From Byzantium to Jermyn Street

We decided to go out today even though Tigger is not completely recovered from her cold. The idea was to go to the Royal Academy to see the Byzantium exhibition. But first, there was the important matter of breakfast. For this purpose, we repaired to the Angel Cafe, as we had not been there for a while and it was close to the bus stop.

Burlington Arcade
Burlington Arcade

Suitably nourished, we headed down to Piccadilly. Everyone has heard of Piccadilly Circus, with its famous Eros statue, but not everyone realizes that Piccadilly is a broad thoroughfare, lined with hotels and prestigious shops.

Right beside the Royal Academy is the famous Burlington Arcade. The haunt of rich tourists and anybody who doesn’t need to ask the price of an article before buying it, the Arcade has a long history. The entrances used to be attended by commissionaires in top hats but they seem to have been replaced by security guards of rather more casual appearance. (See the gentleman wearing the yellow tie who studiously avoided looking at me while I was taking my photographs.)

Sculpted head
Sculpted head, Society of Antiquaries

The building inhabited by the Royal Academy is named Burlington House and includes a commodious courtyard that is worth seeing for its own sake. Along the two sides of the courtyard are premises occupied by a number of learned societies of long and distinguished history. This beautiful sculpted head graces the portal of the Society of Antiquaries.

Sculptures, both figurative and decorative, abound on the buildings here and you could spend time just observing and photographing them.

The Royal Astronomical Society
The Royal Astronomical Society

Another inhabitant of the august courtyard is the Royal Astronomical Society, to which most professional astronomers belong, along with a good contingent of amateur astronomers.

I rather liked the contrast of the ancient building and the modern cars, reflecting the long history of astronomy supporting its evolution into a modern science at the forefront of our understanding of the universe.

Sculpted head (and pigeon), Royal Academy
Sculpted head (and pigeon), Royal Academy

Another sculpture that caught my eye, on the façade of the Royal Academy this one, was this bearded male head, who seems to be listening intently to something, perhaps to the pigeon perched nearby.

The exhibition on Byzantium was quite interesting but the place was crowded, perhaps not surprisingly for a Saturday, and it was hard to get near the exhibits. Having read about the glories of the Byzantine Empire, I have to confess that I was a little disappointed. Perhaps the best pieces were not included and those that were had suffered from age or perhaps I was not in the right frame of mind. Whatever the reason, though I was pleased to have seen the exhibition, I was not overwhelmed by it as I had hoped.

Fortnum's and Mason
Fortnum’s and Mason

Afterwards, we went for a prowl around the area, first stopping for coffee in Cafe Nero in the back of St James’s Church. Fortnum’s and Mason’s windows were ready for Christmas, done in their usual artistic and slightly surreal style.

Then we carried on to the Church where Tigger bought some Christmas cards in the church shop.

St James's Church Clock Tower
St James’s Church Clock Tower

To judge from the activity and crowds in the Piccadilly Market sited in the Church yard, Christmas fever has well and truly started. We didn’t stay there long, though we had a look around, as there wasn’t really anything to interest us.

We continued on to Jermyn Street, which runs parallel to Piccadilly, behind the church. There are some rather elegant shops there but they didn’t seem to be doing a roaring trade. They probably never do, as you would need a well stocked wallet to shop there.

This is not a door
This is not a door

We did spot a couple of curiosities, such as this door which is not a door but a rather nice piece of trompe l’oeil. It is touches like this that can enliven an otherwise dull scene.

Bates, gentleman's hatter
Bates, gentleman’s hatter

We also visited this gem of a shop, Bates, the gentleman’s hatter. It is a shop with a long history but which is now unfortunately under threat. As I understand it, the landlord of the premises wishes to redevelop the property which means the end of the shop. I gladly signed the petition to preserve it.

And no, I didn’t buy a hat. Not this time, but if the shop survives I may well return and see whether they have something suitable when I have filled up my present hat with pin badges of all the places we visit.

The triple-faced clock, Fortnum's and Mason's
The triple-faced clock, Fortnum’s and Mason’s

We did think of continuing our walk or going for a bus ride but in view of the crowds and the dull weather and the fact that Tigger is still a little under the weather, we decided to return home instead. I took this photo of the three-faced clock on the façade of Fortnum’s and Mason’s while waiting for the 38 bus.

Back home, Tigger went into chef mode and set the slow cooker going, following a recipe in a cookery book she has bought. We had a late lunch (at 7pm) and it was delicious. Unfortunately, Tigger said that because of her cold, the food had no taste. I hope she recovers soon so she can enjoy the fruits of her labours.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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