Monday, June 15, 2015

Beautiful London

"What she loved: life, London, this moment of June." --  Virginia Woolf

I just returned from a wonderful two week trip to London and Scotland. This will require a few blog posts, so I'll start with London where we had beautiful weather. The end of May, beginning of June, is such a good time to see this city. As always, it was filled with so much inspiration, excitement, art, history and beauty. The weather was the icing on the cake!

Carlos Place, Mayfair

Because of the great weather we did a lot of walking, through some beautiful streets and green spaces of London.

Discovering little out of the way places, like this church near the Connaught Hotel

And this park, Mount Street Gardens, next to the church

We stumbled upon Colefax & Fowler on Brook Street and were amazed to find this gorgeous garden at the back of the store.

A perfect little haven

And inside there was Nancy Lancaster's famous "yellow room"

The Royal Academy of Arts had a fabulous Richard Diebenkorn exhibition in its Sackler Galleries

And on this beautiful day, everyone was taking advantage of the sunshine

The National Gallery had the Inventing Impressionism show and the National Portrait Gallery had the John Singer Sargent, both of which were excellent. The portrait of the Victorian actress Ellen Terry dressed as Lady Macbeth and painted by Sargent took my breath away! The audio narrative on this was great. Apparently the spectacle of her arriving at Sargent's studio drew many visitors, including Oscar Wilde, who watched her being painted.

That day there was an organized run that went past Trafalgar Square, which was very exciting to see!

We went to the Wallace Collection for the first time where we were bowled over by the beauty of the place. This historic London town house sits on its own little square and is filled with old masters by English, French and Dutch artists.

Each gallery is a little gem

Another discovery was The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, an exquisite art space, where we saw the exhibition Painting Paradise, The Art of the Garden. It was stunning.

One beautiful room after another filled with art about gardens

I loved this painting

Of course, you can't go wrong hanging out at London's fabulous bookstores, such as Hatchard's.
We did a lot of this!

 All kinds of inspiration there

Or Liberty of London

Where they built a towering maypole out of their famous fabrics

I loved looking up

Evenings were filled with some great restaurant discoveries such as Cheyne Walk Brasserie

And walks through historic neighborhoods -- I thought that address sounded familiar!

Where literary giants lived

Evening walks took us past Duke's Hotel where Ian Fleming used to hang out and order martinis  "shaken, not stirred."

This place is filled with history

The Ritz Hotel

As is the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly where we went for the first time to experience the elegance. We were not disappointed. We sat with two of their signature cocktails and people-watched. There are so many stories attached to this place. Did  you know that Churchill, Eisenhower, and de Gaulle met in the Marie-Antoinette suite for summit meetings during the Second World War? And that Noel Coward wrote songs here? Tallulah Bankhead sipped Champagne from her slipper during a press conference in the 1950's. It was a favorite of Hollywood stars.

The Royal Opera House

And on a very special evening we went to the Royal Opera House to see the new ballet Woolf Works which was inspired by three of Virginia Woolf's novels. It was staggering in its poignancy and beauty. Please try to see this if they stage it again. Anyone who loves ballet would love this one. It is inventive, original, touching and very beautiful. The costumes, the lighting, the imagery projected onto the stage, and the dancing were very special. The creator of the ballet came out at the end to take a bow and the applause was rapturous!

"Woolf Works" at the Royal Opera House
This is a scene from the first act based on "Mrs. Dalloway"
Image via here

Back home at the Stafford Hotel we were given a tour of the wine cellar which was used as a bomb shelter during World War II. There are actually gas masks and other war paraphernalia from that time that have never been moved. Amazing. Some nights it was almost impossible to go to sleep with so many stories whirling around in my brain. London is endlessly fascinating.

Charleston Farmhouse

Which is why it's always a good idea to get out of the city and visit some gardens! Next up, two day trips out of London. One to Petersham Nurseries, a magical place for anyone who loves gardens. And another to Charleston Farmhouse where I learned something very interesting this time. It has to do with Clive Bell's bedroom. Virginia Woolf's spirit seemed to preside over this trip!


P.S. I would never have known about Petersham Nurseries or the Virginia Woolf ballet if it weren't for two lovely friends in London who kept me informed as I was planning my trip. I was able to see both of them while I was in London. I caught up with my friend Sarah Berry over tea and scones. She has worked in interior design over the years and I loved hearing about her exciting new career opportunities. And I was able to meet up with a new friend, Miranda Mills, of the beautiful and inspiring blog Miranda's Notebook. We got together over a glass of wine at Quo Vadis restaurant. I am so grateful to have made these friends through the world of blogging!


  1. Looks like an amazing trip! I am so intrigued by the Woolf-inspired ballets. I would love to see that someday.

  2. Wow, I am happy to go along virtually with you. I think the only thing I saw that you did was Trafalgar Square. My daughter went once with a personal guide and she said "mucking the Thames" when the tide went out was her favorite thing. She found pie stems, old thick glass panes, china shards and had a ball. Next time perhaps.

  3. Your beautiful photos of London capture its feel so well.You would love Ellen Terry's house in Smallhythe near the beautiful town of Tenterden in the weald of Kent.Ellen was a friend of my Grandmama's mother,and I inherited a painting of her in a period costume,she lead a very interesting life lol!

    1. Judith, how amazing! That painting must be a real treasure. And yes, I know about her house and would love to see it one day. There are so many homes and gardens to see in the English countryside!

  4. A truly wonderful trip.
    I can barely sit still as I await my own!

    1. Pamela, after seeing Scotland on my trip, I know you will have a wonderful trip there in September. Your advice was so helpful! A place of such beauty...
      xx Sunday

  5. Your trip has inspired us to book a trip in October to London and Scotland and although we have our favorite places in London, I'd love to see some new things, so will definitely be asking for suggestions. You were so lucky with the weather, and I wanted to see that Diebenkorn show very much, I'm sure it was fabulous. The National Portrait Gallery is one of my favorite museums in the world. I also love that you have drinks at different hotels, going to copy that!

  6. Oh you just posted my favorite places in London, Mount Street Gardens, where I sat healing from abroken heart, the wonderful church front, warms the cockles of my heart. Thank you.

  7. It was so wonderful to meet you Sunday! I so enjoyed our chat over a glass of wine :) I can't wait for you to come back to London. Your photos are gorgeous - I'm very impressed by how much you managed to do in the time you were here! Your picture of Mount Street gardens took me down memory - one of my very first jobs in London was at a rather posh Mayfair hair salon, and I used to eat my packed lunch in that garden every day! It was always a wonderful little escape. I really want to go to Colefax & Fowler now! Miranda xxx

  8. Thank you so much for all the gorgeous photos. I think it's time to start planning my next trip to London!

  9. Sunday....I loved everything you do and how you captured that in your blog. A perfect trip

  10. Oh Sunday, I just missed you! Isn't the Wallace Collection a wonderful gallery? The Joshua Reynolds exhibit was an extra treat; I fell in love with his 'The Strawberry Girl'.
    Our blog friends across the pond are stellar ambassadors. I was able to meet with five of them in May and their company always ends up being that bit of sparkle on a lovely trip.

  11. Another day sorted in London..........thank you Sunday

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