London – the city full of surprises

It was a pretty standard issue Tuesday – got up and had a coffee, did my emails, a little work, went for a run round the park, then as a treat popped over to the new London Fields Street Kitchen for a half price lunch while they are settling in. That was delicious (roast lamb with roasted vegetables and crushed potatoes since you asked), so far so good. Then my friend mentioned she had to go central for an interview and was popping in to Sir John Soane’s Museum¬†before heading to that. I’d never heard of this place, but it sounded intriguing, so off we trotted on the central line, getting off at Holborn and heading round the corner to Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

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Its not an obvious spot (I had no idea that this park even existed, nor that the relatively unprepossessing front held the treasure trove behind its doors that it does). We were greeted by an extremely friendly¬†helper outside who explained various rules about turning phones on to silent, no photos, and what we could take in or had to leave in their cloakroom. On entry we signed a ledger, then bought a programme for a fiver – other than that it’s free other than voluntary donations.

Then we stepped in, and it’s hard to describe what lays within. I suspect I could go back every week for months and spot something new each time. In fact, some parts were a bit overwhelming at first. Soane was a successful architect, and the museum archives the artifacts he had acquired from around the world which presumably helped inspire his work, and showcases what he had done to the building to make it his own. There is certainly a leaning towards the classical Greek and Roman eras, which I suppose is to be expected from the era he was from (Soane died in 1837, the year of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne). The museum is pretty much as he left it when he died – that was one of the terms of the bequeathment.

Here’s a selection of images I found online that go some way towards doing it justice.

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I think I’ve made it pretty obvious, but I am smitten. I barely scratched the surface of the place in the hour or so I was there, so will certainly back. Sadly not tonight, which is a shame as apparently from 6pm-9pm on the first Tuesday of the month they close the sliding mirrored blinds (and I should mention, there are LOTS of mirrors of all sorts in this museum, many very cleverly positioned to fool the eye into thinking spaces are larger than they really are), and light the venue by candle, which I would imagine to be a simply glorious sight. They also, at 1pm and 2pm, have guided tours of recently opened “model rooms” upstairs which I’m intrigued to see. The library is stuffed full of fascinating sounding leather-bound tomes (which as far as I’m aware are strictly off limits for handling sadly!), and there is beautiful art in whatever direction you happen to be facing.

The many staff there were all incredibly helpful and friendly without being over-familiar, I really can’t say enough nice things about this amazing little place.

http://www.soane.org/