I loved this scene in Venice and there was no doubt in my mind that this would be my choice for the colour blue. We were blessed with excellent, sunny weather during our stay in Venice (and indeed, most of our stay in Italy).


Red house in Burano

Burano was my favourite destination in our whole tour of Italy. This tiny little island off the coast of Venice is famous for its lace industry and colourful houses. I would love to return to Burano one day and spend an entire week or so but not surprisingly, there seem to be few, if any, hotels on the island and tourism is kept to a minimum.


Ceramics in Florence

My enduring impression of Florence (or Firenze as I prefer to call it) is one of a golden city. This was the last city we visited on our trip and it was such a lovely place to spend our last couple of days. There was a lot to choose from for the colour yellow but ultimately I chose this photo of Florentine ceramics.

Italy is such an incredibly rich, beautiful and colourful country. I cannot wait to tell you more about it!

Chiswick House and Gardens

Neo-Palladian Chiswick HouseI think we must have seen the last of the summer sun on Sunday. It was a bright, sunny day as we drove across to Chiswick House and Gardens in west London and I drank it all in knowing that we were mere days away from the true grey and cloudy London autumn. Indeed, stormy clouds had begun to roll in by the day's end.

Our interest in visiting Chiswick was mainly to see the house itself, an iconic example of the neo-Palladian style that was built in 1729 by the third Earl of Burlington. What we immediately noticed as we left the parking area and entered the property is the gardens are spectacular.

Autumn in Chiswick Gardens

It was such a lovely scene to see all of the families walking, playing and picnicking with their children and dogs and what impressed me the most is that this wonderful area is available free of charge! Now I know that London has, in my entirely unbiased opinion, the best public parks in the world but the historic gardens at Chiswick received a £12.1 million makeover back in June 2010 making them especially notable.

Statue Chsiwick Gardens

We soon arrived at the house itself and decided to go inside. At £5.90 each, Chiswick House is one of the most affordable of the stately homes run by English Heritage.

Statues, Chsiwick Gardens

We weren't too sure whether or not we were allowed to take photos inside the house. A sign at the entrance seemed to prohibit photos but then we noticed that those people on guided tours were happily snapping away. Still, we opted to keep our photo taking to a respectable minimum just in case.

Chiswick House was not originally built as a home but rather as a place for the Earl of Burlington to showcase his art collection and entertain his guests. A pavilion of sorts, it is divided into the Upper and Lower Tribunal. The Lower Tribunal (or ground floor) of the house is now home to a walk-through history of the home. Sparsely decorated, it provides the visitor with a unique opportunity to appreciate the architecture and design of the property as you walk through the maze of reception rooms and the former library. The house was once linked to the main house on the property which is no longer standing. I found the 'link rooms' to be the most interesting; functional as they were, they also had beautiful lighting.

     Sphinx in Chiswick House

The Upper Tribunal of the house was a showcase of neo-Palladian design and decoration. I most enjoyed standing under the dome in the central saloon of the home which was spectacularly surrounded by a set of beautiful 18th century paintings. The gallery was another favourite with its ornate apses and view of the gardens.

Ceilings, domes and apses in Chiswick House

We wandered around the richly decorated Red, Green and Blue velvet rooms. The Blue Velvet room was the best. It seemed to have benefitted from less direct sunlight over the years and had a beautiful ceiling.

Detail Chsiwick House

Pond Chiswick Gardens

Western elevation neo-Palladian Chiswick House


All too soon, our visit was over. We would have liked to have enjoyed a stew or soup in the canteen but all they had left by the late afternoon was a couple of muffins and snacks. We'll have to go back because the stew and soup both sounded divine!

Before leaving, we strolled around the gardens some more and spotted The Conservatory, Classical Bridge, and Ionic Temple and mirror pool. The Ionic Temple was impossible to photograph well, in my opinion!

Chiswick House - The Conservatory

The Conservatory at Chiswick House

Wind Vane at The Conservatory at Chiswick House

Classical Bridge, Chiswick House and Gardens

Ionic Temple and Mirror Pool, Chiswick House and Gardens

Ionic Temple through a frame, Chiswick Gardens

All told, it was a good day out and certainly the most affordable English Heritage property we've visited yet.

Chiswick House and Gardens
Hogarth Lane
W4 2QN