An Afternoon at the Geffrye Museum

Geffrye Museum

Sometimes life in London is so busy and your calendar so full that the only chance of spending time with your friends lies in both of you taking a day off work. This is what Ka and I decided to do recently when we both took a Friday afternoon off work so that I could spend some time with her and her cute-as-a-button toddler. Kat asked if I had ever been to the Geffrye Museum and I hadn’t so I was thrilled that we decided to spend our afternoon there.

The Geffrye Museum is a most unique museum indeed. Founded in 1914, the museum focuses on the homes of the English urban middle classes through a series of eleven period living rooms and specially maintained period gardens.

Geffrye Museum - entrance

We began our visit with a walk through the gardens. It was a sunny mid September afternoon and people were relaxing on the lawns or sitting on benches eating their lunch. I work right next to one of the most beautiful public spaces in London but even I felt a pang of jealousy when I looked at these people and I wished for a minute that I worked nearby so that I could spend lunch hours in this environment.

Geffrye Museum - pear treeGeffrye Museum - covered walkway

The award-winning gardens really are well maintained and well labelled for educational purposes. You can see a strictly designed Victorian garden followed by the rambling English country garden that evolved as a reaction to the Victorian era.

Geffrye Museum - gardens

Our visit then continued inside the museum. I won’t show you each of the eleven rooms as I wouldn't want to spoil it for you and I really do think the Geffrye is worth a visit. Instead, I’ll show you some of my favourites that we saw on the day.

Geffrye Museum - a hall in 1630

This first room represents a hall in 1630. The wood panelling reminded me of rooms I had seen inside Hall Place and Ightham Mote. We also saw parlours from 1695 and 1745.

Geffrye Museum - wallpaper detail in the library

We spent some time in the garden reading room and I was most impressed by the mural on the wall, especially in the detail of this butterfly. You might need to click on the photo above to enlarge it to see the detail properly.

Geffrye Museum - the chapel

The original almshouse chapel lies in the middle of the museum and I loved the way the light shone through the high windows.

Geffrye Museum - the art gallery

In the Reading Room you will find a selection of paintings depicting home life from the 17th to 19th century. This made me ponder on the forgotten art of painting and how there were relatively less art works in the 20th century depicting home life and every day life once photography became the preferred medium.

Geffrye Museum - A Parlour in 1790

The room above depicts a parlour in 1790. The wallpaper in this room was quite exquisite and I actually set off an alarm while trying to take a closer look at it. Thankfully the guide was really understanding and explained that the wallpaper was in fact hand painted and that I was right to find it so interesting.

Geffrye Museum - A drawing room in 1830

This was my favourite room. It is a drawing room in 1830 and I just loved the way the curtains cascaded onto the floor. That is my favourite shade of blue (and blue is my favourite colour).

Geffrye Museum - A Drawing room in 1870

This is a drawing room in 1870. I loved the fine China tea set and the lace curtains.

Geffrye Museum - At home in 1890

From the late 19th century, homes began to become more homely. This scene depicts a living room in 1890.

Geffrye Museum - Mid-Century Period Room

Another of my favourite rooms was this one which depicts a mid-century period room dating from approximately 1955 to 1965. This reminds me so much of my childhood and we still had lots of wooden cabinets and furniture with tapered legs in my own home and those of our friends and family. What fascinates me is how attractive and retro this is to me now but i distinctively remember finding such styles entirely distasteful by the late 1970s.

Geffrye Museum - cafe

We completed our visit with a long rest and chat in the museum cafe. They served up some delicious cake and we chatted away while the rain pounded down outside. It had been a muggy, humid London day and we were both relieved for the rain and happy that we were safely inside when it did come.

The Geffrye Museum is free to visit and just around the corner from the Hoxton Overground station. We really enjoyed our visit and I will certainly be back in the future.

Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road
E2 8EA

Tel: 020 7739 9893
Open: Tuesday - Sunday 10am – 5pm
Bank Holiday Mondays 10am - 5pm

A Coastal Walk in Guernsey

One dark and stormy Friday night a couple of weeks ago, I dashed across London to make my way to Gatwick Airport and on to the Channel island of Guernsey. I was very lucky indeed that my plane took off that evening for I later discovered that mine was the last flight permitted to depart before flights were suspended for severe weather conditions.

The weather was slightly calmer on landing in Guernsey although still decidedly damp. My lovely friends Jen, Melissa and Lindsay picked me up and we drove through the darkness to Jen’s house. After chatting late into the night and early morning, I collapsed into bed and fell asleep immediately. It had been a very long day indeed.

I woke up to this.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (2)

I had a fair idea of why Jen moved to Guernsey. She enjoys coastal runs, foraging and a life away from the chaos of the inner city. Now I understood why she loves it so much; can you imagine waking up to these views everyday?

A coastal walk in Guernsey (3)

These photos were taking from the back yard of Jen’s adopted home. She has views to the sea and the rolling hills of the nearby seaside farms. My heart soared as my lungs filled with crisp, fresh air. I wanted to stay there forever.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (4)

After the rain and storms of the previous evening, we could scarcely believe our luck at how beautiful the weather had turned out. We decided to take a walk down to the cliffs and follow the coastal path.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (5)

We walked along a narrow country road, ducking every now and then to the side as cars came trundling along. The doorway above belongs to the property that was once home to Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables. He came to live in Guernsey after he was exiled from France and Jersey.  The remains of his house – his summer home – were destroyed by the Nazis in the Second World War. (Thank you very much to Jen and Lindsay for telling me this story – I have to admit I wasn’t immediately familiar with who Hugo was. I resolve to immediately watch Les Miserables to make up for my crime against literature!)

A coastal walk in Guernsey (6)

I couldn’t help but snap a photo of this lamp post. Guernsey is just magical and every so often I’d get the feeling that I was actually walking through the pages of a children’s fantasy novel.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (7)

This is one of my favourite photos. I love the barbed wire in the foreground and the sloping grass down to the bright blue sea. The sea was really that colour!

A coastal walk in Guernsey (8)

I really like the reflection in the photo above and I love the idea of living in a house on a cliff, looking straight onto the sea. Those views must be pretty special.

Shortly after we passed this house, the girls decided that I should close my eyes for the next part. Believe me when I tell you that there is no greater display of trust than letting your friends guide you along the edge of sea cliffs while your eyes are closed.

It was absolutely worth it though for when I opened my eyes, I saw this.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (10)

I had to agree that the view was pretty spectacular. I even let out a bit of a gasp when I opened my eyes which really scared the man standing beside us who thought someone had fallen down the cliffs.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (13)

I looked to my right and saw a path leading up an incline, beckoning me to scamper up it like a billy goat. I know, I sound like an excited child but Guernsey inspired in me a desire to be free and explore.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (11)

I wasn’t going to argue in any event and I ran up the incline to see the undulating hills and countryside beyond.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (9)

I was touched by the dedication on this bench, “In loving memory of Annette Mason who loved these cliffs so much”. I could relate to that and imagined that one day Stephen and I might move to a place like this and be so happy that one of us would eave a dedication like this for the other. Of course, we’re very happy now but our dedication would read more like, “was a patient and loving parent to the most demanding cats on earth”. 

A coastal walk in Guernsey (12)

The view into the water from this point was quite dizzying. The sea gets its distinctive colour from the limestone in the cliffs but Jen tells me that it is completely transparent when you’re standing in it.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (14)

I quite liked this place marker, reminding us of Guernsey’s French heritage. At this point we’d returned from the direction the marker is pointing in and began to walk in the opposite direction.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (15)

The views here were equally impressive and I believe I took over 15 photos of this cove and more on my iPhone.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (16)

As we walked along the coastal path, we walked alongside properties which bordered the path. Can you imagine opening your back gate and seeing the views above? I can see my neighbour’s back yard.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (17)

It really was a really beautiful, warm day and hard to believe that it was the middle of October. We felt very fortunate indeed.

A coastal walk in Guernsey (18)

I was glad to get a reasonable photo of this gate. It had caught my eye on the way down but I’d worked hard to capture its charm in my previous photos.

A coastal walk in Guernsey

With one final look past Hugo’s old door, we soon came to the end of our lovely walk.

That evening about 15 women gathered to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving at Jen’s house. We had an incredible time and were only too happy to lounge around in our socks and pyjamas the next day when the weather took a dramatic and soggy turn.

Have you ever been to Guernsey? Which if the other nearby isles have you visited?

The Hidden Mews of Knightsbridge and Belgravia

Macarons in Mayfair (3)

And now for something completely different. A short while ago, we discovered that the expat curse was to strike again. For those that are not familiar with this term, I coined it some years ago to describe the fact that most expats ultimately return home and leave other, heartbroken expats in their wake. When Yannick and I learned that the lovely Kat would soon be departing for home, we began to conspire to treat Kat to a very special farewell walk.

Now if you know anything about Yannick’s walks, you’ll know that they are exceptionally well conceived and researched and we were very privileged indeed to join him on his inaugural Macarons and Mews walk.

I’m not going to give away any of the fascinating stories that Yannick regaled us with nor am I going to divulge where we sourced the mouth-watering, delicious macarons that we tasted on the walk. I will tell you that we explored the hidden mews and secret passageways of Knightsbridge and Belgravia and that if you love history, macarons and exploring hidden places then this is the walk for you.

I’ll let my photos tell you the story of our afternoon’s adventures. Enjoy!

Hidden mews in Mayfair (1)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (2)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (3)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (4)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (5)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (6)

Hidden mews in Mayfair (7)

Macarons in Mayfair (2)

Macarons in Mayfair (1)


Secret mews in Mayfair (5)

Secret mews in Mayfair (1)

Bianka, Yannick and Mandy

Secret mews in Mayfair (2)

Secret mews in Mayfair (3)

Secret mews in Mayfair (4)

I have to admit that I’d never seen anything like any of these places before. The areas we explored were so quiet but there were definite signs of life!

If you’d like to visit Yannick on his delicious and fascinating Macarons and Mews walk, his Art Deco in Bloomsbury walk or his renowned Holland Park walk, you can book at his Eventbrite page.

Have you ever explored the hidden mews and secret passageways of Belgravia and Knightsbridge? Which secret part of London should I explore next?