I've been making the most of my treat-to-myself membership of Kew Gardens (so wonderful), I've met up with a couple of crafty chums for tea and much nattering, and I've been to a few great exhibitions: Sherlock Holmes: the man who never lived and will never die at the Museum of London, Sargent: portraits of artists and friends at the National Portrait Gallery,and Magnificent Obsessions: the artist as collector at the Barbican.
The Sherlock Holmes exhibition was fascinating and jam-packed with interesting, thoughtfully presented things connected to the character and his creator, to the stories and TV shows and to Victorian London, the city that provided the backdrop for most of the tales. Some of the paintings in the Sargent exhibition were so enchanting, I could have stood and looked at them for hours. But my fave exhibition of the year so far has to be Magnificent Obsessions - so many varied, quirky collections! So much to see and think about re: art and inspiration and obsession!
I also spent a fabulous couple of hours visiting St Paul's Cathedral, the highlight of which was climbing to the top of the dome and looking out over London. Sadly my camera died when I reached the top but a kind fellow tourist took one of my business cards and emailed me some of her photos as a memento of the day. So nice! Fantastic views, an iconic building and the kindness of a stranger, what a great combo.
You can see the amazing views here (sunrise) and here (sunset)... or, of course, by visiting the Cathedral yourself and climbing the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery.
Another incredible space I visited recently was HMS Belfast - a former Royal Navy cruiser now permanently moored by Tower Bridge. This time I remembered to a) take my camera with me and b) charge it before I left for the day! (Hurrah!)
The HMS Belfast (like St Paul's) is one of the places where you can currently get discounted entry with an Art Pass. I had totally thought to myself "well, I might as well go and have a quick look round, seeing as it's half price with my Art Pass" and had planned to hop on the Tube afterwards to go somewhere else in the afternoon... and then I spent over three hours exploring all nine decks of the ship, climbing up and down ladders and peering into cabins, listening to all the stories on the audio guide, saying "wow!" a lot and being generally quite overwhelmed at how awesome it was.
After spending aaaaages happily looking round the Belfast, I had a late lunch (sadly the cafe on board is only open at the weekend - bear this in mind if you're planning a visit!) then went for a walk along the river...
This is Hay's Galleria, on the site of the now-filled-in Hay's Wharf - the dock itself (where merchant ships would arrive, filled with tea) is now filled in, the tea warehouses are offices and shops and the whole space has been given a fabulous glass roof.
The view across the river:
I loved this sculpture!
The Tower of London and Tower Bridge:
An old postbox by the bridge:
After reaching Tower Bridge I had planned to walk across it, but on a whim decided to keep walking along the riverfront and I'm glad I did as I not only got to tour a bit of the river I'd not been to before but also stumbled across a make-up advert being filmed which is not something you see every day!
I walked down to the Design Museum and had a look round their fab shop...
... and enjoyed the peace and quiet and quirky sights of assorted wharfs and converted warehouses.
Then I headed back to Tower Bridge...
... crossing over to the other bank...
... to visit St Katharine Docks, a smart marina tucked away next to the Tower of London.
St Katharine Docks is one of those slightly hidden places that's easy to miss when you first walk past - because of this, though it's right by the Tower and the bustle of all the tourists, it's quiet and peaceful and a lovely place for a walk and a quiet cuppa. Even the Starbucks is a bit posh (and much quieter than the tourist-packed branches nearby).
After admiring all the boats (and a couple of very fancy yachts!) I sat and had a cuppa and a bit of cake and read my book until the spring light faded to dusk and it was time to head home.
I suppose I ought to plan some non-London-based days out sometime soon but, ah, there is just so much to see in this city!