I've been trying to squeeze in as many visits to free-with-my-Art-Pass places as I can to get the best value I can from my membership. As well as saving money, this makes planning my trips easier as instead of picking something to do from the whole of London and several neighbouring counties I can just pick something from the list of places in my Art Fund Guide instead!
Recently I've visited the Handel House Museum, the Guards Museum and then in early July - when I needed to pick somewhere to visit before a Crafty Cuppa - I decided to visit Apsley House.
Apsley was the home of the Duke of Wellington and overlooks Hyde Park Corner and the Wellington Arch (which celebrates his victory over Napoleon). Apparently the statue at the top of the arch depicts the angel of Peace riding the chariot of War (in its place originally was a massive statue of Wellington on his horse!)
Dotted around the Arch are several other statues and war memorials - including the Royal Artillery Memorial, a Statue of Wellington on his horse (looking towards Apsley House), the Machine Gun Corps Memorial, and the New Zealand War Memorial.
I found the Australian War Memorial particularly moving - it's covered in the names of the thousands of towns where the soldiers were born, and some of the small letters are picked out in a bolder typeface so together they spell out the names of several of the battle sites they fought in.
Wellington Arch is usually open to the public (for a fee) but was closed when I visited, so I just had a look at the outside. The gates are pretty spectacular...
... and there are more fancy gates at the entrance to Hyde Park (love that shade of green!)...
... and at the front of Apsley House (which is just next door).
This was an interesting house to visit! Only half of the house is open to the public - the private half is occupied by the current Duke of Wellington and his family. The rooms you can look round feel like a cross between visiting a stately home and visiting a slightly old-fashioned military museum.
There are lots of paintings, and a whole room filled with gifts given to Wellington by assorted heads of State (porcelain dinner services seem to have been a popular choice). There's not a lot of information on display in each room, but there's an audio guide that takes you on a tour around the house. There are introductions to each room, optional guides to some of the objects in them, and background information about the life of the Duke of Wellington (his marriage, his military campaigns and so on).
Rather a nice touch is that the audio guide includes the current Duke's reminiscences of visiting the house as a boy (sliding down the bannisters, etc!). Apparently there's also a collection of the first Duke's personal memorabilia in the basement but I managed to miss that (oops).
Then it was time to head to the V&A for a Crafty Cuppa. I'd planned on hopping on the Tube but decided to walk as it had turned into such a lovely day.
It's funny when you walk in London how your mental map of the city changes. I'd not realised that Harrods was quite so close to the V&A as it actually is! I must remember to pop in for a look round next time I'm nearby, as I've never been to Harrods before (or to Harvey Nicks!).
At the V&A I met up with Jo. We had a lovely cuppa and cake in the spectacular cafe then pottered about the museum, chatting about sewing and blogging and lots of other crafty things.
It was lovely to meet Jo after chatting with her on Twitter, and to have some company exploring the museum and some of its treasures. Seeing the awesome patchwork bag she made to showcase some of her recent stitchy projects has made me very tempted to sew something similar, and our chat about the &Stitches picnic inspired me to start sewing my mini moss stitch squares into a picnic blanket.
Which reminds me, I have some more squares to stitch together!