Showing posts with label Things to do. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Things to do. Show all posts
Although I mentioned in my last post that one of my favourite things about immersing yourself in a big city is discovering some super special secret gems, it's sometimes just as much fun to become something of a tourist in your own city and explore those must-visit destinations which you've never quite found the opportunity to get familiar with. I know I've got a list as long as my arm of London landmarks which are long overdue a visit- those instantly recognisable destinations which are so synonymous with the city and yet which are always fighting for competition against the latest hot ticket or something more temporary. One such place which I've been meaning to visit for an absolute eternity is the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, so when Hannah invited me along as her guest for a special bloggers preview of their much anticipated Summer Exhibition, I jumped at the chance:


The hubbub of the Summer Exhibition proved the perfect introduction to the Royal Academy of Arts, and although the installations were a little overwhelming to start with, it was fantastic to see such a variety of work on display, and having the chance to unpick each of the pieces as we made our way through the galleries was really fun, making the visit feel really interactive and personal too. There were lots of pieces which really stood out, including the incredible painted staircase by Jim Lambie, and Liam Gillick's plexiglass installation. I also loved Michael Landy's neon bubbles, Bluewolf by Jim Remfry and Mychael Barratt's London Map of Days- definitely a piece which I could have puzzled out all evening!

Havr you ever been to the Royal Academy of Arts?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

29.06.2015- The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a special preview of Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, the latest exhibition to take up residence at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace. After their amazing In Fine Style installation, this year the Royal Collection Trust are showcasing the best of British botany, theming the exhibition around royal gardens, horticulture and the art of depicting them on canvas. Encompassing a selection of work from artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Carl Fabergé and Maria van Oosterwyck, the exhibition also uncovers some of more unusual pieces, including a selection of vegetable themed table wear, and a gardening manual thought to date back to the reign of King Henry VIII:


Throughout the course of the exhibition, we learn that the concept of the garden becoming a pocket of paradise originated in Persia. Beautifully intricate images and illustrations of gardens can be found across Persian manuscripts, and, from this ancient tradition, the garden as we know and love it today came into existence. Depictions of gardens in Western Europe during the Middle Ages largely found their origins in religious texts, with this idyllic outdoor space becoming inexorably linked with notions of paradise and a utopian existence. It wasn't until the Renaissance that the garden took on a more regimented, architectural appeal- and the birth of horticultural design during this period is traced through many of the sketches and manuals which make up this section of the exhibition.

From here, and throughout the course of the Baroque period, gardens became vast, expansive and expensive- grand, sweeping status symbols which conveyed a distinct sense of power, but which were also depicted extensively across an array of artwork, again intended to invoke a sense of prestige and awe. As it progresses, the exhibition also traces the influence of botany and cultivation on the depiction of plants, as well as capturing the power of the landscape garden as a potent symbol of enlightenment and a social space like no other. The widening appeal of gardening is captured through an array of Victorian artworks, and from here we also learn about the significance and subtleties of the language of flowers.

If you're a budding botanist or an avid artist, then definitely pop a visit to Painting Paradise onto your to-do list. It's a lovely little oasis of calm to visit just a stone's throw away from the hubbub of Buckingham Palace, and I learnt so much from my visit. Now, where did I put my watering can??!

Have you visited any interesting exhibitions recently?

(Image ctedit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

08.04.2015- Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

I know that summer seems like a long distant memory now, but back in July I spent a lovely few days away from work, catching up with friends exploring some holiday-at-home favourites. When the weather co-operates, there are some amazing stay at home destinations to explore, particularly if you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of a big city like London and aren't jetting off on holiday. Finding ourselves at a bit of a loose end, my lovely friend Kate and I jumped on the train down to Sussex, heading for one of my favourite places (and something of a spiritual home!)- Arundel Castle:


I think I've mentioned a few times that my grandparents used to live in Arundel- so any visit back to a place which holds such lovely childhood memories (including horses turning up in the back garden!) is always a welcome one. Truth be told, I hadn't realised how much I'd missed making regular trips down, and it's been lovely to rediscover such a gorgeous, tranquil corner of the world with a better appreciation of it as a (sort of!) adult. Shamefully, up until last year I'd only ever explored a tiny section of the castle, so getting to know it and the beautiful gardens properly has been fantastic.

The original castle motte dates back to the 11th century, and was built during the reign of William the Conqueror, sustaining an important defensive position on the banks of the River Arun. Exploring the oldest parts of the castle, particularly the keep, you get a real sense of how vast the surrounding area is, and how strategically important the castle would have been to protect the south coast from invasion. From the date of the original construction until today, the castle has been the hereditary seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, passing successively through the generations in the face of executions, civil war and sieges. Although on occasion badly damaged, the castle has been carefully restored, and the sense of living history which welcomes you as you explore is second to none- needless to say that my not-so-secret inner Game of Thrones fan was in her element! 

As well as the sense of history which permeates the castle, the gardens are also beautiful- and perhaps my favourite part of Arundel to explore. The space has changed hugely since I was little (or perhaps I've just got bigger!), and it's amazing to see how perfectly and painstakingly maintained each area is- standouts for me include the Cut Flower garden and the Organic Kitchen garden. The whole area is the perfect tranquil escape, particularly as the gardens sit in the shadow of Arundel Cathedral (where my parents got married!), and is just around the corner from where my grandparents lived when my grandad used to work for the Norfolk estate. It goes without saying that Arundel has a hugely special place in my heart, and I'm so so glad that I've been able to rediscover and appreciate it now as an adult- and I'm sure that another return visit won't be too far away. 

Have you visited anywhere special recently?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

20.10.2014- Day Tripping: Arundel Castle

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to swap my usual end of the week surroundings for the peace and tranquility of The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers. I'd been invited along to their very special Vintage Flowers course for the day, and the prospect of spending the day surrounded by beautiful blooms was one which was simply too tempting to resist. Regular readers will know that I'm a little bit of a flower fiend, and after getting to grips with the garden and paying a visit to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier in the year, my fingers have been getting gradually greener. The opportunity to learn a lot more about floristry and the process of putting together pretty, professional posies was something which also hugely welcome after a stressful few weeks- here's a little look at how I got on:


After having a lovely introduction to the Academy from owner and principal Gillian Wheeler, Madeline gave us all a demonstration of how to put together the perfect hand-tie. To begin with, we learnt all about the importance of conditioning your flowers- making sure that they're perfectly prepared to take pride of place in your bouquet. This involves stripping away a lot of the leaves, taking the thorns away from your roses, and cutting your blooms to the perfect size, whilst ensuring that they're going to last for as long as possible- thanks to the clever 'drinking straw' diagonal cut which allows them to soak up as much water as they need. From there, we moved on to arranging our hand ties, using plenty of foliage such as salal and eucalyptus to provide the basic spiral shape and structure needed for a hand tie, before adding in the beautiful flowers which we had selected from the amazing array on offer at the Academy. Keeping the vintage theme of the day in mind, I opted for plenty of roses and a pretty, pale colour palette, adding freesia and heather to incorporate different textures and a few delicate touches to my finished bouquet.


As the afternoon progressed, we were given the chance to put together a quintessentially vintage arrangement, this time using the smaller offcuts from the morning session. Making sure that nothing goes to waste, putting together lovely little arrangements like this is not only a really thrifty option but working with such small, delicate blooms is something which I found really relaxing. Using some beautiful vintage china, we created smaller scale arrangements in teacups- perfect for using as table decorations or to give as gifts. Again, I used roses, freesias and delicate little cuttings of heather and lemon balm for my arrangement- and over a week later it's still going strong!


Overall, I had such a lovely day and learnt so much about conditioning and arranging flowers. I walk past the Academy so regularly and usually admire their beautiful arrangements from afar, so the opportunity to find out more about everything which they have to offer was amazing, and it was so therapeutic to switch off from everything in the outside world and focus on all things floral for a day. A huge thank you to Gillian, Fleur and the team for hosting such a lovely day, and to Priscilla for inviting me along- I'm sure it won't be too long before I'm back again! 

Have you ever tried flower arranging?

*I was invited along to the Vintage Flowers course as a guest of The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers. As always, my opinions and impressions are 100% honest- as is my new found ambition to open my own flower shop!*
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

28.09.2014- The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers