The main reason for going to London (this time) were to meet up with N and A, and to see Neil give his lecture, but happily there was also time for other fun things.
When I first got to London, I met up with N and we had a delightful lunch at Nopi, Yotam Ottolenghi's restaurant.
I did not know before that yogurt could be caramalised, but it seems that it can... !
(the restaurant also has the most disconcerting bathrooms ever - they have infinitely reflecting mirrors, a little like an unusually refined funfair...
Very elegant to have around the basins, but I am not wholly convinced that having multiple, full-length mirrors, in a lavatory cubicle is entirely appealing...)
After lunch we went to Foyles, for some book shopping. They had a delightful display of penguins in the window (the artist was Chloe Spicer) . The penguins were made from, and celebrating the Penguin 'Little Black Classics'.
I was a little sad that perfectly good little books had died to make the little penguins, but they do seem to be happy, book-loving penguins, so I shall get over it!
I had not intended to buy any books, as they are heavy to carry, and I do have several lovely local bookshops, but I was unable to resist temptation. I have never found it easy to leave a bookshop without buying books, or indeed to pass a bookshop without going in.
Only two of the books I bought were full size, though. . . I did bring some little black penguin classics home with me, although I have not the skill to turn them into actual penguins after reading them..
We had time for some tea and cake before heading to Neil's lecture, and also to admire the beautiful Burmese cat living at N's BandB, which was very nice!
On the Wednesday, I had most of the day to myself, as my train was not until late afternoon.
I started off with a visit to Leighton House Museum, the former home of Frederic, Lord Leighton, who had the house built in 1866, and then extended a few years later to house Leighton's collection of tiles and other artifacts collected in the Middle East, and it is an amazing building.
(photo of 'The Roses of Heliogabulus from exhibition website)
It is also, currently, housing an exhibition of Victorian artwork owned by Mexican collector Juan Antonio Pérez Simón, and featuring in particular, Alma Tadema's The Roses of Heliogabalus, which was displayed in a rose-scented room!
For me, the highlight was not the artwork, but the building itself.
(photo of Arab Hall from museum website)
The house features the wonderful 'Arab Hall',a beautiful space, decorated with Iznik (Turkish) and Syrian tiles, and modern tiles made by William de Morgan to compliment the originals, and fill in the gaps.
The hall is topped by a glorious golden dome, and contains a fountain.
I had arrived just as the museum opened and was lucky enough to have the hall to myself for a time, to enjoy the tranquility and the beautiful details.
The entrance hall is also lovely, with the most glorious peacock-blue tiles on the walls, although frustratingly, you are not allowed to take pictures, (and the selection of postcards was very limited :( )
The exhibition is ending at the end of this month, but the house is open all year round, and is more than worth visiting!
After leaving Leighton House, I moved on to another exhibition (also close to ending!) - the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London.
The museum have the outside of the museum in an appropriate manner, and inside are all sorts of interesting things - after entering through a 'secret' door, there is a lot of information about Victorian London, including maps (some showing the routes taken by Holmes and Watson in specific stories, and the method of travel ( foot, cab, rail etc)
There was art, both contemporary art and photographs of London (Including a slightly unexpected Monet!), original illustrations from the stories, and a selection of posters and other artwork relating to various other iterations of the stories, including the Robert Downey Jnr. film, and a french pornographic film..
Further into the exhibition were some of Conan Doyle's original manuscripts, and information and artifacts related to criminal investigation in the Holmes era, plus examples of clothing, accessories etc. of the period. (including theatrical make up and props)
And, of course, props from some of the dramatisations, including Benedict Cumberatch's coat from the BBC's Sherlock.
I found it entertaining, but not quite the 'must see' which some of the reviews I have read suggested.
I finished up by wandering around the rest of the museum, including the parts devoted to Roman and Medieval London, before heading back to the station (and a *very* crowded train home.
Now to start planning what I shall do with my next visit to London, when I shall have another couple of days . . .