After exploring our little pocket of Mayfair we spent the rest of our London weekend as typical tourists.
This started with a walk up to Buckingham Palace which, despite Covid, still had a fair few tourists milling around, all of whom seemed European.
On the off chance we dived into The Queen’s Gallery and happily despite not having made a prior booking, the decidedly snooty and just a little overbearing staff there still allowed us in.
I’d never heard of The Queen’s Gallery which exhibits works of art from the Royal Collection on a rotating basis. Although I like my paintings – there were only a few of the 450 or so that display that really excited me.
My very favourite was a 1641 portrait of Agatha Bas – the unremarkable looking wife of a Dutch wool merchant who happened to live in same street as a pretty good painter, Rembrandt.
Unremarkable the subject may have been but her representation is anything but. Using a new compositional device, the figure is posed within a painted ebony frame which blurs the boundaries between the imaginary space within the composition and the real world outside.
The striking gesture of the hand resting against the frame and the fan protruding over the edge towards the viewer’s space feels almost three-dimensional. The subtle detail used in the painting of the subject’s lace, pearls, fan is simply astonishing.
Keeping up the sumptuous theme we headed from the Queen’s Gallery to its retail equivalent, Harrods.
I’ve been to Harrods a few times over the years but it’s always been too manic. Shorn of its well-heeled international tourists from the likes of America, China and Russia, this visit was much more enjoyable.
Not a shopper in any sense of the word I have to say I was really impressed with its scale, the glamour, style, the architecture and the breadth of products on display.
Our tourist day was completed with a trip to the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building.
First time we’ve visited at night so it was great to the see the lights of what – even in Covid times – a vibrant exciting city.
We had a great window seat, in front of us was the illuminated Shard and down to our left was Tower Bridge. In normal times it would have been a great way to end the day but not tonight.
The double whammy of airport style security combined with the various Covid inconveniences – the queuing, mask-wearing, checking in – all contrived to kill the buzz.
Mustn’t grumble as they say – it was great to see London slowly awakening from its Rona slumber. Sadly despite the evident wealth it will be too late for many.
The hotel staff that served us so well will learn this week whether they will be made redundant at the end of the Government’s furlough scheme.
Seems so wrong that with so much money still around, the hospitality workers who create the fun will be the ones who suffer the most.