Saturday 5 April 2014

A Busy Spring Day in London - the Country Living Spring Fair, Regents Park & the Jewish Museum

A couple of Sundays ago I had a nice day out in London. It wasn't the best timing in the world as I was off to Manchester the next day for a holiday and had a gazillion things to get done before I left but (as so often happens when I think I'm too busy for a day off) I managed to get everything done in time (the magic power of a fixed deadline!) and the stress started melting away the moment the train pulled out of the station.

Why was I going to London when I was so busy and about to go on holiday anyway? Well, I had a free ticket to the Country Living Spring Fair (courtesy of the same lovely folks who gave me a pair of tickets to giveaway the month before) and after missing last year's Christmas Fair because I foolishly forgot to take my ticket with me (oops) there was no way I was going to miss the Spring Fair too!

I got the Tube to Angel and headed to the Business Design Centre where the Fair was being held. It wasn't hard to find, not least because there was a whole group of ladies with Cath Kidston handbags, colourful scarves and great jewellery all heading in the same direction whom I (correctly) suspected were going the same way I was. 

The first thing that you saw when entering the hall was a charming "spring garden" where there were people on hand to answer questions about the garden, and give demonstrations and talks at various points during the day.


The whole hall was decorated with a lovely springtime theme, with a large faux cherry blossom tree in the centre, mini daffs up all the staircases, and a maypole-effect created with fabric banners hanging from the ceiling...


There was a timetable of craft workshops and talks running throughout the day but I didn't attend any of them - I felt a bit weird going to a craft workshop on my own and managed to miss the talk I was interested in because I was too busy nattering to some of the lovely stallholders!

I sampled some yummy chocolate at the Green & Black's stand (their new orange bar = particularly lush), met a couple of lambs at the Real Farm Holidays stand and had a cuppa in the Whittard Tea Room.

Mostly though I just browsed all the lovely stalls - there was food, clothing, scarves, jewellery, homewares, stationery, art, things for the garden and even craft supplies. All very tempting! I am trying to save my pennies at the moment so I didn't buy much (just a couple of cards and an adorable little brown bird ornament for my mother's garden) but oh my goodness it was hard to resist certain things. I did pick up lots of business cards though for future shopping / gift-buying as I discovered several new-to-me shops and artists.

Predictably, my favourite stalls were all either crafty ones or ones where designers / makers / artists were selling their own handmade wares. Online shopping is great but there's nothing quite like being able to see things "in person" and to chat to the people who made them!

I loved the ribbons and other pretty craft supplies being sold by Jane Means and it was great to meet Mandy Shaw (whose book Stitch at Home I reviewed earlier this year) and see her new book, Celebrate with a Stitch.

I recognised the work of Charlotte Macey Textiles (so nice) and discovered Linen Prints (just too gorgeous) ...

... chatted to the lovely Hilary Jane and fell in love with the work of Amanda Ross.

I was also delighted to see Jan Constantine's fabulous hand embroidered cushions (which are even more gorgeous in person than they look in pictures) and to chat to Jan herself about her work and the fair.

Other stalls I loved included Emma Hardicker (beautiful prints), Nixey & Godfrey (who sell "objects & curiosities"), Sophie Allport (charming homewares), Lizzie Searle (fun textile jewellery), Material Pleasures (lovely ceramics) and Caroline Chappell (colourful recipe prints & postcards).

I think I could have spent a lot longer at the fair if I'd been visiting with a friend (chatting about all the lovely things on display, going to some workshops, nattering over tea and cake, etc) but since I was on my own I decided to head somewhere else for the afternoon.
The Jewish Museum (one of the places I can get in free with my Art Pass) is just a few stops away on the Tube, but since it was a lovely sunny spring day I got off a couple of stops early and walked the rest of the way. I got off at Euston and walked up the Euston Road... 

... calling in at the Wellcome Collection on the way. They're in the middle of a big renovation at the moment so are partially closed, so I just had a quick look round the (rather interesting) Medicine Now exhibition.


Then I carried on walking...

... until I reached Regents Park, which is one of London's parks that I'd never visited before. I only saw part of it (the whole park covers about 400 acres) but enjoyed my walk through the Avenue Gardens and English Gardens and past London Zoo.

I loved that fancy planter, and this water fountain:

The park was full of people out enjoying the spring and instagramming the heck out of it! The blossom was looking especially lovely with what looked like an engagement photo shoot happening under one of the blossom-heavy trees (adorable).


After I reached the other side of the park I continued to stroll at a leisurely pace admiring London in the sunshine...

... until I reached the nearby Jewish Museum.

It feels a bit wrong to say that I enjoyed a visit to a museum that made me cry twice (the Holocaust gallery is, as you'd imagine, very moving) but I really did. It's a great little museum, with lots of interesting things displayed really well and I learned quite a lot about Judaism and British Jewish History.

The current exhibition about the Jewish experience of the First World War was very interesting and I loved how throughout the museum they've used individuals' stories and experiences to tell wider stories. Nice cafe, too!

I walked to the nearest Tube...

... then called in at the National Gallery on my way home to visit the Strange Beauty exibition. I'd been really excited to see this as I love the period of German art the exhibition focused on but sadly it proved a bit of a disappointing end to an otherwise great day.

Luckily my Art Pass meant I only paid £3.50 instead of the full £7 ticket price but I really should have googled some reviews before going as it turns out that the majority of the exhibition was made up of pictures which I've already seen many times as they're part of the National Gallery's permanent (and free to visit) collection. 

Also several of the cards with info about the paintings had fallen off the wall and were propped up on the floor where you had to crouch down to view them (not great), and the exhibition as a whole felt quite thin... not least because a whole room of the exhibition space was just for people to leave comments about the exhibition's themes ("what is beauty?" etc).

I was quite amused to see a comment card saying "Did I seriously just pay £7 to see National Gallery pictures on a different floor?" and another next to it replying "I THINK THAT WE JUST DID!" (haha). I love the National Gallery and they are welcome to my £3.50, they're a great gallery full of amazing things, but building an exibition around paintings that are normally free to view is just, well, a bit strange.

Overall though: a fair (with cute lambs and free chocolate), two exhibitions, a sunny walk through a park and an interesting museum = a rather awesome spring day out!

[Disclaimer: I was given a free ticket to the Country Living Spring Fair but, as always, my opinions are my own and totally honest].


bairozan said...

What a great day! The Craft Fair looks fabulous!

Tumus said...

That is a LOT of walking. So jealous of your Country Living Fair ticket. I hope to go to one here in Ohio in the Fall. I love the Linen I "need" anymore pillows lol. And Reagents Park, 400 acres?! Wowzers. That's gotta be the biggest open space in London.

Bugs and Fishes said...

bairozan - it was a really lovely fair! I hope I get a chance to go to one of the Christmas ones :)

Tumus - haha, yes, this is my Nice Day Out exercise plan to help combat all the days I spend sitting hunched over a laptop / curled up on the sofa sewing. Lots and lots of walking!

Amazingly there are bigger spaces - Regents Park is one of the biggest in central London but Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens (which join together) are a bigger combined area and then there's places like Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common and the huge Richmond Park further out in the 'burbs. Lots of green spaces to enjoy :)