A Walk Up Piccadilly

burlington-arcade3I went into London up to Regent Street yesterday to see a preview of a film written and directed by a dear friend of mine, Sasha, who I met through Tango.  When I realised that I was going to be very early due to some excellent timing on my part and astonishingly efficient service on the public transport for a change, I decided to get off at Green Park and wander up Piccadilly to kill some time.

I have been up and down Piccadilly many times over the last 25 years. It is not the glitziest of roads, but it does have some interesting shops such as Fortnum & Mason -they do a wonderful afternoon tea, The Royal Academy, and The Ritz – they also do a lovely afternoon tea.  I really like a proper afternoon tea as a special treat.  You can read about the history of the street here.

As I wandered up Piccadilly to see what was on at The Royal Academy, I got sidetracked by The Burlington Arcade.  Now, I have lived in London (SW) for over 20 years and have been up and down Piccadilly many times, and yet I have never been in The Burlington Arcade before.  There is no real explanation for it – it just never happened!  It never called to me before – it must have been the sparkly Christmas decorations and lights that did it for me yesterday.  I am a sucker for a bit of sparkle and glitter.

The decorations and lights were understated, elegant, very pretty, and were a nice change from some of the garish decorations I had seen in other places.  I admired the shop windows as I wondered up and down the arcade.  Some of the displays were so colourful and pretty, they needed no extra embellishments and complemented the decor of the arcade perfectly.

There were a few door guards and I guessed that these shops must have had some very expensive items in them to require security services.  There was a gentleman shining shoes wearing a little Santa hat.  You don’t see many people shining shoes anymore.  I think it is a great service and I admire the man that makes use of it.

As well as the pretty and interesting shops in the arcade, if you look upwards, you can admire the lovely plasterwork on the arches, and the spectacular glass ceiling – parts of the building have some lovely stained glass work.

* Lord George Cavendish, who lived in Burlington House (now the Royal Academy) commissioned his architect, Samuel Ware, to design a covered promenade of shops – unofficially to stop ruffians from throwing quantities of rubbish, in particular oyster shells, onto his property and officially “for the gratification of the public and to give employment to industrious females”.

* The result – the very first shopping Arcade, nearly 200 yards in length – was opened on the 20th March 1819 to great acclaim and is designated as a historic and architectural masterpiece.

(excerpt taken from The Burlington Arcade website)

You can read more about The Burlington Arcade (here) and (here).  It has an interesting history.

I was drawn into Pickett by their beautiful window display and a promotion they were having on select items.  The portable leather backgammon set, in a variety of colours, was particularly appealing and would make a lovely stocking-filler (hint).

I purchased a couple of Christmas presents and was served by the most delightful and well spoken young man who was working to support his gap year.  I found it very refreshing, if not at first disconcerting, to be called Madam by a 19 year old.  The shop manager trained him very well.  The customer service was excellent and I highly recommend going there.

I think I might ask my children to start calling me Madame when they come home for the holidays.

I took a few photos and if you would like to see the originals, please click here.

I did find a few minutes to go into The Royal Academy to inquire about the Miró, Calder, Giacometti, and Braque Exhibition.  It is on until the 2nd of January, so I may have a day out next week to see that and then go to The National Portrait Gallery to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibition.

dance-w-meI eventually went down Regent Street to The Apollo, where they were showing Sasha’s film.  They were serving tea, coffee and cake when I arrived, and as it was cold I grabbed a cup of tea to warm up and was introduced to some of Sasha’s friends.  I recognised a couple of Tango connections, but most of the people there were in the film or publishing industry.

After being introduced to the producers, cast and crew, we settled down to watch the film.  I am not going to give a review here, but I will say that the theme of the film is very interesting and complicated and I did love the photography, the music and the dance choreography.  I am acquainted with one of the actresses via Tango, and the lead male dancer, Ismael Ludman is well known on the Tango scene.  The dancing is contemporary with some Tango elements and I thought the movement and energy of the dancing was very beautiful and moving.  You can click here for a preview.  The film is called: Dance With Me.

Afterwards, there were more drinks being served – of the alcoholic variety this time -and I had an opportunity to meet some more delightful and interesting people.  I was really happy to be out with non-Tango people and realised that I need to have more of a balance in that part of my social life.  I was really enjoying myself – the time had passed so quickly that before I knew it, it was getting late and I was wondering if I was actually going to manage to go dancing that evening.  The answer to that was no, but I am out for Tango Christmas parties all weekend and need to save my strength for that.

I am a great lover of kaleidoscopes since I was a child, and so when I spotted this little  link on The National Portrait Gallery website, I thought I would share a little bit of history trivia with you.  Who knows, it might come up as a trivia question over the holidays!

On this day, 11 December, in 1781
Sir David Brewster (1781-1868)
Scientist and writer; invented kaleidoscope was born in Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, Scotland
Click on the name of the person to find out more

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One thought on “A Walk Up Piccadilly

  1. What a wonder tour you gave with the splendid imagery of your surroundings. I felt I was walking there, seeing what you were seeing.

    Lord George Cavendish sounds like a nob-head (knob-head? I’ve never had to write it before so I am unsure how to spell it as I am a bit behind on my British slang). Thank goodness industrious women have more options in the present day than to sweep up chucked oyster shells.

    Hope you enjoy your parties this weekend.

    Take care

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