London in February can either be mild and miserable or crisp and clear (with a few shades in between).
On Tuesday we took front seats on the top deck of a London bus – by far the best way to enjoy one’s travel around the capital – and headed for Hampstead heath.
It was a lovely afternoon. Tihe crocuses were still mixing with the ever increasing number of daffodils. The views were marvelously expansive and in front of Kenwood house a white magnolia tree was set to explode into bloom.
The house, donated to the nation by the heirs of the guiness fortune, is quite exquisite and contains the best Robert Adam library I have ever seen. Much of the decorative panels are by Zucchi who married that rare eighteenth century breed, a professional woman painter, Angelica Kaufmann, and whose portrait by her is hung in the entrance hall.
The real glory of the house, however, are its collection of paintings. There are so many of them that one recognises from illustrations but never quite thought would be found here. Yes, here is one of England’s finest portraits, vermeer’s lady with a guitar, a portrait by lucca’s own Pompeo Batoni, Emma lady Hamilton at the spinning wheel and so much else.
Here’s a selection of what we saw:
There can be few pleasures in life to surpass a winter walk on the heath under a blue sky dappled with the whitest of clouds, a visit to an italianate villa and a nice cup of tea before regaining, homeward-bound, the front top seats of a red double-decker bus to be entranced by one of the most wonderful of sunsets descending upon the great city of London.