Museum Lates

In all the years I have been living in London, I have been to most museums numerous times (not the V&A yet, much to my chagrin, but I intend to change that VERY soon!). What I had however not yet managed was attending one of the museum lates most of them offer, mainly on a Friday night, some every week, some on set days of a month.

So I was beyond excited when my lovely friend Richard kindly agreed to accompany me to one of them last Friday evening. Our choice fell on the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, always a winner when it comes to art. I hadn’t been there for well over a year in which time they appear to have moved their entrance just to confuse me.

I have a profound weakness for the old masters, you feel quite humbled in the presence of some of their works, several metres wide and high, with frames that are an artwork in themselves. I deeply admire the capability of their craft, as well as the determination, willpower and determination they must have possessed to visualise their ideas in the first place and then being equally apt at putting them on canvas.

Of course we were not the only ones having the idea to visit that evening, but overall it is a lot calmer in the halls. No school children and I would assume less tourists too, but quite a few artists bringing their own interpretations of the exhibited works to paper. I do apologise to anyone who now feels reminded of that rather weird woman staring at their sketch books last Friday, likelihood is it was yours truly. Take it as a compliment!

We were lucky enough to catch the separate exhibition of Boilly’s Scenes of Parisian Life in one of the smaller rooms and if you have the time to see it, I would highly recommend you do. Spanning the times of the French Revolution, the times of Napoleon and the Restoration of the French Monarchy, his paintings are often making one medium appear like another (a stroke of genius) and his tromp d’oeils are just beautiful.

It is worth checking out what the place you want to visit has to offer, as you can not only visit the different galleries but quite often you have a chance to attend a special tour or talk that is not available during the standard opening hours. And the best thing: most of these things are free (of course some special exhibitions or tours carry a charge but in general, they do not). That is probably one of the things I love most about this – if you really have an interest in arts, history or science, it is available to everyone.

Hill Garden & Pergola, Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath might not be in the city, but it is London nonetheless and such a beautiful and tranquil place, it is well worth a visit throughout the year. The Pergola itself is a little faded – which I think only adds to the appeal of the structure – a once glorious raised walkway from Edwardian times, giving you some fantastic views over the Heath. It’s a little overgrown in places, giving it even more character and just so, so pretty. It used to be part of the gardens of a stately home, aptly called The Hill, which has now been converted into private residences after a stint in the possession of Manor House Hospital. No wonder it has popped up on my Instagram on numerous occasions.

I went for the first time last year in early September with my lovely friend Nelly because we fancied a change of scenery and some fresh air to go with our Sunday lattes. We missed the roses in bloom, so that is earmarked to go back to in the spring, but none the less it turned out to be a great idea. Parking is easy to find and walking over the Heath itself is just lovely. The Pergola is a quite popular spot to visit so we were not the only ones heading that way but it was surprisingly quiet, although I’m certain that isn’t always the case.

I probably could have done a little more research into the area beforehand as we entirely missed out on the deer in Golders Hill Park as well as Kenwood House which is just a little walk away. Although that might make two additional visits; I’d love to bring my kids because there are plenty of things to keep them occupied but they might not appreciate being dragged around stuffy old places where they are not allowed to touch anything.

Never mind – there is always the next child-free Sunday coming up and we are planning on taking a picnic along in the summer months as the whole area just screams out for a day of frolics in the sun, taking it easy and just enjoying a little time out before returning to the buzz of day to day life.

Afternoon Tea @ Podium

January has a tendency to be drab, so what better way to spend a Tuesday afternoon by having afternoon tea, crafted by the winners of the professionals version of GBBO? Podium is located in the Hilton on Park Lane, it’s modern, bright and spacious and just so you don’t make the same mistake like we did and look a little stupid, the entrance is inside the hotel, not outside.

It wasn’t too busy, which was really nice and we started off with some canape style sandwiches. Slightly unglam to try and eat the prawn cocktail one with your fingers, thank God I had a napkin over my lap. I admit I picked the raisins out of the coronation chicken one though, I just can’t stand the damn things. Our waitress was really lovely offering us a second plate each which we happily accepted due to a) a lack of decent breakfast and b) them being rather delicious.

Cake time. You just need to look at the pic and their yumminess is jumping at you but my two favourites were the caramelised banana macaroon (yes, that combination surprised me too, but it really worked and it tasted great) and the Pina Colada cheesecake. Not that the others weren’t superb too, but these two I could eat every day, all day. With a couple of prawn cocktail or salmon and horseradish sandwiches thrown in. There were a couple of additions to your traditional scones, in the form of a chocolate chip one and some salted caramel spread. I know it’s a chef’s job to come up with things like that but still, awesome idea.

Due to the double amount of sandwiches we had consumed earlier, we had to fight our way through the cake. It always amazes me just how filling afternoon tea turns out to be, with it’s minute portions. Podium do super cute cake boxes, and they are even better when they contain those you didn’t manage to eat. So I had the pleasure of having my deconstructed Black Forest gateau at 11pm in front of the TV. Quite the upgrade to the usual I must say.

I need to work my way round quite a number of places offering afternoon tea, but Podium is definitely on the list for a second visit.