Buckingham Palace – A Royal Welcome

 

Each summer The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are opened to the paying public. As well as enjoying the grandeur, a ‘special exhibition’ is included to add more interest (and to encourage repeat visitors).

This year’s special exhibition looks at how people are welcomed to Buckingham Palace and what goes on behind-the-scenes for a State Visit.

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The dates for 2015 are 27 July to 27 September and tickets are £20.50 for an adult.

Did you know your ticket is valid for 1 year? Remember to get it stamped at the exit (right at the end of the garden) and you can return again and again – including during next years Summer Opening!

The Grand Staircase

For the first time ever, visitors to the Summer Opening enter the State Rooms through the Grand Entrance – the same entrance as invited guests. You can admire the Australian State Coach and then walk along a red carpet into the Palace.

Top Tip: From 9 September a photo display is being added to the Quadrangle when Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning queen.

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The Kitchens

An Office

An Office

The Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar

The exhibition has recreated behind-the-scenes departments so you can get an idea of the work that goes into preparing for an important visit. (The Singapore State Banquet is the main focus for much of the exhibition.)

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The Dressers’ Work Room

It was interesting to learn that many of the Queens clothes are made in-house, including her large collection of hats.

This is the dress The Queen wore when President Obama visited

This is the dress The Queen wore when President Obama visited in 2011

The ‘wow factor’ as always is the Ballroom as it has been dressed for a state banquet.

The Ballroom

The Ballroom

We learned that it takes three days to set up the room, but the silver gilt is polished from three weeks before.

Also, the cutlery is not all the same so you may have a different fork to your neighbour at the table. This is because it has been collected by generations of royals.

Do look for the cruet set on the top table as the Queen has her own.

Ruler used to ensure everything is spaced correctly on the grand tables.

Ruler used to ensure everything is spaced correctly on the grand tables.

Another view of The Ballroom

Another view of The Ballroom

I was somewhat distracted by this hole in the wall. I wonder what it's used for?

I was somewhat distracted by this hole in the wall. I wonder what it’s used for?

The dining room is not set up as usual but instead has state visit gifts on display. This Tree of Life was presented by the Mexican President earlier this year.

Tree of Life of Queen Elizabeth II

Tree of Life of Queen Elizabeth II

And the Music Room has some of the Queen’s outfits on display.

The Music Room

The Music Room

In The White Room do look for the secret door. Can you see it?

There's a 'hidden' door here that can be used to access the State Rooms from The Queen's private rooms.

There’s a ‘hidden’ door here that can be used to access the State Rooms from The Queen’s private rooms.

I’m always surprised to see the old electric bar fires in the ornate fireplaces!

Electric bar fires!

Electric bar fires!

The Family Pavilion has lots to keep younger members of the family happy.

Inside the Family Pavilion

Inside the Family Pavilion

And then you exit through the Palace Gardens.

Did you know? The Queen’s Piper plays the bagpipes in the gardens every day at 9am for The Queen. I understand it’s usually at the end of her breakfast.

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The Crime Museum Uncovered

 

The Museum of London has a good track record for putting on blockbuster exhibitions that have been a real hit with the public. The recent Sherlock Holmes exhibition brought in a new audience and The Cheapside Hoard exhibition in 2013-14 sold 130,000 tickets – the most ever for the museum.

The Museum of London’s next exhibition is The Crime Museum Uncovered opening on 9 October 2015. This exhibition will display never-before-seen-objects from the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum, on public view for the very first time. Using objects previously only accessible to police professionals and invited guests, the exhibition will reveal the secrets of the Crime Museum which was established by the police in the mid-1870s. The visitors’ book from the Crime Museum will also be on display.

Counterfeiting and Forgery: Implements used for counterfeiting seized by Metropolitan Police © Museum of London

Counterfeiting and Forgery: Implements used for counterfeiting seized by Metropolitan Police © Museum of London

The Crime Museum Uncovered will also seek to dispel some of the myths that have been incorrectly associated with the Crime Museum over the last 140 years. For example, Jack the Ripper’s ‘From Hell’ letter resides at the National Archives, and not at the Crime Museum. Similarly, the rope used to execute Ruth Ellis – the last woman executed for murder in the United Kingdom – is not part of the collection. Yet the Crime Museum does hold the weapon used to murder her racing driver lover, David Blakely, in 1955.

There will be no glamourising of crime or criminals in this exhibition and all of the victims, or victims families, have been consulted. The exhibition intends to help us understand how crime and policing has changed over time and the police’s role of fighting and detecting crime. This won’t be a history of crime in London but more an insight into a usually private world showing the Metropolitan Police’s commitment to more openness. There was even talk of one day having a Crime Museum open to the public permanently but that’s for the future.

The exhibition will focus on 25 cases ranging from 1905 to 1975 – explaining the story behind the objects including the people involved. Each case has had a fundamental impact on society. Some have changed the way in which crimes are investigated and solved or how the capital is policed, whilst others have directly led to changes in the law. And yes, the infamous Jack the Ripper murders are included.

Jack the Ripper appeal for information poster issued by Metropolitan Police, following the 'Dear Boss' letter sent to the Central News Agency, 1888. Reads: "Metropolitan Police...Facsimilie of Letter and Post Card received by Central News Agency...Any person recognising the handwriting is requested to communicate with the nearest Police Station." © Museum of London / object courtesy the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum

Jack the Ripper appeal for information poster issued by Metropolitan Police, following the ‘Dear Boss’ letter sent to the Central News Agency, 1888. Reads: “Metropolitan Police…Facsimilie of Letter and Post Card received by Central News Agency…Any person recognising the handwriting is requested to communicate with the nearest Police Station.” © Museum of London / object courtesy the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum

Then there will be themed areas grouping exhibits under headings such as Terrorism, Drugs, Espionage, etc, and the final area will have a film and a space for reflection which, rightly, was considered important for this exhibition.

The collection going on display is an eclectic array of nearly 600 objects and many are rather ‘everyday’ objects with extraordinary stories. I’m looking forward to seeing how the museum gets these stories across as I’m lucky enough to go to previews and chat to curators but I’m intrigued how the public will uncover the personal tales. I understand good captioning will be used but audio and video was mentioned too.

Some of the objects look more like James Bond film props such as a talcum powder tin found in a bungalow in Ruislip, west London, that was found to contain microdots from a Russian spy.

Espionage: Talcum powder tin used to conceal microfilm by the Krogers, members of a Russian spy ring, 1961 © Museum of London

Espionage: Talcum powder tin used to conceal microfilm by the Krogers, members of a Russian spy ring, 1961 © Museum of London

Other highlights include a laptop computer recovered from a car involved in the 2007 Glasgow Airport terrorist attack. Although badly burned, police were able to recover 96% of its data, crucially helping the investigation.

And this curious pin-cushion embroidered with human hair by Annie Parker in 1879, a woman who, in her tragically short life, was arrested over 400 times for alcohol-related offences.

A curious pin-cushion embroidered with human hair by Annie Parker, a woman who, in her tragically short life, was arrested over 400 times for alcohol-related offences (1879). © Museum of London / object courtesy the Metropolitan Police's Crime Museum

A curious pin-cushion embroidered with human hair by Annie Parker, a woman who, in her tragically short life, was arrested over 400 times for alcohol-related offences (1879). © Museum of London / object courtesy the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum

While I wondered who would be the target audience for this exhibition I could see the excitement from the Press at a recent preview talk at the museum and knew I wouldn’t have to worry as so many find detective tales fascinating. And while the cases may relate to the worst of human nature there’s also the humanity and dedication of a team who solved the crime. Do note, none of the items going on display are from crimes that are still open cases.

The Crime Museum Uncovered runs from 9 October 2015 to 10 April 2016 and will be accompanied by a publication and programme of talks and events. Tickets are available already from £12.50 online or £15 on the door. On Wednesdays only tickets will be from £10.

Elvis At The O2

 

Elvis at The O2 is the largest Elvis retrospective ever mounted in Europe. It’s been on since December and ends in August 2015. There are over 300 artefacts from the Presley family’s Graceland Archives, some of which have never been exhibited outside of Graceland in Memphis.

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So, this sounds like the right kind of place for any lover of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, right? As well as stage outfits – yes, there are multiple white jumpsuits – you can see clothes from his personal wardrobe, records, books, cars and a motorbike too. There’s even the pool table Elvis played on with The Beatles on display and boxing gloves from Muhammed Ali. There’s a hand-written letter to President Nixon and the letter he received in return.

The white jumpsuits are the focus of the largest room.

The white jumpsuits are the focus of the largest room.

But even with such rare exhibits this exhibition feels lacking in such a large space. 300 artefacts is actually not that many when some are the size of a cuff link.

A visit starts with a film that, strangely, goes backwards to his birth, but is followed by some pictures and exhibits from his childhood in Mississippi. We learn he was born into poverty but went to church and always loved music.

Elvis wrote his name on this crayons box (but I couldn't see it!)

Elvis wrote his name on this crayons box (but I couldn’t see it!)

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But there seemed to be big gaping holes in the story of this legend which left me with more questions than answers. A friend commented that it was rather like reading a blog post that had been written around the blogger’s photos taken rather than a complete picture of the man.

For example, his marriage to Priscilla is almost skimmed over and a gift from a girlfriend is mentioned during the years when he was married. TCB is never explained as ‘Taking Care of Business’ and the exhibition finale is seeing a concert on a big screen but there was no sign to know what we were watching. (I presume it was the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert.)

Seeing the videos of Elvis speaking was interesting although one was almost drowned out by the buzzing sounds nearby representing hair being shaved off when he joined the army.

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In the Graceland section “Step into my world…” is playing and video screens show you inside the mansion which would be great for those who long to visit but will never get there.

But dust on the glass shelves and artefacts was disappointing.

This is the central hub at the end of the exhibition with more rooms coming off from here.

This is the central hub at the end of the exhibition with more rooms coming off from here.

There’s no reference to Elvis dying in 1977 and there’s a missed opportunity to have a ‘Elvis has left the building’ announcement or sign as the end.

As I watched the concert on the big screen I looked up the Elvis Wikipedia page and discovered more facts about him in those few minutes than the 1.5 hours at the exhibition.

I would love to have seen more on who he was influenced by and who has he influenced today offering a chance to see his legacy as more than just saved objects.

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Next to the exhibition is a restaurant with an “Elvis-inspired menu” which raised a few eyebrows but it’s basically an American diner. Sadly, it was closed when I visited on a weekday morning.

Tickets are £18 on weekdays and £20 at the weekend.

Official Website: www.elvisattheo2.com

Disclaimer: As is common in the travel industry, I was provided with a complimentary ticket for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, I have included this information for full disclosure.

London Aquarium – Sea Dragons

 

I’d heard Sea Life London Aquarium has a new exhibit of sea dragons so it seemed like a good time to return. The picture I’d seen was amazing (see below) yet I understood why their recent survey found that 96% of children asked thought a sea dragon wasn’t real.

Sea Dragon - SEA LIFE London Aquarium
A sea dragon most definitely is real and can be up to 45 cm but the ones to be seen here are about 10 cm. The new ‘Sea Dragon Kingdom’ has weedy sea dragons, alligator pipefish and yellow seahorses. But back to them soon. What was it like visiting London Aquarium on a Sunday morning at the end of a school holiday?

Answer: Busy. I expected it to be busy but I soon realised it was so busy I couldn’t really see anything. I think this was less to do with the end of the school holiday but more to do with toddlers and buggies as under 3 year olds go free so it’s a great age to take them.

In the first section I literally saw nothing but we’d had this problem before as it’s exciting when you arrive so my 8 year old and I went through to see the rays. As visitors can stand on four sides of this tank we did get to see them for a few minutes until my daughter spotted the rock pooling area which she remembered from our last visit. Here, young visitors can touch a starfish and there’s a member of staff to tell you more about them.

And this is what was missing everywhere else. If I got a glimpse of a tank I couldn’t see the information caption or vice versa. There was no-one around to explain more to distract visitors from crowding around every tank. I think there needs to be more distractions to keep younger visitors happy and to allow all visitors to see into the tanks. Distractions could be tables with things you can touch and a member of staff to explain. It could be lift the flap and learn something boards. It could be something more hi-tech with iPads/touch screen technology. But with the only focus in each area being the tanks it means every visitor is trying to get to the same place.

At the penguins there has been an attempt at this type of ‘other distraction’ with a listening activity before going through to see the penguins but when we went through all I saw was a wall of toddlers blocking all of the water and then a second barrier of their parents. I saw the top of a penguin when it came out of the water and dived back in but part of the joy of this area is to see them underwater too.

There are a few activities right at the end of the attraction but that area is always quiet so it would be great to scatter those ideas throughout the trail.

I do realise if you go to an aquarium you expect to see fish and sea creatures but the speed at which we got around the attraction was a real shame as we saw so little. Last time we were there it took us just over an hour which I thought was fast. This time it took 45 minutes – and we then spent 15 minutes in the gift shop. I do think some of that speed was because there’s nowhere to sit and watch the fish, or to have a rest, so if you can’t see it makes sense to just move on.

The staff we did speak to (at the entrance and in the gift shop) were great but there simply weren’t enough within the attraction. I saw one member of staff at the rock pooling and two cleaners. There was the ‘get your photo taken’ team but no staff who visitors could ask about the fish and sea creatures.

And the need for more cleaners than on the visitor team made more sense when a large family sat down opposite the crocodile – literally the first seating I’d seen in the attraction – and proceeded to have a picnic. While dad was shouting, “Who wants a banana and who wants a apple?” and mum was dishing out the food my daughter looked at me in shock as even an 8 year old knows it’s no food and drink at the London Aquarium. As cans of drink were opened and sandwiches appeared we moved on. But other families starting looking at their kids asking if they were hungry and snacks came out of bags and from under buggies. And with no staff in the area who would stop them?

We had some giggles in the gift shop.

We had some giggles in the gift shop.

Another point to remember is how dark it is inside the London Aquarium (so hold on to those little people!) It’s easy to get disorientated and some arrows on the floor would certainly help, especially when coming out of the lifts as the stairs and lifts may not always arrive at the same place.

When we reached the last floor we found a completely empty – and rather smelly – ‘Thames Walk’ section and we were soon in the gift shop feeling strangely disappointed. As we left the gift shop we had to battle our way across a sea of European teenagers and the unpleasant smells of McDonald’s which was particularly grim. And that’s the only way to leave the building.

Based on this experience, London Aquarium doesn’t feel like good value for money with the current set up. The ‘on the door’ prices are: adult: £26.50, Child (4-15): £19.95, and 3 and under go free. You can save 10% by booking online and there’s a free ticket deal with Kellogg’s cereals.

As a comparison, London Zoo ‘on the door’ ticket prices are: adult: £27, child (3-15): £19, and 3 and under go free. That’s pretty much the same price and yet I spent over five hours at London Zoo last week and we still didn’t see everything.

Oh, and I haven’t told you what I thought of the sea dragons. Well, I missed them. I did see an information label but couldn’t see anything in the tank. I watched a bit of weed but looking back at the picture that’s not what I saw so I think I did just see a bit of weed. I didn’t realise I was in a ‘Sea Dragon Kingdom’ zone as I saw no signs. I did see a few seahorses though.

Battle of Waterloo Bicentenary

 

This is the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo and two London properties connected with the battle and its victorious commander are Wellington Arch and Apsley House – the home of the Dukes of Wellington.

Wellington Arch and Apsley House reopened on Saturday 18 April 2015 and I visited for a preview to see what has changed.

These mounted 'guards' came out for the preview day.

These mounted ‘guards’ came out for the preview day.

At Wellington Arch

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Here, it’s all about the build up to the battle as there’s a new ‘Waterloo 1815 – The Battle for Peace’ exhibition with highlights including the Duke’s handwritten battle orders, his battle sword, and a pair of original ‘Wellington Boots’.

On 18 June 1815, at Waterloo in Belgium, the 1st Duke of Wellington commanded an army of British, Dutch, Belgian and German troops, aided by a Prussian force, against Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Armée du Nord (Army of the North). The Waterloo campaign ended 25 years of war in Europe and in European colonies around the world. Napoleon was defeated and spent the last six years of his life in British custody.

Wellington Arch was built in 1825-27 and is surmounted by the largest bronze statue in Europe, depicting the angel of peace descending on the four-horsed chariot of war.

Top Tip: Mounted cavalry pass through Wellington Arch at 10.40am and 11.40am and you can see them from the balconies.

This was the guard coming off duty from Horse Guard's Parade.

This was the guard coming off duty from Horse Guard’s Parade.

As a lucky bonus we saw The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery going out to practice for the Queen's Birthday salute as well!

As a lucky bonus we saw The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery going out to practice for the Queen’s Birthday salute as well!

At Apsley House

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Here it’s more about the life of the Duke of Wellington – the ‘Iron Duke’.

While the whole place has had a jolly good dust and tidy up, The Waterloo Gallery is the most transformed as it has been laid out to recreate one of the Duke’s annual banquets to commemorate the battle, including a surviving menu plan.

A special welcome at Apsley House.

A special welcome at Apsley House.

Apsley House is still home to the 9th Duke of Wellington today. It was commissioned by Baron Apsley in 1771, and was enlarged in 1828 while the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister.

You can't take photos inside Apsley House so I got a few snaps for you.

You can’t take photos inside Apsley House so I got a few snaps for you.

A larger than life-size statue of Napoleon in the stairwell.

A larger than life-size statue of Napoleon in the stairwell.

There are new multimedia guides to help you explore Apsley House and I tried the Family Trail with my 8 year old daughter. In each room you get an introduction, try an activity and then choose your favourite object for your own personal treasure chest which you view at the end.

We got to rub away to see what Apsley House used to look like.

We got to rub away to see what Apsley House used to look like.

This was my favourite anagram activity!

This was my favourite anagram activity!

We loved discovering the Duke’s favourite dessert was Parmesan cheese ice cream, and were really impressed how the guide got us looking in more detail and learning more about the Battle of Waterloo with small chunks of information in each room. We would have included the fact that one of the portraits on the landing looks like it’s facing you whether you’re on the left or the right, and that the chandelier in the last room on the trail has mirrors on four sides so you can see the chandelier repeating whichever way you look.

The Duke of Wellington adored his horse. When Copenhagen died he had his hood made into an ink well!

The Duke of Wellington adored his horse. When Copenhagen died he had his hoof made into an ink well!

Top Tip: Apsley House is also known as ‘Number 1 London’ as it was the first address inside the London boundary from the west.

Special Events

There’s lots planned for this anniversary year including an evening with the 9th Duke of Wellington talking about his famous ancestor on Tuesday 5 May. There’s also a Waterloo Weekend on 11-12 July, 18-19 July, and 25-26 July. And for the August Bank Holiday there’s a Regency Weekend on 29-30 August.

In With The Lemurs

 

ZSL London Zoo is constantly updating the animal enclosures and now chooses ‘walk through’ exhibits over caged animals as often as possible. Obviously, this is better for the animals as they have more space to roam and it’s great for visitors as we get to go in with the animals and see them up close.

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The latest walk through exhibit is In with the Lemurs which opened on 28 March 2015. There’s a troop of 15 ring-tail lemurs and one black and white ruffed lemur (called Storm). The walk through has been designed to imitate the Madagascan shrub forest so the primates can climb and leap over your head.

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Meet Storm. He was hanging out inside when I visited.

There’s also an indoor area that’s a replica timber mill highlighting the effect the industry has on the lemurs’ wild habitat.

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This gives you more of an idea how close you can get to the lemurs.

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Lemurs love sunbathing!

It’s not a huge space but it is large enough to see the lemurs frolicking and they do seem happy and content.

We had a great day out at ZSL London Zoo and stayed for over 5 hours but still didn’t see everything. We did spend quite a bit of time looking into tanks and enclosures wondering if there were animals in there or not which is another reason these walk through exhibits are so good as you know the animals are there. Rainforest Life is nearby and always worth the time, as is Butterfly Paradise which we visited twice.

I’ve updated the London Zoo visitor pages on the About.com London Travel site to include all you need to know to plan a great day out.

Zippos Circus – OMG 2015

 

One of my favourite Easter traditions is seeing Zippos Circus on Blackheath. Every year there are new acts and every time I sit there with my mouth wide open in shock at what these performers can do. It’s great that in a world now dominated by screen-based entertainment for kids that we can still watch a show that makes the whole family happy.

Rastelli Clowns - Zippos Circus 'Unchained' _. (1)

The 2015 show is called ‘OMG!’ and is a two hour spectacle with plenty of laughs from The Rastellis – a classic clown troupe from Italy who use music and comedy antics to entertain. The trumpet playing attached to oversized clown trousers had us crying with laughter.

My first ‘OMG’ moment was when Salvatore did tricks with a diabolo that look like it was going to reach the top of the new circus tent. That would have been spectacular enough but he then used a diabolo that was on fire!

There’s acrobatics from The Zulu Warriors who throw each other around as if picking up feathers, and the Globe of Terror, with South American Lucius Troupe, riding motorbikes inside a sphere cage is scary but hard to look away.

Zippos Circus - Lucius team, Globe of Terror (1)

See a short video of the Globe of Terror on my Facebook Page.

Zippos Circus does have some animals but don’t get concerned about lions and tigers as we’re talking about horses and – my favourite – legendary Ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE and his talented budgies. Honestly, I love that act and look forward to it every year.

budgies

The equestrian acts were beautiful to watch and there was a part of the show was “prancing ponies” and the Frozen song “Let it Go!” which made the four year old with us very happy.

Odka is a woman who can fold and contort her body to fit inside a bottle – which is bonkers enough – but this year she can also fire a bow and arrow with her toes!

It’s a truly international show with the pick of the best circus performers from around the world. Duo Galaxy are from Germany and have a ‘Wheel of Death’ act that made me scared to watch but also scared to look away. Seriously impressive stuff.

See a quick video of Duo Galaxy on my Facebook Page.

Zippos Circus tours the UK from March to October each year so check www.zippos.co.uk for dates near you. Ticket prices start from £7 child, £9 adult.

Brown Pebble

 

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is a fascinating place crammed full of exhibits. It’s a university museum so not very big but has some notable highlights.

The last time I had visited was for the Nu’Shabtis Liberation exhibition, also know as Little Blue Men, and I returned recently to bring my daughter. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours looking at the many glass cabinets as well as sketching and making notes.

We then went looking for the most amusing object names and while there are plenty funnier than these I have to say I like these ones.

Brown PebblePebble x 2Brown PebbleRough PebbleBrown Pebble

Bourdon Place Statues

 

It is always worth walking down a back street in central London as you never know what you will find. On Bourdon Place in Mayfair, W1, there are three bronze statues called ‘Three Figures’ by sculptor Neal French.

Bourdon Place Statues, Mayfair W1

The figures represent Terence Donovan, the photographer, on a photo shoot with the model Twiggy, plus a shopper who walks by and seeing the photo shoot.

Bourdon Place Statues, Mayfair W1

Photographer Terence Donovan (1936-1996) worked in the area from 1978 to 1996, according to a green plaque on the wall where his studio was on Bourdon Street. The artist of these sculptures has noted “A passing shopper stumbles upon Terence Donovan photographing the model Twiggy near to his studio in 1960s Mayfair” but I’m guessing there’s a mix up here. Donovan is well known for photographing the ‘swinging sixties’ in London, and he did seem to prefer taking photos out on the street, but he moved to 30 Bourdon Street when he branched out into film production.

Bourdon Place Statues, Mayfair W1

Anyway, let’s not pick on the artist as I like these statues. They were commissioned by Grosvenor Estates when they were redeveloping Fifty Grosvenor Hill as offices in this London conservation area. They managed to keep the ‘mews’ character of the area while creating five floors of modern open-plan offices inside. This sensitive redevelopment project also included more trees and this public art.

Bourdon Place Statues, Mayfair W1

Twiggy unveiled the trio of bronze figures in May 2012 and, I feel, they are well worth seeking out.

Bourdon Place Statues, Mayfair W1

Directions: The nearest tube stations are Bond Street and Green Park.

From Bond Street station, turn off Oxford Street onto Davies Street and Bourdon Street is 5 minutes down on the left. Bourdon Place is on the left.

From Green Park station, turn off Piccadilly onto Berkeley Street, and continue past Berkeley Square onto Davies Street. Bourdon Street is on the right. Bourdon Place is on the left.

A Bear Called Paddington

 

“Have a marmalade croissant!” was how I was welcomed to the Museum of London one day this week. It’s not always like that but I was there to see the new Paddington Bear exhibition. After I enjoyed the wonderfully sticky pastry I was able to reminisce about happy childhood memories of Paddington Bear and his London adventures.

Paddington Bears around the world. L-R: Germany, UK, USA, Japan.  Image © Museum of London

Paddington Bears around the world. L-R: Germany, UK, USA, Japan. Image © Museum of London

How It All Started…

On Christmas Eve in 1956, Michael Bond (Paddington’s creator) bought his wife a small toy bear from a London department store and named him after the London railway station he travelled into each day from his Berkshire home. He started writing stories and adventures for the bear and A Bear Called Paddington was published in 1958, a couple of months after his daughter Karen was born.

A First Edition of this book is on display at the Museum of London for the free exhibition celebrating the loveable bear from ‘Darkest Peru’.

Curator Hilary Young prepares a signed first edition of the first ever Paddington story called A Bear Called Paddington. Image credit: Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Curator Hilary Young prepares a signed first edition of the first ever Paddington story called A Bear Called Paddington. Image credit: Matt Alexander/PA Wire

There are some film props from the new Paddington movie out later this month but the rest of the display has come from the Bond family archives and has never been displayed before.

Paddington’s evolution is shown with Michael Bond’s typewriter that he used when he started writing about Paddington full-time and original sketches by Peggy Fortnum.

Paddington with Karen Jankel. Image © Museum of London.

Paddington with Karen Jankel (Michael Bond’s daughter). Image © Museum of London.

There are cardboard cut-outs and the Paddington puppet from the 1970s BBC TV animation series and and an original Paddington bear toy when merchandise became important.

An original plush toy Paddington by Gabrielle Designs (1980). Image © Museum of London.

An original plush toy Paddington by Gabrielle Designs (1980). Image © Museum of London.

I had one of these toys and remember how wonderful it was that a toy could stand up because he was wearing wellies. It seems the wellies were added to make children like me happy as Paddington was originally barefoot. Wellington boot manufacturers hoping to cash in on the new movie will be disappointed as the filmmakers have chosen to be true to the original style of bear and he doesn’t wear any footwear in the movie.

© STUDIOCANAL

© STUDIOCANAL

Paddington’s Picnic Weekend

If you need any more encouragement to see this lovely exhibition, on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 November 2014, 12-4pm, there is an indoor family festival with crafts, storytelling and plenty of marmalade sandwiches.

Fan mail letter from Australia addressed to 'Paddington Bear, 32 Windsor Gardens, London' eventually found its way to author, Michael Bond. Image © Museum of London.

Fan mail letter from Australia addressed to ‘Paddington Bear, 32 Windsor Gardens, London’ eventually found its way to author, Michael Bond. Image © Museum of London.

Sherlock Paddington Connection

The timing of this exhibition is because of a new Paddington film which is released on 28 November 2014. And that also explains the 50 Paddington bear statues all over London too. The Museum of London have cleverly tied in their Sherlock Holmes exhibition by getting the Paddington Bear statue designed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Paddington Trail bear at the Museum of Museum. Image © Museum of London.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Paddington Trail bear at the Museum of Museum. Image © Museum of London.

A Bear Called Paddington Exhibition Info

Dates: 14 November 2014 – 4 January 2015
More info: Museum of London website
Admission: Completely free.