Category Archives: Places

The Bird Hide by Sara Heywood at Bow Arts RAW Labs

If you get off the Docklands Light Railway at Gallions Reach, one stop before the end of the line to Beckton, a short walk will bring you to a new development called Royal Albert Dock, right on the river Thames and opposite London City Airport.Photo by Caroline Banks

Bow Arts has worked with the developers to help create a soul and community to this location with RAW Labs, a purpose-built affordable studio complex with a gallery and cafe around one of the pools. It’s a wonderful place for artists to work with big skies and the light from the water. And, luxury of luxuries, the studios are heated! I’d be there in a shot if it weren’t so far away from where I live.

Photo by Caroline BanksSara Heywood, the recent artist in residence, was influenced by the waterside location and the proximity of London City Airport across the river. Bird life includes cormorants as well as the ubiquitous seagulls. The big birds, however, are the planes which fly directly overhead in to land. Her hide helps you identify both from its location facing the water with binoculars provided.

Photo by Caroline BanksPhoto by Caroline BanksIt’s cosy inside with views up to the flight path and there’s a handy identification chart too.Photo by Caroline BanksI was outside when this one came over and no, I can’t tell you what type it was.Photo by Caroline Banks Photo by Caroline Banksthere are little spyholes to see what else is going on around the hide.

Photo by Caroline Banks

In the ladies’ at the Hotel de Crillon, Paris

Before you say it, yes, I am intrigued by the conveniences in public establishments – they’re one of the key indicators to the quality of a place as far as I’m concerned.  So here is another in my occasional series of what I consider to be interesting loo interiors. This time it’s the newly refurbished Hotel de Crillon, one of the most sumptuous hotels in Paris.

Hotel de Crillon. Photo by Caroline BanksIt’s a beautifully designed jewellery box: a small space that is feminine without being girly and with exquisite detailing. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Palace hotel.
Hotel de Crillon. Photo by Caroline BanksHandmade mosaics abound. Hotel de Crillon. Photo by Caroline BanksHotel de Crillon. Photo by Caroline BanksI like the slight irregularity of the flooring pattern Hotel de Crillon. Photo by Caroline Banksand appreciate that the toilet paper is discreetly placed where you can only see it when required, not as soon as you walk into the cubicle.Hotel de Crillon. Photo by Caroline BanksI spoke to the lady attendant who had been working there for 18 years and had been kept on the payroll throughout the four year refurbishment. That hotel has shown loyalty to its workforce which is now being amply rewarded by them.

Rail Mail, riding the train under London’s streets

The experience of riding in the Rail Mail train at the London Postal Museum is a joy for any age (unless of course you suffer from claustrophobia). RailMail. Photo by Caroline BanksFrom the excitement of seeing the little train arrive RailMail. Photo by Caroline Banks RailMail. Photo by Caroline Banks RailMail. Photo by Caroline Banksto getting in (it’s a pretty tight squeeze for two adults side by side as these carriages were designed for mailbags, not people)RailMail. Photo by Caroline Banksthen riding through the tunnels, sometimes only centimetres away from the walls.RailMail. Photo by Caroline BanksWatch an audiovisual history on one of the platformsRailMail. Photo by Caroline Banksbefore returning to base. RailMail. Photo by Caroline BanksYou can even sit in the engineer’s train and press some switchesRailMail. Photo by Caroline Banksbefore moving on to interact with more exhibits. I enjoyed seeing engineer John Scott’s toolbox made from an old mail carriage, look at all those tobacco tins lined up and labelled.RailMail. Photo by Caroline Banks

Cheerful decorations for a dull winter’s day

Given the grim winter weather this week I thought I’d share these festive images. OK, so Christmas is over but the festive decorations at Le Printemps department store in Paris  were so charming that they merit being seen even after the event.

Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline Banks Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline Banks Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline BanksCome on, who wouldn’t smile at the idea of meerkats in space? Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline Banks Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline Banks Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline BanksThe sunbathers with their foil neck reflectors at the bottom of this photo are a lovely touch Le Printemps window display. Photo by Caroline Banks

Marlborough House, London

Another discovery for me during Open House was Marlborough House on Pall Mall. Well I say on but pedestrians actually go through a little gateway and down an alley

before coming to this splendid entrance below. No photography was permitted inside as it is the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and the seat of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Built for Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough and Queen Anne’s confidante, it remained the Dukes of Marlborough’s London residence for over a century. This grand palace backs on to the Mall – I’ve often seen the flags visible over the wall and wondered what they meant.

Now I know. Look at the size of it!

The flagpoles look tiny in this shot which gives you an idea of the scale

St James’s Palace is the next door neighbour seen here in the background, so convenient when Anne needed Sarah, which by all accounts was frequently.

and they even have a pet cemetery in a little glade.

The ladies’ powder room at Claridge’s hotel, London

Ah, Claridge’s! I was seduced by this hotel from the moment I stepped in and just had to share the glamour of this room, too grand to be just the loos and reminiscent of those black & white movies where the heroines retreat to powder their nose.

Claridges hotel. Photo by Caroline Banks

It’s an Art Deco joy with painted walls, plaster jewel-encrusted pillars, bevelled edge mirrors

Claridges hotel. Photo by Caroline Banks

marquetry toilet doors with glass handlesClaridges hotel. Photo by Caroline Banks

and the diffused lighting fixtures of Lalique.

Claridges hotel. Photo by Caroline Banks Claridges hotel. Photo by Caroline Banks

Royal Society of Chemistry, London

Open House London gives us, the public, the opportunity to visit buildings of all kinds not normally open to general view during the rest of the year.

One of the venues I visited this year was the Royal Society of Chemistry where I wasn’t expecting to find these two contemporary stained glass windows within the complex of Burlington House.

Designed by Laurence Lee (who also designed the windows for Coventry Cathedral) they are a memorial to Nobel Prize Laureate Cyril Hinshelwood and represent alchemy and chemistry. The four traditional elements: red for fire, clear for air, blue for water and green for earth are all there along with the many chemical variants and combinations.

Stained Glass Art at RSC. Photo Caroline Banks

Nobu Shoreditch hotel, London

I recently toured the newly opened Nobu Shoreditch, with interiors by StudioMica and  restaurant & bar by Studio PCH

The guest rooms are obviously a bit less accessible than the public areas so I’ll concentrate on them here.

The rooms share a combination of urban brutalism (concrete ceilings and exposed services such as sprinklers) from the Shoreditch location and Japanese aesthetics of Nobu, giving this place the feel of an oasis in the city centre. 

Judicious use of texture and lighting creates jewel-like points of focus. I confess to having a soft spot for the bathrooms; not only are they visually beautiful but really practical (as several guests have apparently pointed out you can tell they’ve been designed by a woman). The mirrors offer proper lighting with decent magnification and there is plenty of shelving for toiletries.

And who doesn’t love that washbasin?

This view of the courtyard garden from one of the suites gives an idea of the architecture concept by Ron Arad, implemented by Ben Adams