The Tolbooth, The People’s Story and the Museum of Edinburgh

About two thirds of the way down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in Canongate is the Tolbooth Tavern.

Tolbooth Tavern and the People's Story

Tolbooth Tavern and the People’s Story

It’s one of our regular Edinburgh boozers and you can read more about the Tolbooth’s history here. The pub only occupies part of the building. Sharing the former tax office and jail is The People’s Story (163 Canongate), a museum that celebrates the lives of ordinary Edinburgh folk.

The People's Story

The People’s Story

Oddly enough we had never strayed inside the museum until last week, but it was quite an interesting way to spend an hour or so. Inside there are a number of displays  illustrating the city’s trades and social activities from the 1700s right up to the present: everything from bookbinders and fishwives to Trade Unions, the foundation of the Labour Party and life in the worker’s hostels is neatly brought to life. Some of the exhibits could do with a bit of loving care and some clearer labels, but it is free to get in.

And while we are on the subject of free stuff, on the opposite side of the road is The Museum of Edinburgh (142 Canongate).

The Museum of Edinburgh

The Museum of Edinburgh

This is another place we hadn’t got around to visiting before the weekend, but I’m really glad we did. Although it doesn’t look that impressive from the front it does extend quite a long way back through a maze of 16th to 18th century buildings set around a central court. In Victorian times over 300 people lived within what is now the museum in very cramped conditions. Today it is home to an eclectic collection of things from the historical to the decorative.

Arts and Crafts Ceramics

Charles Bellfield Arts and Crafts Ceramics

I was impressed by the collection of 19th century ceramic ware from local potteries like Wemyss Ware from Fife. This fabulous carp tureen is very rare particularly because it still has its lid.

Wemyss Ware Carp Tureen

Wemyss Ware Carp Tureen

Amongst the historical displays we were horrified to discover that Greyfriars Bobby, far from being the wee dog who pined over his owner’s grave was actually a mutt trained to turn up at Mr Trial’s Coffee House for his lunch when the Edinburgh midday gun went off, what’s more the first Bobby was such a tourist draw that when he died a second lookalike was secretly procured to carry on the tradition! See the shocking fibs here.

I think my favourite set of exhibits were in the gallery devoted to Britain’s World War One General, Earl Douglas Haig. Set amongst his uniforms, trophies and photos was a fabulous set of Toby Jugs featuring the Allied war leaders.

Lloyd George and Admiral Jelicoe

Lloyd George and Admiral Jelicoe

Naturally King George V took pride of place in the centre.

King George V and Earl Haig

King George V and Earl Haig

We Roll up to the Falkirk Wheel

On the final day of our Edinburgh long weekend we took a trip out to Falkirk. Falkirk is located about midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow and it takes about half an hour to get there by train from Edinburgh Waverley.

Falkirk’s most modern attraction is the Falkirk Wheel,

The Falkirk Wheel

a boat lift that reconnects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The canals were originally linked by a series of eight locks, but with the decline of canal traffic in the 1900s they fell into disuse and were filled in during the 1930s. The Wheel, one of the Millenium projects, was completed in 2002 and the gondolas in the wheel’s eyes can move 600 tonnes of narrow boat and water the 34 metres between the two canals.

Rear view of the gondola at the Falkirk Wheel

Unfortunately the visitor centre is closed for much of the winter so we were unable to take one of the boat trips that allow you to ride the wheel. Still it was a lovely, if chilly morning so we set off to explore the countryside and visit the remains of the Antonine Wall that formed to northernmost frontier of Roman Britain.

Earthworks of the Antonine Wall

Not anywhere like as famous as Hadrian’s Wall to the south, the wall built for the Emperor Antoninus Pius stretched from Old Kirkpatrick to the Firth of Clyde. Construction began around AD 142 and took about twelve years to complete. Principally built of turf, what you can see today are the earthworks and ditches. The wall was only fortified for about twenty years before the Romans retreated back to Hadrian’s Wall, had they stayed a bit longer they might have built some more permanent structures. Having had a look around we decided to retreat ourselves and set out back towards the Wheel.

Just as the wheel was coming into sight I noticed it was on the move, so I legged it to a break in the tree cover to get some shots,

Gondola swinging into place on the Falkirk Wheel

as the wheel completed its action.

Almost back in place

Having seen at least part of the action of this engineering marvel, I didn’t feel quite so cheated about not getting a boat ride!

Next stop on our trip was Callendar House, the family seat of the Livingston family since 1345.

Callendar House

the present building’s facade is mostly 19th century,  the central core is a 14th Century Tower house. Over the years it has had some pretty important visitors including Mary Queen of Scots, Oliver Cromwell and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Today it is home to a very interesting local historical timeline display a working 19th century kitchen, temporary art galleries and the local archives. The grounds also have a stretch of the Antonine Wall.

One of the local industries that features prominently in the timeline is the Carron Ironworks, who used to cast the short stubby Royal Navy cannon known as carronades or ‘smashers’. Nelson had two 68 pound Carronades mounted on the Victory‘s forecastle, that cleared the gun-deck of the French Bucentaur with a single salvo through her stern windows. Carrons later went on to make far less deadly pillar boxes for Royal Mail.

With a bit of time to spare before our train we walked back into Falkirk. From what we saw it wasn’t much different from any number of small towns in the UK with branches of chains like Greggs and Phones 4 You and an abandoned bandstand full of furtively smoking hoodies. The only difference I did note was the large number of Turkish barber shops and tattoo parlours. We did find a friendly pub called the Toll Booth for a welcome pint though.

We got a group save return ticket for four, from Edinburgh Waverley to Falkirk High for £23.90 (about half price), by travelling on the 9.15 train. Admission to all sites was free.

British Design at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Cone you believe it at the V&A

I’d been meaning to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s British Design 1948-2012 exhibition for some time, so having a free day I decided to have a look around before the Olympic Games cause all kinds of travel problems in the capital. The last time London hosted the games was in 1948, when as the exhibition points out they were called the Austerity Games since London was still recovering from the Second World War. I find this wryly amusing given that we are now living in ‘Austerity Britain’ but the government seems to have no problem throwing money at the 2012 Games.

Enough of that and on to the show. There really isn’t much about the 1948 Olympics, once you have paid your £12 to get in. The real start point for the Tradition and Modernity gallery is the 1951 Festival of Britain, an event that looked forward to the second half of the 20th Century counterpointed with the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth, an event steeped in tradition. So along side from some of the amazing futuristic Festival graphics by Abram Games there are Norman Hartnel state gowns and an absolutely sumptuous portrait of the Queen by Cecil Beaton.

Post-war reconstruction gets a look in with architect’s models and plans for new towns like Harlow and Milton Keynes, and there is a nice set of post-modern ecclesiastical material from Basil Spence’s Coventry Cathedral. New materials for furniture are showcased with Robin Day’s designs for chairs and such innovations as G-Plan furniture and Hygiena modular kitchens  There is also a look at the development of  national design guidelines for British Rail and the motorways and road network . So much of the familiar imagery that we take for granted today, like Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert’s motorway signs date from this time and it is good to see this stuff getting the recognition that it deserve.

As someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen it was also interesting to note the evolution of domestic appliance and cookware design, from the merely practical to the decorative, as dining became ever more informal. Elizabeth David, whose cookbooks introduced Britons to French and Italian cuisine in the 1950s, gets a credit for bringing Mediterranean designs into the home. The gallery also looks at how some designers looked back to the traditions of the British countryside to create something new, leading to an interesting comparison of Laura Ashley’s floral fabrics with Vivienne Westwood’s designs for tweeds.

Moving on the Subversion Gallery took us through the late 60s and 70s. This is my sort of era, where the young, and not so young rebelled against the existing hegemony. Some great stuff in here; David Bailey’s photos of Jean Shrimpton, David Bowie’s Ziggy costume, Marc Bolan’s gold lame suit from Granny Takes a Trip, posters from the UFO Club, Beatles and Stones LP sleeves and Westwood’s and McLaren’s ‘Destroy’ T-Shirts and bondage gear.

The final gallery, Innovation and Creativity, showcases some iconic British design like the E-Type Jag (of which there is a stunning example), Concorde, the Baylis wind up radio and the Dyson bag-less vacuum cleaner. There is also a small gallery of computer design featuring Lara Croft and other such things.

Personally I would have liked to have seen a bit more graphic design, but on the whole it’s a pretty good show..

V&A memorial in Exhibition Road

Outside on Exhibition Road I could not resist taking a few snaps of the World War II bomb damaged wall that has been left as a memorial to the V & A’s traditions.

Nazi war damage.

So simple and poignant.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery and a pint at The Conan Doyle

When we went to see the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo the other week the bus passed this incredible piece of Gothic Revival architecture.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

This is the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh’s  Queen Street. The photograph doesn’t really do it justice, but short of standing in the traffic I wasn’t going to get much better. The building was designed by the Scottish architect Robert Rowland Anderson, who was trained by the great George Gilbert Scott and built between 1885 and 1890. It was built specifically to house the collection of portraits founded by David Erskine the 11th Earl of Buchan and as such was the first custom-built national museum of portraiture. London’s National Portrait Gallery was founded earlier (I worked on Royal Mail’s 150th anniversary stamp products back in 2006), but didn’t move into its current location until 1896.

It is a bit of a wow moment when you step into the atrium.

William Hole frieze – Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

The processional frieze below the balcony is by the English painter William Hole and depicts important Scots from Saint Ninian to Robert Burns and David Livingstone. The collection has lots of portraits of famous Jacobites like Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora Macdonald as well as Kings, Queens and other worthies. Notable portraits include Raeburn’s Walter Scott and Nasmyth’s Robert Burns. Unfortunately the contemporary gallery is presently being rehung, so the only modern Scot on view John Bellany’s portrait of Billy Connolly.

We found the portrait of another famous Scot at the bottom of Queen Street.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Conan Doyle, Edinburgh

Hanging over the entrance to The Conan Doyle pub. The Conan Doyle has had a bit of a facelift since I last visited and the exterior is now a smart black rather than green. Inside it’s still packed with Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes memorabilia. The pub is just of Picardy Place, where in 1859, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born at number 55. Number 55 is no longer there , but I had a lovely pint of Belhaven stout, drawn from a hand-pump. It was better than Guinness, with no CO2 artificial fizz.

Customised pump badge at The Conan Doyle

London Baker Street -The Game is Afoot on the Sherlock Holmes Trail

Just before a bit of snow completely paralysed Olde London Town this weekend, we were off to the West End for an investigation into the realm of the great detective.

London’s most famous street

Baker Street runs from Regent’s Park in the north down to Oxford Street. The tube station was one of the first underground stations in London, opening in 1863 as part of the Metropolitan Railway. When you exit onto Marylebone Road you just can’t miss the nine foot high bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes created by John Doubleday.

You have no choice but to look up to Mr Sherlock Holmes

Unveiled in 1999, it must be one of only a few statues of fictional characters in London. The only other one I can think of is Paddington Bear at Paddington Station.

Turning north into Baker Street we headed for 221B. Now there is not a little controversy over this address, since in the late 19th century when the stories were first published Baker Street only went up to number 100. The higher numbers were allocated in the 1930s after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s death and 221 was given to the headquarters of the Abbey National Building Society, who sensing a great PR opportunity  employed someone to answer the many letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

The disputed 221B Baker Street

Then in 1990 the number 221B was assigned to The Sherlock Holmes Museum when the publicity hungry Leader of Westminster Council, Shirley Porter (yes her of the gerrymandering scandal of 1996) unveiled a blue plaque at the Museum’s official opening. Only thing was that the museum was really located between numbers 237 and 241.   I make that 239, so it must have confused the poor postman. An almighty row then broke out between the Abbey National, the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Westminster Council over who should answer the mail of someone who didn’t really exist. This was only really resolved when the Spanish Bank Santander took over Abbey and closed down Abbey’s HQ in a frenzy of corporate asset stripping in 2005.

So we joined the queue outside the museum, never questioning the fact that we were waiting to get into the house of someone from the imagination of an author. Once the friendly Peeler on the door let us in (admission is £6, tickets from the ground floor shop) we climbed the 17 steps to Sherlock Holmes’s sitting room. Now the actual building had been a Victorian lodging house so the recreation of the study with its two windows looking out on Baker Street had been very well imagined, down to the VR picked out on the wall in bullet holes,

Queen Victoria’s royal cypher in bullet holes

the Persian slipper on the mantlepiece for Holmes’s pipe tobacco,  his chemistry set in the corner and of course his violin.

The Great Detective’s violin and chemistry lab

On the table were the famous hat, pipe and magnifying glass, although it’s highly unlikely the Deerstalker would have been worn around town.

The famed Deerstalker, pipe and glass

Next door to the study we found Holmes’s bedroom, and up on the second floor we found those of Dr Watson and their landlady Mrs Hudson. These rooms and those above house various bits of Holmes memorabilia including the head of the hound of the Baskervilles,

Head of the Hound

and some tatty mannequins in posed dioramas of from the stories. Right at the top of the house we found the smallest room.

Yes the Khazi of Sherlock Holmes

Having finished nosing around the house, we had a poke around the ground floor shop and discovered it to be full of old tat.

Leaving the shop we turned south passing the London Beatles Shop, on our way to the Sherlock Holmes Hotel (100 Baker Street) for cocktails. Actually it’s not so strange having s Beatles Shop on Baker street as John Lennon lived at no 96 Baker Street, for a while during the 1960s.

The Sherlock Holmes Hotel

The Sherlock Holmes Hotel is very swish, a doorkeeper even ushered us in from the cold to the warmth of the cocktail bar where we settled down for drink. Cocktails are between £7 and £8 a go, plus a service charge, so we only stayed for one. I had a Sherlock’s Manhattan, not sure if Holmes ever tried one, but it was very pleasant.

Cocktails at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel

A bit more attuned to my budget was The Barley Mow (8 Dorset Street, just off Baker Street).

Yeah I know the Y has dropped off

What a discovery, this is alleged to be the oldest pub in Marylebone and inside it still has the Victorian drinking booths that seat up to six people (at a squeeze) in secrecy. It also had a fine array of real ales including a hand drawn milk stout, just like Guinness but without the fizz. Added to that friendly bar staff and no music it goes on my list of London’s top pubs.

By the time we left it was getting quite cold, so we hotfooted it to The Royal China Club (40-42 Baker Street) for an early dinner. Here’s a confession I’d booked the wrong restaurant, there is another Royal China further down Baker Street, which was the place recommended to us by one of Mab’s friends. The Royal China Club is the sort of restaurant where the fish tanks are not just for decoration, which I’m not knocking, but it may have been a bit pricier than we expected. However we still managed a meal of Dim Sung followed by a main course with rice and a bottle of indifferent wine for about £100 for three. The prawn dim sung were nothing special, but the lamb buns and the puff pastry pork were fabulous. The Szechuan Chicken I had as a main was wonderful, as was Mab’s Golden Fried Crispy Chicken. For dessert we tried the ice cream dim sung, stretchy uncooked dim sung dough with a vanilla ice cream centre, very nice if a little strange.

It was as much as we could do to waddle down Baker Street to get the tube from Bond Street Station before the snow came down.

Shipscook’s Italian Job – Salerno and Paestum

At last, I finally get around to writing up the last part of our Italian holiday.

After  brutally early start we eventually arrived on the outskirts of the cathedral city of Salerno. The scenery on the coastal drive from Sorrento had been very pretty, but as we approached the Salerno things were looking a bit grim, lots of quays with stacks of containers and massive ships betrayed the city’s main industry. It got a bit more interesting once we were in the centre and out of the coach. A brief walk through the narrow streets from the sea front, took us to the medieval cathedral or duomo.

The cathedral was founded in 1076 by Robert Guiscard the Norman mercenary who was appointed Duke of Apulia and Calabria by Pope Nicholas II.

Bell Tower Salerno Cathedral

From the outside the most striking feature is the 56 metre high,12th century bell tower which was built in the Arabic-Norman style. Inside, the cathedral was restored to something like it’s original medieval condition in the 1930s. Above the altar there is this rather beautiful domed ceiling.

Painted Ceiling above the altar

The duomo is regarded as one of the initial symbols of the Italian Renaissance because it is where Pope Gregory VII, who rejected German domination of the Holy Roman Empire is interred. Another famous burial is claimed for the crypt. Restored by Domenico Fontana in the 17th century this groin vaulted hall is said to be the last resting place of St Matthew.

Cathedral Crypt

Keeping St Matthew company is the column that was allegedly used as an executioner’s block when the Roman Emperor Diocletion decided to chop Matthew’s head off!

We carried on to Paestum by the coast road. The long narrow beach here is very popular with local people. In September 1943 this was where the British and American forces landed in Operation Avalanche. For some bizarre reason our guide told us that Ernest Hemingway came ashore with the Americans, but I’m pretty sure that ‘Papa’ was patrolling the Caribbean in his boat, Pilar, searching for U-Boats at the time.

Temple of Athena

Paestum (admission €6) was founded by Greek settlers in the 7th century BC and is one of the best preserved Greco-Roman sites in Italy. There are three major buildings on the site, generally known as the Temples of Hera and Athena and the Palace of Justice, although the discovery of an altar to the front of the Palace of Justice has shown it to also be a temple. the discovery of early Christian tombs cut into the floor of the Temple of Athena indicates that these buildings were probably converted into churches before the city was abandoned to malarial swamps in the early medieval period.

Temple of Hera

Paestum is a very large site and there are also some remains of later Roman buildings like the Forum and Amphitheatre.


Smaller items from Paestum are in a museum (admission €4) just across the road from the site. aside from pottery and metal items there are some rather lovely tomb paintings like this one of a symposium or drinking party.

Syposium or Piss Up - Tomb Painting, Paestum

Fully cultured out we boarded the bus for our final destination, Caseificio Barlotti, an ice cream parlour on a Buffalo farm.

Water Buffalo

The water buffalo is believed to have been introduced to the Campania region of Italy by the Normans, who first encountered them in Sicily, where they had been introduced by the Arabs. Buffalo milk is very creamy and is used to make the best Mozzarella cheese. It also makes phenomenally good ice cream definitely worth the €2 we paid for a cornet.

Water Buffalo Calves

Curiously, despite their similarity to domestic cattle, water buffalo are too genetically different to hybridise with them, unlike the bison which produces a zubron (European bison/cow cross) or a beefalo (American bison/cow cross)

Our trip was booked through Thomson and cost a whopping £32.50 for basically being driven around in a bus with a guide. No admission fees were included and a set lunch of pasta with more rotgut wine was an extra €13.

London Transport Museum Depot

I was lucky enough to visit the London Transport Museum Depot at Acton today. It’s a working museum store and is only open to the public occasionally for guided tours and the odd open day, so it was a real privilege to get a look around.

Bench from the Museum tube station that closed in 1933 when Holborn was enlarged

Essentially it’s a large engine shed packed full of stuff including trains like this classic 1938 Stock,

1938 Rolling Stock

that really defined the look of London’s tube trains. I can remember them running on the Northern Line out of East Finchley Station from when I was kid in the 1960s. They were eventually taken out of service in 1988. Naturally there are also buses, trams and plenty of equipment like signalling gear, ticket offices and signs like these, which the familiar logo is derived from.

Original London Transport Bullseyes from 1910 onwards

Along with a treasure trove of classic London Transport posters, blueprints and plans. I love this original wrought iron work from the Metropolitan Line.

Fabulous wrought iron work

And I have a special affection for these gorgeous R stock trains which ran on the District Line between 1938 and 1983,

R Stock

there is something rather elegant about their fluted body work, which oddly enough reminds me of the early Ironman comics.

Like most Londoners I have a love/hate relationship with Transport for London. When it goes wrong it can really spoil your day, but most of the time it does a grand job. What you can’t argue with though is its heritage of great design; from trains and buses through to stations and their fixtures and fittings. They are part of London’s iconography.

The depot is in Museum Way, almost opposite Acton Town tube station and normal admission is £10 visit to find out more

Roskilde, Denmark – We become Vikings

Me the Viking

Our last day in Denmark stated with a very good eat as much as you can breakfast at The Munchies (Rosennors Alle 32, 1970 Fredericksberg), which was just up the road from our hotel. For DKK89 (about £10) we got free range of hot and cold buffet with fruit, cereals, bacon, eggs, sausages, various salads, cheeses and cold meats, which was miles better than the somewhat grim repast laid out in the Cab Inn.

Suitably fortified we hopped on the Metro to Copenhagen’s central station where we boarded the train to Denmark’s former capital Roskilde. Roskilde is about 30 kilometres from the capital and the journey which took about 25 minutes was covered by our Copenhagen Cards. On arrival we were greeted by the local marching band. Nothing quite like a parade to set you up for the day is there?

Beats Take That anyday

Roskilde was founded by the Danish King Harald I (Bluetooth) in the 980s and in 1020 Knut the Great (yes he who tried to turn back the tide as King of England, he was also king of Norway and part of Sweden too) established a bishopric there. Many of Denmark’s Kings and Queens are buried in the Gothic Cathedral, which was built here in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Final resting places of the Kings and Queens of Denmark

Back in the 11th century five ships were scuttled in the entrance to Roskilde’s harbour to protect the town from rampaging Norwegians. In the early 1960s they were excavated and now they are preserved in the Vikingeskibshallen (Viking Ship Museum admission DKK 100, not included on the Copenhagen Card) . The ships include both war ships and cargo vessels.

Inside the Viking Ship Museum

Outside the Museum has shipbuilder’s workshops, where demonstrations of metalwork, carpentry and rope making take place, plus a harbour full of replica boats, some made by the Museum’s staff.

Replica Viking Long Boat

Best of all you can join the crew for a genuine Viking sailing experience on Roskilde Fjord.

Vikings in training

Our trip cost an extra DKK80 (about £9). Lars our captain saw us to our benches and appointed the Powder Monkey as helmsman, she was delighted. We got to leave the harbour under sail and spent about 40 minutes in the open water before furling the mainsail and putting our backs into rowing.

Me the Viking at sea

Despite nobody aboard ever having rowed a longboat before it was surprising how our disparate crew of Danes, Czechs, English and Tasmanians soon got into the swing of it and rowed safely back into the harbour. The boat moved through the water pretty fast and I think the Powder Monkey earned her promotion to Master’s Mate pretty effectively.

On our way out of the Museum I spotted some House Martens building nests above the door from mud gathered at the river mouth, clever little birds.

House Martens

On our return to Copenhagen we discovered some more ships, lurking in the Tivoli Gardens,

Pirates Ahoy

fortunately we didn’t run into any pirates, but nearby we found this mum with some charming babies.

Ruddy Shelduck and family

Then while we enjoying a quiet drink in the Japanese bar, pandemonium broke loose when two peacocks decided to have a showdown.

Come on if you think you're hard enough

It was the best free show in town until it got dark and the lights came on,

Pagoda, Tivoli, Copenhagen

Denmark – Helsingor, Hamlet and Herring

Me at Kronborg Castle

About half an hour by train from the centre of Copenhagen is Helsingor. What’s so special about Helsingor you may ask? Well by the Anglicised name of Elsinore it was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s also the closest point between Denmark and Sweden so the building of the first fortress on the present site of Kronborg Castle in the 1420s allowed the Danes to control access to the Baltic Sea. Extorting customs dues from traders wishing to pass through the four kilometre wide sound, the King of Denmark did alright right up until 1859 , which is about when shipboard artillery became capable of blowing castles to bits and the right royal protection racket came to an end.

Since the breakfast on offer at our hotel in Copenhagen was both expensive and complete pants we got up early, hopped on the Metro to Norreport where we boarded the Oresund train to Helsingor. All this was included on our Copenhagen card. Half an hour later we were in Helsingor and ready for breakfast.

Madam Sprunck's marvelous breakfast

Which we took at Madam Sprunk’s, Bramstraede 5, Helsingor. Normally the breakfast is only for hotel residents, but I guess we must have looked very hungry as we were soon enjoying a delicious selection of cold meats, cheese, scrambled eggs, sausages and fruit, plus yogurt and jam, fruit juice and unlimited coffee . All this for DKK99 and absolutely beautifully presented, a mental note was made to investigate their lunch menu.

Breakfast done we headed for Kronberg Casstle.

17th Century defensive wall of Kronborg Castle

Passing through the 17th century defensive glacis that was added after the Swedish general Carl Gustav Wrangel stormed the castle in 1658,  we eventually got to the moat where we found a family of swans with eight cygnets,

"Come on kids let break some arms"

before getting into the castle itself. The present Kronborg was built in 1585 by King Frederick II. Inside there are a number of museums. We plumped for the Maritime Museum which was included on our Copenhagen Cards. It tells the story of Denmark’s seafaring history with ship models and artifacts from the 1600s onwards. I found the material from World War Two when Danish Merchant Marine sailors in allied service could only communicate with their families at home via the Red Cross particularly touching. There is also a nice display of artifacts relating to Greenland’s time as a Danish colony.

The Museum also gives you access to the roof where you can see right across the sound to the Swedish side of the channel and watch the ferries bringing hordes of Swedes over to shop for cheaper booze in Helsingor’s supermarkets.

Ferry from Sweden full of Booze Cruisers

Cultural stuff done it was time for something to cool down. Brostreade Flode Is was established in 1922 and sells brilliant home made ice cream which is why the queue snakes out of the door into the narrow Brostreade.

Brostreade Flode Is

I chose rum and raisin and nougat in a home baked waffle cone. This place has had some illustrious customers in the past including a certain Archie Leach, better know as Cary Grant, who is pictured outside the parlour in a framed magazine cover.

Cary Grant pictured outside Brostreade Flode Is inthe 1950s

So onto lunch. The jewel of Madam Sprunck’s lunchtime menu was Smag pa Helsingor. Roughly translated this was marinated herring, in a top secret sauce served with salad, a Wiibroe beer and a shot of the local fire water known as Akvavit.All for DKK 145.

Smag pa Helsingor

It was fabulous and as if the Akavit wasn’t strong enough the beer was just over 10%, so naturally we had another one as the local Dixieland jazz band and line dancers paraded through the street outside. And no that’s not the booze talking!

Super strong Wibroe beer

A Quick Look Around Leeds

It seemed like we had only just got back from Edinburgh before we were back at Kings Cross station waiting to board a train to Leeds. Now I have only been to the city a couple of times for boring stuff like conferences and never really had the opportunity to see much of it, so while my better half did the conference thing this time, I had a nose around. After leaving the station the first thing I noticed was this marvelous equestrian statue of Prince Edward, the Black Prince in the city square.

The Black Prince

This statue by Sir Thomas Brock was a gift to the city by former Lord Mayor of Leeds Colonel Thomas Walter Harding in 1903. Pure coincidence that the King at the time just happened to be called Edward too! Incidentally Brock also designed the Victoria Memorial just outside Buckingham Palace. Nearby are eight rather lovely bronze lamp bearers cast in the inimitable mode of Victorian soft porn. These are the work of Alfred Drury.

Victorian soft porn lamp bearers

Moving further into the city I was impressed by some of the monumental buildings, mostly I suspect the result of newly rich industrial civic pride of the Victorian era.

Here is Leeds Town Hall.

Town Hall Leeds

This was designed by the architect Cuthbert Broderick and completed in 1858.

Next door I found the City Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute.  In fact there is so much Henry Moore stuff that it overflows from the Henry Moore Institute into the really rather small art gallery.  Once you get past all the Moore stuff there are a few remarkable Victorian paintings including Holman Hunt’s study of Christ casting the shadow of the cross in his carpentry workshop The Shadow of Death, Elizabeth Thompson’s rather wonderful panorama of the Scots Dragoons charging at Waterloo  Scotland Forever, Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot, Evelyn de Morgan’s The Valley of Shadows and George William Joy’s huge Death of General Gordon. Moving into the 20th Century there are also some nice works by Percy Wyndham Lewis, Francis Bacon and Paula Rego.

The art gallery took about two hours to see everything so next stop was the Leeds city Museum in Millennium Square. This is quite a small museum which doubles up as a conference centre.  The most interesting part is the second floor gallery which tells the story of Leeds from early settlement right up to the Sisters of Mercy and the Kaiser Chiefs. The temporary exhibition on the Spice Girls (Mel B is from the town) is quite fun too with everything from stage costumes and gold discs to the Pepsi cans and Walkers Crisp packets that were used to market the band. It’s an interesting study of a global phenomenon even if, like me, you hated the music.

Avoid venturing into the basement if you don’t want to see some ancient stuffed animals stuck behind some funky graphics about climate change, but do take a look at the lovely bronze statue of the enchantress Circe in the gift shop. It is another work by Alfred Drury. Again this is a small museum, so two hours is about enough to see everything.

Slightly more substantial is the Royal Armories located in Clarence Dock over the River Aire. I spent the best part of three hours here looking at armour, guns and other weapons (I know but I am a boy). Particularly interesting were the Asian horse armour, the 19th Century revolvers and machine guns, and the exhibition of weapons used by James Bond. Like all the places mentioned so far admission to the Royal Armories is free and I could quite easily have spent longer there, but time can be a harsh mistress.

As I mentioned before Leeds is full of splendid examples of Victorian monumental building and on the way to our hotel I found this rather nice example with Moorish styling in Park Square.

A northern Moorish palace

This is St Paul’s House and it was originally a warehouse and cloth cutting works. It was designed by  Thomas Ambler and completed in 1878. The front entrance is particularly splendid, shame about the bent bit of pipe in front of it though.

Moorish gateway

That evening we discovered a quite fabulous restaurant, more on that later.