The D&O Diary is on assignment in Europe this week, with the first stop on the itinerary in London. I have been to London in November many times before and I know that the weather can be OK or it can be lousy. On this trip, I had a pretty even mixture of both. But even if there were no single full day of sunshine, there was also no single entirely rainy day. In between the intermittent rain, I had several chances to enjoy some late fall sunshine in London.
I had a full roster of meetings in London but my schedule did allow some time for to walk about a little bit as well. As always when I visit London, I make it my mission only to try to do things I haven’t done on a prior visit. London is such an amazing place that despite many prior visits, I am still finding new things to do.
In keeping with my mission of only visiting new places, one early morning before the first of that day’s meetings I went to visit the Handel/Hendrix museum. As it turns out, in a wild and improbable coincidence, during the 60’s, Jimi Hendrix lived in the house in London in which George Frideric Handel had lived during the 18th century. The museum, which is located just off Bond Street, recreates the living spaces of each of the two musicians. It is a crazy concept for a museum, but it actually works. I enjoyed both parts of the museum, each in its own way.
Another place I visited for the first time on this trip was the London Silver Vaults. Located on Chancery Lane in Holborn, the Vaults originally were built as a safe underground shelter for family silver, jewelry and furnishings, but the Vaults now hosts dozens of independent silver dealers. The amount of silver on display is really kind of dazzling. The silver on display includes both antique and contemporary pieces. The hushed atmosphere conveys an overwhelming sense of privilege and wealth. A singular place, to be sure. (Special thanks to a loyal reader for suggesting that I visit the Silver Vaults.)
The high point of my visit was a Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concert I attended at Cadogan Hall (pronounced “Kah-DOH-gun”) in Sloane Square. Cadogan Hall is an intimate jewel box of a music venue. It only seats 950, but it actually feels much smaller. The concert I attended was the first in a series of the five Beethoven piano concertos that will be performed over the next year in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. At the Tuesday evening concert I attended, Elizabeth Sombart was the pianist in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. My seat in the upper level was perfectly positioned to allow me to watch Sombart’s hands as she played the cadenzas. It was a truly extraordinary experience. To my London friends, I urge you to consider attending the future concerts scheduled in the series. The venue and the musicianship of the soloist and the ensemble make for a really special evening.
Before I headed into central London for my meetings last week, I spent the weekend in Richmond-upon-Thames, west of the central city. This was my third visit to Richmond. I visited for the first time in April and basically fell in love with the place. (I am not the only one with a special place in my heart for Richmond; just this Wednesday, Country Life magazine called Richmond “London’s prettiest spot.”)
My prior visits to Richmond were all short day trips and mostly consisted of walking along the Thames. This time, by staying overnight in Richmond itself, I made time to allow an opportunity to explore the vast Richmond Royal Park, the largest of the London royal parks. I spent several hours on Saturday in the park, the early part of which was in heavy rain. However, in the early afternoon, the rain held off and I enjoyed a pleasant ramble around the grounds. The park is beautiful, and a day spent strolling through the vast grounds and then along the river is about as pleasant a way to spend a day as I can think of. There were sufficient periods of sunshine between the intermittent rain showers to make the outing enjoyable.
On Thursday, I was off on the Eurostar to Paris for more meetings there. Obviously it is always a pleasure to be able to visit Paris, but I am increasingly becoming a huge fan of London. More and more, I feel at home walking the neighborhoods, riding the Underground, and enjoying the diverse and ever-changing street scene. It may have become a cliché over the years, but just the same I truly understand the sentiment of Samuel Johnson’s famous quip that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
More Pictures of London: