[8 Fitzroy Street Vanessa Bell (Eastbourne)]
A true perambulation, a walk around a territory, an inspection of an area on foot. This is what I did yesterday, covering a good deal of Bloomsbury from west to east, and finding all kinds of things to keep me interested and to deflect my attention from the cold and rain. Bloomsbury is great walking territory ; there are guided walks which sound excellent, or you can take a fairly shambolically planned route like mine which follows personal whims and fancies, and incorporates good cafes, excellent architecture, many famous and historical locations, a mix of neighbourhoods, and a lovely sense of London life. I didn't take photos, partly because of the dreadful light, but also because there are times when I just like walking and looking and taking things in without feeling the need to stop and record (I still don't understand why people go to concerts only to see most of the action through a phone camera).
Itinerary and highlights:
Start: Warren Street tube, a Charles Holden station (1934) which must have looked incredibly futuristic and beacon-like when first built.
Round the corner to Honey & Co, lavishly praised in the FT and the Guardian, so worth a try for breakfast. Chaotic service but excellent Fitzroy buns, their version of the Chelsea bun made with sour cherries and pistachios.
[Fitzroy Square (1923-24) Christopher Nevinson (Tate)]
Now Fitzroy Street where Rex Whistler and others had studios, andf the very beautiful and elegant Fitzroy Square on one side. This, I think, is the nicest of all of V Woolf's London addresses. Fitzroy St runs into Charlotte St and is classic shabby, still slightly Bohemian London, with lots of tiny cafes with bad but characterful plastic fascias, any number of newsagents, and a touch of seediness.
Divert to Lantana just off Goodge St, a place I've wanted to visit for a while. I didn't stop - just picked up a couple of (not-fresh) friands for Simon & Phoebe - but I'd go back for coffee which they take very seriously.
Over to Store Street, with cafes and shops looking very self-consciously tasteful after the nicely uninhibited parts of Fitzrovia I'd seen, but worth a look because it leads to the spectacular Senate House (1932-37) which often stands in for Soviet Moscow as a TV and film location.
[Imperial Hotel, Russell Square Stanislawa de Karlowska (Nottingham). And this is what it looks like now.]
Then Russell Square, the Brunswick Centre (honourable mention of Skoob Books here) and the very atmospheric Marchmont Street: Kenneth Williams lived at no.36 for 20-odd years and the School of Life is at no.70. Next, Gray's Inn Road and the amazing Trinity Court (1934-5), then Mecklenburgh Square which was partly bombed in the war and now has a mix of styles, although one side still has a brilliantly grandiose and imposing terrace intact.
[Mecklenburgh Square, Winter Enslin du Plessis (Southampton)]
Here I had a break to a see friend, warm up, talk for a long time. This is why I came into London, the rest was just spur of the moment.
Back via Great Russell Street and British Museum-land, still with many funny, fusty little shops and businesses, where the highlight is the London Review Bookshop and Cafe which does great lunches and out-of-this-world cakes surrounded by books and copies of the LRB to read. Then on down a wet and puddly Charing Cross Rd which is now so sadly lacking in interesting bookshops to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Thomas Struth photos, a little exhibition of Marilyn Monroe photos, and for a quick stare at the awful portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge (people looking quite astonished and not sure how to compose their own faces in reaction to it).
End. Return to provincial life. Until the next time.