Each time the Open House London weekend rolls around I think 'that would be an interesting event to take part in'. Well, when I read about it recently I thought let's stop thinking about it and actually do it.
So a cheap Travelodge was booked for our over night stay and I spent a little time on the website looking at places to visit.
As S was coming with us I couldn't try and cram too much in so I roughed out the shape of a plan and off we went early Saturday morning.
On route to our first planned stop we walked past what was the Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women and admired the beautiful carved faces which adorned the old walls.
As we walked on over the bridge we had a great view of the Starflyer ride. I bet it's a real adrenaline rush being on that.
Who doesn't enjoy spotting some of London's tall landmarks.
Once over Waterloo bridge we nipped through Somerset House and found an interesting stainless steel art installation. Walking through it was like being in a hall of mirrors as they distorted your body shape and you saw yourself reflected at unexpected angles
and when you stood up from being sat on it the metal rebounded and made a noise like a clap of thunder.
Love this of G and S.
We had seen quite a bit before we had reached our intended first stop but not long after we arrived at our destination. The Royal Courts of Justice.
Having seen the outside of this building umpteen times on the news I found it quite exciting to actually be going inside it. Once inside and past the security checks you are greeted by it's architect, George Edmund Street.
The lady I approached at the enquiry desk was very helpful and gave us an information sheet and a quiz for S to do.
Just look at the view of the main hall from the first floor balcony, it is just as grand as a building built for it's important role should be
and the floor is given special treatment too, covered in hand laid mosaic tiles.
We got to go inside some of the courtrooms where photography isn't allowed and into the Painted room where it is allowed. Such a stunning room, decked out in rich Victorian reds and greens.
In stark contrast to this we also got to see the cells, we were shown examples of meals those in custody are offered, we could try on handcuffs and see inside the vans which bring those being bought to court would arrive in.
There is also a display of robes and wigs and a chance to try some on. This is the kind of thing I love but unfortunately there was a small queue and certain people were getting hungry and so we gave it a miss.
And this is where we ate our lunch, at the back of the building with not one but four red phone boxes in a row
As a bonus we were treated to the sight of two mounted policemen clip clopping past us.
Before I share our next stop here are a few highlights from our walk to reach it.
An incredibly narrow home called The Wee House
a striking look chap covering a water pipe, a pretty art nouveau lady pub sign, Jessica Ennis-Hill and a multitude of bird boxes in a small neighbourhood garden.
Our next venue was Hoxton Hall. My two grainy photos do not do the interior justice so please check out the link to the website to see it in it's true splendour. The little tour we were given was by Boris the Participation Manager and his love and enthusiasm for the music hall shone through. He told us how the building had been through a period of restoration due to a 2 million pound grant by the lottery fund and how the hall is still very much being used for the community.
Laurel and Hardy once graced the stage here and it was wonderful to be in a place where they had entertained the crowds and try to imagine the atmosphere of those evenings when a night out to see the latest variety acts was the thing to do.
And so ended Day 1.
Day 2 was to be spent in Hampstead. We had a couple of options lined up as you never know how busy a place will be until you get there.
But thankfully when we got to Fenton House we were able to go straight in. This 17th century merchant's house is definitely the kind of home you could imagine people living in. This is the view from the main entrance gates.
Having said I could imagine people living in it, the one thing I was disappointed with is that it wasn't overly furnished. These were my favourite pieces. The house is home to a collection of early keyboard instruments but I would have much preferred to see the attic rooms and other bedrooms filled with furniture that would have made it more of a lived in home.
The real gem of Fenton House is it's garden.
Walking through a hedge you emerge to topiary lollypop trees of holly and huge terracotta tubs planted with fig trees.
The green house is picture perfect although it must be well used as the garden provides an abundance of produce.
Around every corner there is a little bench, just right to sit quietly and enjoy the view or strike daft poses for photos.
All to soon it was time to think about returning home, passing on the way to the tube station this sweet little house
and a row of shops including a florist which had the prettiest pale hydrangeas on display.
It really was a fabulous weekend.