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London: a Few of My Favorite Things

 

After my days spent on the Thames Path, I had a long list of things to do and few days to do them before I’d be off to Oxford and the Cotswolds for 8 days. My first priorities were to visit Red House, William Morris’s first home of his own just outside London, in Bexleyheath, and the most important to me of all, a modest house in a modest neighborhood in Clapham, south of the Thames, at 575 Wandsworth Road, one of the most beautiful properties ever acquired, in my opinion, by the National Trust.

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On the day of my visit to 575 Wandsworth Road I took the tube to Clapham Common and was waiting at the well-reviewed Mama Lan Chinese dumpling restaurant when they opened. If I had to choose one cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Chinese, and especially dumplings.

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From Clapham Common and Mama Lan restaurant, Wandsworth Road isn’t far. I walked north toward the Thames on Rectory Grove, a left turn to Matrimony Place, the path between St. Paul’s Church Clapham and the church yard. Then down a flight of stairs to Wandsworth Road, a right turn, past 1 building. I’d arrived at 575.

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Below, the deceptively plain front of 575 Wandsworth Road, Clapham.

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I’d been following the story of the house on Wandsworth Road from the beginning of the drive for funds needed for preservation of the property, to make acceptance of the gift of it possible. From the National Trust website, “575 Wandsworth Road was acquired by the National Trust in 2010, because of the rich and striking interiors created by Khadambi Asalache (1935-2006), a Kenyan-born poet, novelist, philosopher of mathematics and British civil servant. He bought the house in 1981 while working at the Treasury, and over a period of 20 years (from 1986) turned his home into a work of art.”

The house finally opened to the public in 2013, for group tours, 6 visitors at a time, a total of 54 a week, Thursdays to Sundays from March through October, the only way to see the house. At home in California I set my alarm to wake me in the wee hours on the morning tickets would go on sale for the day I wanted to visit. I was successful and thrilled.

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After years of anticipation, you can imagine the momentary let-down when we were told no photos were allowed inside the house. But I refused to dwell on it, knowing I’d find some online and I’d be free to concentrate on seeing, not on picture-taking, never a bad idea.

“Borrowed” pictures. For many more, visit the linked pages below.

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Read  about the man and his extraordinary creation. You’ll be glad you did.

House & Garden
The Chromologist
The Guardian
The Telegraph

Read about the conservation work done for 575 Wandsworth Road, here.


After the tour I crossed the street and caught the 87 bus to the other side of the Thames. There are 2 places I go on every trip to London, no trip to London conceivable without them.

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First to the National Portrait Gallery at the bottom of Charing Cross Road, around the corner from the National Gallery, where I never tire of seeing faces from history and those in our own time. The National Portrait Gallery houses many I know you’ve seen before, like Holbein’s Tudor portraits.

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Two Elizabeths, Two Princes

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From the top,
Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen at 90 (2016) by Annie Leibovitz

Queen Elizabeth I, artist unknown, circa 1600
Princes William and Harry (2010), by Nicky Philipps

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…then the tube to Baker Street and Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. There are several locations in London now but this was the first. The beautiful Edwardian building was built as an antiquarian bookshop in 1910, and became Daunt Books, opened by James Daunt in 1990. On the bookmarks they give away it says (I have one in front of me) "Daunt Books, for travellers". There are other travel bookshops in London, Stanford’s on Long Acre near Covent Garden comes to mind, but Daunt’s is my favorite. So impressed was I after my first visit that I returned to my job in an Arizona library and rearranged all the travel books to match Daunt’s philosophy of having them shelved by place, guides and travel essay together, rather than separately by category. Brilliant!

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This is the one I bought (and one of their exceptional tote bags).

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Find all episodes of  ‘PortMoresby in England’ here.

 

 

Next week, road trip!

 

 

 

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Comments (3)

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Thanks for the memories, and the reminder of how much of London's best bits are hidden away in odd corners! And thanks also for the prompt to stop skipping the Portrait Gallery...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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