Saturday, December 26th 2015
Yesterday, Christmas Day, we stayed at home. We had plenty to eat and the means of keeping ourselves warm and entertained. We lazed about unashamedly and enjoyed it immensely.
That was yesterday and today is another matter. We guessed there would be places open where we could get breakfast – or, rather, brunch, by the time we got ourselves organized – so off we went, keeping an eye open for anything interesting.
Finding nothing that was both open and to our taste, we eventually found ourselves in Russell Square in front of the beautiful and famous Russell Hotel. Tigger, who had always wanted to take a look inside the building, proposed that we go in for coffee and resume our search for food later. Enquiring of the gentleman on the door, we learned that the bar was open and amenable to serving non-residents.
Russell Square is part of what was the Bloomsbury Estate that had come into the ownership of the Russell family through the marriage of the 5th Duke of Bedford in 1669. It was the 11th Duke, who succeeded to the title in 1893, who put in train the building of the magnificent Russell Hotel. Designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll, the hotel was completed in 1898.
I don’t usually take photos with my phone, an iPhone 6, but decided to try it out while having my coffee. The above photo and the two below are results of that experiment.
My first attempts were not very good, being blemished with intrusive light trails. It was Tigger who pointed out that, because I hadn’t used the camera lately, the lens had become dirty. A quick wipe improved things!
When I looked at the above photos later, I realized that they overlapped and so I tried stitching them together.
Because I hadn’t taken the photos with the intention of stitching them, they don’t form a neat whole and if I were to crop the composite to a rectangular form, a lot would be lost, so I have left it as it came out of the oven, so to speak.
A picture of the bar Christmas tree was the end of my experiments with using the iPhone to take photos and the rest were taken with my camera. (Not that I have anything against the iPhone 6 as a camera. It does in fact perform very well and I have seen some very impressive photos taken with it. You can also now obtain supplementary lenses to increase the range of views taken with it.)
We asked if we might take photos in the public areas of the hotel and permission was graciously given.
The colour scheme is rather dark, as was typical of the Victorian era, and on a dull day like today could seem gloomy if not well lit. That problem was washed away by the blaze of light from the beautiful glass chandeliers.
Different types of stone with natural patterns, enhanced by relief work and gilding, created a delightful decor.
The Christmas decorations of course added to the colourful effect but I think I would like to return at another time of year and see the hotel in its usual dress.
The outside of the hotel is decorated with figured terracotta. The intricacy of the design is such that every time I see the hotel, I discover new details. Happily, it is a listed building with a Grade II* rating which gives it some protection from rapacious developers and their brutal henchmen architects.
Continuing on into Southampton Row, we found food at last. Denise’s French Restaurant was open and not crowded. In fact, we were the only customers.
Thus fortified, we walked on down to the Thames at Blackfriars where I took the opportunity of photographing HMS President, built in 1918 for the Royal Navy but these days used as a floating bar and ‘venue’. It is one of three ships that have been ‘dazzled’ – painted in a manner to confuse enemy gunners – for the World War I commemoration. I have photographed HMS President on other occasions (e.g. see A walk of nine bridges) but usually from the other side of the river. We also saw the Liverpool Dazzle Ship (see Visiting the Tate Liverpool) on a visit to that city.
This was the end point of today’s ramble and I was content to return home for another helping of confortable laziness.