London: Off The Beaten Track

It was my birthday recently, and as I had taken Annabelle on a historical tour of Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick for hers, she decided to take me out for a surprise ‘day of revelry’ in the greatest city in the world, London. 

Even though I had no idea what we would be doing, I knew that it would be packed to the brim with history…I mean, how else would you celebrate a Hive birthday?!

First stop was breakfast at our favourite spot; The Breakfast Club! With our tummies fit to burst with a whopping portion of Eggs Royale and Chorizo Hash Browns, we ventured out into the wind and rain to our first stop, the Geffrye Museum.

Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum, located on Kingsland Road, is set in idyllic 18th Century almshouses. The museum is devoted to the history of the home and shows how homes and gardens reflect changes in society, behaviour, style and taste over the past 400 years.

thumbnailgenerator.ashxThe Geffrye Museum.

Source: geffrye-museum.org.uk

If you are visiting the museum in the run up to Christmas, authentic festive decorations transform the museum’s period rooms. From the hanging of holly and mistletoe, to the emergence of the Christmas tree; each room is authentically decorated to reflect the period setting.

We all know the hallmarks of each period in terms of furnishings and decoration, however, the museum puts the differences between the centuries in stark contrast. The only let down for me, was the fact the weather ruined our chances of discovering the gardens.

Overall, the Museum is a great little find, and as it’s free to enter it is the perfect stop for families during the holidays.

A trip on the bus, and we were ready for our next destination of the day.

Historic Royal Palaces: Banqueting House

A huge faux pas on my part, is the fact I have never visited Banqueting House before…I know, shock horror! And with it being so centrally located, I cannot believe it myself.

Walking up the steps to enter the banqueting hall, I stole a glance of the famous painted ceiling. I wish I hadn’t…I wish I had waited until I entered the room to see it in all its stunning, wondrous glory.  Despite ruining the surprise for myself, I was still momentarily incapacitated. What an amazing feat of architectural genius. The room’s proportions are immense, and the impact is incredible.

JF208585_942longFYI: We have purposefully cut out the ceiling, as you must see it with your own eyes!

Source: londontown.com

For those not in the know, the building is important in the history of English architecture as the first building to be completed in the neo-classical style which was to transform English architecture.

Begun in 1619, and designed by Inigo Jones in a style influenced by Palladio, the Banqueting House was completed in 1622 at a cost of £15,618, 27 years before King Charles I was executed on a scaffold in front of it in January 1649.

To my delight, in a move reminiscent of Secret’s of The Royal Bedchamber at Hampton Court, Banqueting House has a ring of bean bags for patrons to lie back on and simply stare at the ceiling. Annabelle and I must have laid there for a good half an hour in utter silence. There is so much to see in each of the paintings.

After this we needed refreshment, which came in the form of BB Bakery at County Hall. Macaron’s and English Breakfast Tea all round – Very Marie Antoinette!

cakeGet yourself to BB Bakery…NOW!

Source: Image courtesy of Jenna Collier

After an hour spent hovering around the German Market stalls on the Southbank, we needed something to warm our cockles, which is why we found ourselves at Gordon’s Wine Bar…

Gordon’s Wine Bar

Gordon’s Wine Bar is thought to be the oldest wine bar in London, and has existed in its present form since 1890. To call it unique would be an understatement. As I descended the steps, I found myself truly believing I had taken a step back in time. The old walls are covered in newspaper cuttings, and old memorabilia faded from the years gone by.

gordons-wine-bar-london-(by-olga-pavlovsky)The unique cosiness of Gordon’s Wine Bar.

Source: spottedbylocals.com

It was busy, but we managed to find a candlelit table in the cellar area. We ordered a bottle of wine from the expansive list and took to our table to enjoy the authenticity of this wonderful little spot. Hours later, we queued for food. Gordon’s serves beautifully matured cheeses from around the world, with great pickles and chutneys to enjoy alongside. It simply is cheese and wine heaven.

Interesting Fact! – The building which houses the bar was once home to Samuel Pepys and Rudyard Kipling.

If you are above the age of 18, then we pretty much INSIST that wine and history are enjoyed simultaneously.

And so, with the lights fading on the streets outside, we ventured towards Leicester Square for our final stop of the day…the Prince Charles Theatre.

Prince Charles Theatre

Built between 1961-2, the Prince Charles Theatre originally functioned as a theatre with a distinctive ‘satellite dish’ curve to the floor of the stalls. The venue later operated as a porn cinema whose screenings included the UK’s longest run of ‘Emmanuelle and Caligula’.

downstairs3Prince Charles Cinema.

Source: princecharlescinema.com

The theatre is rumoured to have a ghost that haunts the upper levels of the cinema. Sighted by several members of staff, the spectre has apparently tidied up mess and adjusted the volume on films. The upper level of the cinema falls within the former site of the 17th-century Leicester House, which was later converted into the Holophusikon – a museum of curiosities, including many artefacts from Captain James Cook’s voyages.

The cinema plays a programme of cult, arthouse and classic films alongside recent Hollywood releases. And what was the movie of choice on our day out? Sing-Along Muppets Christmas Carol of course!

Why not do as we did, and plan a day of activities off the usual tourist track? If you would like to recommend some of your own personal favourites, please let us know in the comment box below.

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1 Comment

  • Just thought I’d mention there is a fantastic Vietnamese cafe down the road from the Geffrye Museum called the ‘Song Que Cafe’ – the soft shell crab and summer rolls are especially good!
    Although Gordon’s Wine bar looks fantastic, will definitely be visiting there soon!

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