Mu­se­ums and mews

Royal parks and cul­tural col­lec­tions in the English me­trop­o­lis

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JANE PAECH

PALACE IN THE HEART: Orig­i­nally a play­ground for young roy­als, the emer­ald-green oa­sis of Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens is a par­adise for chil­dren and adults alike with a pi­rate-themed play­ground and ex­panses of meadow. Gather some good­ies for a pic­nic from Whole Foods Mar­ket (the ded­i­cated cheese room has one of the best se­lec­tions in the city) or visit Kens­ing­ton Palace, home to Wil­liam and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge. The most in­ti­mate of the royal res­i­dences in Lon­don, vis­i­tors can ex­plore the state apart­ments along with spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions, in­clud­ing fash­ion from the col­lec­tions of the Queen, Princess Mar­garet and Diana. Af­ter­noon tea on the ter­race of The Orangery is a per­fect way to soak up the set­ting. Or­ange-scented scones served with Cor­nish clot­ted cream and straw­berry jam ac­com­pany dainty cu­cum­ber sand­wiches and a pot of fine tea. More: whole­foods­mar­ket.com; hrp.org.uk; or­angerykens­ing­ton­palace.co.uk.

SEA­SON’SS BEST: The round red-brick Royal Alb bert Hall hosts a broad pro­gram of events but is f fa­mous for the BBC Proms, the world’s largest an­nual se­ries of clas­si­cal mu­sic con­certs held each sum­mer. The thrilling sea­son sees a bevy of fa­mous names and or­ches­tras grace the stage as well as new works and tal­ent. The most highly sought-af­ter ticket on the cal­en­dar is for the Last Night of the Proms, a fab­u­lous and ex­u­ber­ant dis­play of Bri­tish­ness (Septem­ber 10 this year). Those who miss out could head to Hyde Park where the con­cert is streamed live un­der the stars. More: roy­alal­berthall.com; bbc.co.uk/proms.

TEAT AND TELL: Lon­don’s mu­seum quar­ter boasts three of Lon­don’s big­gest and best, all with free en­try. Founded in 1852, the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert holds the world’s largest col­lec­tion of dec­o­ra­tive arts and de­sign. High­lights in­clude the splen­did Ard­abil car­pet, the world’s old­est dated floor cov­er­ing, and seven Raphael Car­toons from 1515, painted de­signs for the ta­pes­tries at the Sis­tine Chapel. A fab­u­lous col­lec­tion of fash­ion dat­ing from the 1300s to con­tem­po­rary times is also on dis­play. Tea in the Mu­seum Cafe is a must to ap­pre­ci­ate the won­der­fully his­toric set­ting of the world’s first mu­seum restau­rant. Choose from three rooms dec­o­rated with ex­quis­ite tiled walls and mu­rals, grand arches and ethe­real stained-glass win­dows. More: vam.ac.uk. At The Science Mu­seum, gog­gle at the first Ap­ple com­puter, a seven-toed cat and what your face will look like as you age. Then marvel at the di­nosaur gallery and the gi­gan­tic Diplodocus in the cen­tral hall of the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum. The build­ing is a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop to the en­chant­ing out­door ice rink set up in win­ter. More: sci­ence­mu­seum.org.uk; nhm.ac.uk.

HYDE AND SEEK: On sunny days, a stroll or cy­cle around the Ser­pen­tine Lake in Hyde Park is a won­der­ful way to feel con­nected to Lon­don. Bikes can be hired in the gar­dens and you can stop to visit the Ser­pen­tine Gallery, which shows free con­tem­po­rary art ex­hi­bi­tions. At the Ser­pen­tine Cafe, watch the row­boats slip through the sun-dap­pled wa­ter, rent a ped­alo or even a deck chair to doze in the sun. In sum­mer there’s a lido for those brave enough to dip their toes in the chilly wa­ter. More: ser­pen­tine­gallery.org; roy­al­parks.org.uk.

FARE THEE WELL: Sally Clarke’s epony­mous restau­rant has been a well-loved fix­ture on High Street, Kens­ing­ton for more than three decades. A pi­o­neer in the re­vival of high-qual­ity Bri­tish food, her stylish farm-to-ta­ble es­tab­lish­ment has a menu laden with in­ter­est­ing veg­eta­bles, leaves and herbs, and there’s a smash­ing set-lunch menu. You might find slow-baked leg of Lan­cashire duck with pome­gran­ate, or­ange and sage, or rhubarb and ap­ple po­lenta crum­ble with cin­na­mon cream. More: sal­lyclarke.com. All wood and warmth, Maggie Jones feels like a rus­tic English farm­house, with cosy din­ing rooms ram­bling over three rick­ety floors. Gen­er­ous por­tions of clas­sic Bri­tish com­fort food, in­clud­ing tra­di­tional pies and puds, are dashed up­stairs on vin­tage English plates. The restau­rant, at 6 Old Court Place, is named as an alias for Princess Mar­garet who of­ten dined here, book­ing un­der the name Maggie Jones. More: maggie-jones.co.uk.

T TAKE A TIP­PLE: Duck into flower-be­decked b boozer The Churchill Arms for an ale or two and a snoop at some Win­ston Churchill mem­o­ra­bilia. This ec­cen­tric pub is one of the most heav­ily dec­o­rated in Lon­don. More: churchillarmskens­ing­ton.co.uk. Al­ter­na­tively, the smart Kens­ing­ton Wine Rooms of­fers an ex­ten­sive range by the glass, right through to a pricey Bordeaux first growth. More: wine­rooms.lon­don.

OUT­DOOR OPERA: The densely wooded Hol­land Park is a ro­man­tic spot with strut­ting pea­cocks and the tran­quil Kyoto Japanese Gar­den. At its cen­tre is the re­mains of Hol­land House, a Ja­cobean mansion built in 1605 that forms a back­drop in sum­mer to a sea­son of opera staged un­der a gi­ant canopy. Par­ties of four or six can in­dulge in a clas­sic English Pic­nic Pack­age, col­lect­ing their wicker bas­ket on ar­rival. There’s a great ad­ven­ture play­ground, and Hol­land Walk will take you from High Street, Kens­ing­ton straight through to Not­ting Hill. This year’s sea­son in­cludes Die Fle­d­er­maus (late July and early Au­gust) and The Queen of Spades (Au­gust). More: op­er­a­hol­land­park.com.

EMERG­ING ART: The Royal Col­lege of Art boasts many cel­e­brated alumni, from sculp­tor Henry Moore and illustrator Quentin Blake to gar­den de­signer Gertrude Jekyll. Ranked the top post-grad art and de­sign school in the world, the grad­u­ate shows in June and early July are a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence “the very best of emerg­ing con­tem­po­rary art and de­sign prac­tice”. Much of the work at the free ex­hi­bi­tions is for sale or com­mis­sion, rang­ing from paint­ings and photography to sculp­ture, jew­ellery and tex­tiles. More: rca.ac.uk.

MEWSM OF THE DAYS: Dur­ing Vic­to­rian times, cob­bled lanes known as mews backed on to grand homes and housed the sta­bles. Nowa­days, they have been trans­formed into sought-af­ter res­i­dences that of­fer a quiet re­treat from city life. One of the most pic­turesque is Ky­nance Mews. On its western side, a tan­gle of creep­ers climbs walls, ter­ra­cotta pots spill over with camel­lias and a set of old stone steps leads up to an an­cient church. Stan­hope Mews is a riot of flow­ers in sum­mer, while Queen’s Gate Mews is home to The Queen’s Arms, a popular pub with Prom­mers and mu­sic stu­dents. More: the­queen­sarmskens­ing­ton.co.uk. TOUCH OF CLASS: The el­e­gant Kens­ing­ton and South Kens­ing­ton dis­tricts make an ideal base forf a Lon­don hol­i­day. To savour the sur­rounds in small, leisurely bites, stay in one of the Lon­don Per­fect group’s hand-se­lected, stylish rentals. The ex­pan­sive, three-storey Vic­to­ria (pic­tured), for ex­am­ple, has all the com­forts of a pri­vate home on a street where Queen Vic­to­ria’s ladies in wait­ing once lived. The Mid­dle­ton is set on a charm­ing mews mo­ments from Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens while the lux­u­ri­ous Rock­ing­ham is steps from Mu­seum Row. More: lon­don­per­fect.com. If a ho­tel ap­peals, Fir­m­dale’s Num­ber Six­teen is a gem with a se­cluded feel, co-owner and de­signer Kit Kemp’s trade­mark eclec­tic decor, and one of Lon­don’s pret­ti­est ho­tel gar­dens. More: fir­m­dale­ho­tels.com. • visitbri­tain.com/au

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