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Haendel, Hendrix and Harrods/London

If you want to experience culture clash in the very best sense of the word, head for London. I went for the three H today on my second day in London. Thanks to my tour guide yesterday I learned about the Georg Friedrich Händel museum in Brook Street, just off New Bond Street.

Being a great fan of Baroque music although I prefer Mozart over Händel and after changing hotels this morning to a one with free and working internet access and at a room rate half as much as the previous one, I bought a daypass for the underground (GBP 6.50 as opposed to GBP 5 for a single ticket) and made my way to Piccadilly Circus. I am a bit on a nostalgia trip here  because I used to live in London for 10 years in my previous life as an attorney and wanted to revisit the places where I walked along every single day.

From Piccadilly Circus my first stop was the Burlington Arcade, an art deco paradise with very English shops such as Church shoes and Penthaglion  soaps, perfumes etc. The stern concierges are still there although they have removed the flower baskets which used to hang from the vaulted glass ceiling and a lot of charm is lost.

Aren’t they just sooo cool?
Penthaglion fragrance

I walked down Bond Street and then turned left into Brook Street where the Händel museum is located. It’s actually the town house where the composer lived and worked from 1723 until his death in 1759. No original possessions of the master have survived but period furniture and a replica of his famous harpsichord and spinet are on display. Concerts  are held nearly every Thursday, but today’s was sold out otherwise I would have attended.

Photography is not allowed in the museum but they have some period costumes which visitors can try on and have their picture taken. Needless to say, that the glamour granny had to slip into one although it was about 10 sizes too big, but even so…

No, I haven’t put on weight, it’s the dress!!

Now comes the big surpise. Jimi Hendrix lived on the top floor of this building in 1968 for over 2 years. No museum part is dedicated to him but references to him and his music are placed next to the compositions of Händel, two musicians who couldn’t be more different and each a master in his genre. All under one roof, isn’t that great?

Love this bench in Bond Street
I nearly missed this gem!

Then  I walked all the way to Knightsbridge because I needed to visit an old favorite: the food hall at Harrod’s. Nothing has changed, it’s hopping and not only with tourists, many Londoners come there to eat at the fish counter or the rotisserie and I happily joined them. Actually, I went to whole hog: I started with smoked salmon and a bit of caviar at the fish counter and then moved to the rotisserie for fabulous lamb chops with green beans and scalloped potatoes. And they say the English know nothing about cuisine!

Harrod’s fish counter
Harrod’s food hall

Tomorrow I absolutely have to go to Baker Street and visit the Sherlock  Holmes House and walk in Green Park. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

O’zapft is – history of Munich’s Oktoberfest

One of the world’s most famous beer festivals is rolling around again next month: Munich’s Oktoberfest. It’s time for you to make your last minute plans if you want to participate in this year’s festivities.  https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Together with other curiosities, snippets and bits of information, I have compiled this post thinking it might be of interest if you are headed for the festivities.

The festival is officially opened, as soon as the Major wields his wooden mallet, bangs the first barrel of Festbier and says the majic words: Ozapft is!!

It all started on October 12th 1810, when crown prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I of Bavaria, married princess Therese of Bavaria. The entire population of Munich was invited to join in the celebrations which took place on fields well outside the gates of Munich. The venue was called Theresienwiese, since then popularly referred to as Wiesn.  The merry making, eating and drinking ended with horse races, a tradition which lasted until 1960, but was basically responsible for the change of dates for the Oktoberfest.

Wiesnschmaus

Since 1810, year after year the Oktoberfest was repeated and grew in size as well as in popularity. To take advantage of better weather conditions, the date was moved back to September. Today, the Oktoberfest lasts 16 days and ends at the first Sunday in October.

You might think it’s all about drinking the specially brewed Oktoberfest beer and eating Haxn, Brezn and Weisswurst in one of the many tents, but there is more to the festival.  Since 1850,a  parade of approx. 8000 people in traditional costume march from Maximilianstrasse  through the center of Munich to the Wiesn, led by the Münchner Kindl. The symbol is the coast of arms of Munich since the 13th century and was originally the image of a munch holding a book. Nobody seems to have found out why it was changed to a child with a peeked hood, holding a beer mug or a horse radish.

Münchner Kindl

Since 1887, the splendidly decorated horses of the breweries and the colorful musicians who play in the tents parade after the festival is opened by a 12 gun shot salute.

And then, of course, there is the tapping of the first keg. It’s the privilege of the incumbent mayor of Munich to swing the wooden mallet and to deliver the first tap with the beer sprouting out and him uttering the traditional  words: O’zapft is’. Until such moment, no tent on the Wiesn is allowed to sell beer. Every year the scene is a source of much amusement because often the tapping skills of the mayor leave a lot to be desired and he gets drenched in foam and beer.

The statistics of the Oktoberfest are impressive. 5 mill visitors every year who consume 7 mill liters of beer, served in the traditional liter mugs, called Maß. If you visit, enjoy yourselves, but bear in mind that the Oktoberfest beer has an  alcohol content between 5.8 and 6% and also a high sugar content. Not surprisingly, a not so pleasant sight are the Bierleichen, people who have passed out from too much drink. On the other hand, the beer seems to have healing properties because among the lost items feature 500 crutches!!!

Most everybody dresses up in Lederhosen and Dirndl, the locals anyway and so do the visitors. A modern version of the drindl can be worn as a summer dress anywhere, so it might be a good idea for a woman to get one as a souvenir. Lederhosen however….. not so much.

 

 

 

A whiff of Christmas – Nativity museum in Torrevieja

 

I can never resist a museum. Big ones, small ones, no matter, I have to go and take a look. I also seem to have a nose for quirky ones and one of my best finds in that respect was the Pepper and Salt Shaker museum in Guadalest. http://www.glamourgrannytravels.com/2017/12/26/what-a-find-museum-of-pepper-and-salt-cellars-in-guadalest/

It’s true, the best things are sometimes to be found close to home. I have walked past the Nativity Museum in Torrevieja many times, but…. It is one strange museum insofar as, although they post opening hours, it was never open.

Finally, a friend of mine got proactive and called the phone number that was posted at the door and, miraculously, the owner agreed to come and open it for us. So, that’s the trick.

Here is the address and the number to call: Calle Diego Ramirez 20 (opposite the public library) and call 609459514.

The entrance door

And what a little treasure trove it turned out to be. The owner explained that it all started when he was give a nativity and he just got hooked and collected the most interesting renditions  of the Christmas scene he could find.

There are big installations with moving parts and tiny exhibits like a nativity in a nut shell. Made from every conceivable material, even the stuff dentists use to make your fillings!

My favorite, like always: glass. Just imagine the dedication and attention to detail not to mention the hours that went into creating these amazing little works of art. Going from one show case to the other you discover new things at every twist and turn. He makes them himself too, for instance there is a nativity in a box of chocolates. And most astonishing: a miniature one in a walnut shell.

Apart from the figures and scenes there are also collections of stamps, candles and even coins.

We were discussing if maybe Faberge ever made an egg with a nativity inside but couldn’t find the answer. Perhaps you know?

So, if you happen to be in Torrevieja don’t miss it. Just call and make an appointment. His English is good enough for that and there is aleflet you can take away in English and Spanish.

Admission is €5 and you are not allowed to take photos or videos. I got special permission because I promised to write about it which I do with much pleasure.

50 Berkley Square, London’s most haunted house

Perhaps it’s because of the movies and books, but when ever I think about haunted houses ( a subject I’m quite fond of), images of desolate landscapes, moors, maybe wind beaten cliffs, spring to mind. Certainly not one of London’s poshest and most elegant areas, residential Mayfair within walking distance of New Bond street’s designer shops and smart restaurants. But, it seems, that Poltergeister also have a taste for glamour and luxury and sometimes prefer to wreck havoc in elegant town houses rather than medieval castles or isolated country mansions.
Much to my surprise, none of my London friends knew about the city’s most haunted house, 50 Berkeley Square, so I was quite pleased to be able to tell them the story.

50 Berkley Square
50 Berkley Square

I have to admit, I went in broad daylight and made my way along Bond Street, then turning left into Burton Street which takes you right to Berkeley Square. There was another purpose to that route because I wanted to revisit one of London’s most peculiar pubs, a quaint triangular building, much like a mini flatiron of New York and Toronto fame, incongruously wedged between the much newer and quite unremarkable building at either side, or rather, remarkable for the shops they house.

pub
When Burton Street meets Berkeley Square you come out right opposite number 50 with the beautiful, green little park in between. If you don’t know what you are looking for, you would never guess. There is no plaque or sign, no strange light emanating from the windows, no ghosts whistling or chains clanging.

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The premises are today occupied by renowned antiquarian booksellers Maggs Bros. The plain Georgian façade belies the grandeur of the interior with sweeping staircases, marble fire places and chandeliers as well as thousands of books which can clearly be seen through the windows.

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Famously haunted is a room at the top floor. The chamber is supposedly charged with supernatural forces which are so horrible in appearance that they have caused people to go insane or die of shock. Stories of screams in the night, flickering lights and strange noises were an every day occurrence during Victorian times and the rumors were such that the building remained unoccupied during long periods of time.
There are at least two stories which try to explain the ghosts haunting 50 Berkeley Street: one refers to a Mr. du Pre who had a lunatic brother who was so violent, that he had to be locked away in the top floor and could only be fed through a hole in the door. When he died, his soul refused to find peace and haunted the building ever since.
Another story refers to a Mr. Myers who had leased the house as the marital home for himself and his bride to b,. On the day of the wedding, the lady jilted him and he became a recluse, locking himself away in the top floor and roaming the rest of the house at night by candle light. Then there are stories of a little Scottish girl who was tortured and died in the house and of two sailors, who spend the night in the then abandoned house, not knowing that it was haunted. One of them was found the next day, terrified and disorientated and his companion had jumped out the window to his death rather than confronting the terror which occurred during the night.
It seems that the ghosts and spirits are active to this day. In 2001 an employee of Maggs Bors, reported that she sat in the haunted room and suddenly saw a brown mist moving across the floor and a customer had his glasses snatched off his nose by no one as he was climbing the staircase.
I didn’t go in and I didn’t touch the building either to see if it is true that a strange energy has seeped into the very structure. Whatever it is, it didn’t extend to the pavement in front but you are free to let your imagination run riot and I think that Maggs Bros and everybody working there, are very brave souls indeed.

Best London Museums, Above and Below Ground

 

For museum fans like myself, London is a never ending treasure trove. Every time I come to visit one of my favorite cities in the world, I strive to go back to those better known ones I can’t get enough of and to discover fascinating new museums, preferably under ground.

Follow my footsteps and see for yourself the many museum delights, from traditional to quirky. London has to offer.

My first stop is always the Victoria & Albert museum. The world’s leading museum of art and design, located in the Cromwell Road, exhibits more than 2.3 million objects, spanning over 5000 years of human creativity. Meandering around the beautifully appointed rooms, you can admire jewelry, fashion, ceramics and works of art from any imaginable civilization in the world. https://www.vam.ac.uk/

 

What’s more, there are always new exhibitions with fascinating themes, like The Frida Kahlo collection which celebrates the extraordinary Mexican artist and Fashioned from Nature, the first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature from the 1600 to the present day.

What could be more British than iconic detective Sherlock Holmes? That’s why I can never resist to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum in one of the world’s most famous addresses: 221B Baker Steet. Mrs. Hudson in her apron, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, greets you are the entrance and allows you access to the first floor rooms where both sit in their armchairs. (All replicas of course). The ground floor is taken up with exhibits, photographs and, of course, a shop where it’s a pleasure to buy one of Mr. Holme’s creator’s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, books. You will re-read it with especially fond memories.

And then it’s time to visit some underground attractions you might not have heard of.

The Silver Vault Chancery Lane is a massive storage space with solid prison like doors, where wealthy Victorians  used  to keep their valuable. Since WWII it has been converted into a space for silver dealers, who are very welcoming to visitors and happy to explain the history, as well as sell their wares of course.

No London trip without visiting at least one place related to Sir Winston Churchill. The most emblematic perhaps is the Churchill War Room.

An offshoot of the Imperial War Museum in Whitehall, these rooms where Churchill held meetings and often decided the fate of Britain were not really known to the public until the 80s. He also sometimes slept there but otherwise the rooms are pretty much untouched and left as they were when they close in August 1945. Breathe  the spirit of recent history like in no other place.

If it’s even older history that fascinates you, a visit to the Guildhall Art Gallery Roman Amphitheatre is called for. This 2nd century Roman amphitheatre, which could accommodate 6000 people, was built to entertain the troops of the old Barbican Roman fortress. Rediscovered in the 1980 when the foundations were laid for the modern art gallery, it’s a unique opportunity to combine art and architecture of antiquity with a beautiful present day art gallery.

This is just a small selection of my favorite London places, above and below ground. Consult each venue for opening times and admissions and get tickets easily where required. 

 

 

World travels of a chic granny