Category: Architecture

British Museum

British Museum

British Museum, Photo by JMorton

British Museum

Did you Know?

The British Museum is the first public museum in the whole world.  It first open its doors in 1759, free to visit for the studious and the curious.

The museum has some of the most important and relevant exhibits in the whole world.




Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden

pergola corridor, photo by PH Morton

pergola corridor, photo by PH Morton

Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden

For me, Hampstead Heath is the real gem of London and at the heart of it is what is locally known as the Secret Garden.  Not many knew of this garden’s existence.  It is not well sign-posted.  We only found out of this garden more than 25 years ago when we stumbled upon it while we were out walking at the Heath extension towards Wildwood pond to look at frog spawns.

The secret garden is really called Hill Garden and Pergola.  It is a very tranquil and romantic place; very verdant place with all the plants flowering from trees, bushes, bulbs, climbers and borders.

The pergola is strewn with roses and clematis.  It is a romantic combination of Italian, French and English garden ambience.  Only a few people would wander down to this sumptuous location.

I keep thinking that it could be the perfect venue for a wildly romantic wedding or even a marriage proposal.

If you happen to be at Golders Hill Park, try to drop by the Hill Garden as well which is about 500 metres away.

Now that the weather is really more spring-like, why not bring a book and wander down to the Secret Garden of Hampstead Heath.  It would be a treat.

Charing Cross Underground Station

The subway to Charing Cross station has an amazing array of mural tiles.  Amazing not only aesthetically but amazing because they show a brief but concise history of the nearby locale, how the place was built, what took place.  The whos, the whats, the wheres, and the whys were more or less dealt with by the history in tiles.

Walking through the tunnel and underground is interesting and informative, the thing to while away the time when waiting for the next tube, especially when there are some delays.

It is also good for tourists and visitors alike to note what to expect outside or why outside became what it is.

Pyramid Building 101 For Beginners

Ancient Egypt has been a keen interest of mine for many years. From 3000BC to 672–332 BC This magnificent civilisation flourished and influenced many other civilisations such as the Greeks and Romans. The ancient Egyptians build some incredible monuments and temples. Their greatest achievement was the construction of the Pyramids which were elaborate tombs for their Kings/Pharaohs ensuring transit to the afterlife which the pharaohs people could hopefully share in after helping construct these majestic monuments.
It was so see the pyramids up close and personal.
Below is an interesting  article  from  Ben Gilland  @ Metro Newspaper on the latest theories of how the pyramids may have been built.

JW3 – London Newest Cultural Centre for Jewish Life

JW3: is London’s latest cultural centre ‘a new postcode for Jewish life’?

From kosher cooking to evenings with Kevin Spacey, JW3 focuses on Jewish culture without being expressly Jewish. And it is an ambitious space – once you get past the fortifications

JW3 new Jewish cultural centre, LondonView larger picture
‘Like a low-slung liner’ … JW3 cultural centre, London

“I’m fed up with the Jewish conversation just being about Israel or antisemitism,” says Raymond Simonson, sitting in a meeting room with floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking Finchley Road in northwest London. “I want to talk about Curb Your Enthusiasm instead, and the paintings of Chagall, the music of Amy Winehouse and Woody Allen films.”

With thick glasses, substantial sideburns and a brown tweed jacket that give him the look of someone fresh from a Woody Allen film set, Simonson is the chief executive of a new multimillion pound complex that aims to provide a home for all of the above.

JW3 new Jewish cultural centre, HampsteadHovering like a low-slung liner, its long ribbons of windows separated by crisp bands of white concrete, JW3 (a riff on its home in NW3) declares itself to be “a new postcode for Jewish life” – with not a Torah or menorah in sight. Set to open at the end of September after 10 years in the making, it is the brainchild of Vivien Duffield, whose Clore Duffield Foundation stumped up £40m of the £50m project cost. It was inspired by her visit to the vast Jewish Community Centre (JCC) in New York, a multi-storey beacon of Jewish culture in Manhattan that made her wonder why London didn’t have the same.

“If you go to the States, Jewish stuff is loud and proud,” says Simonson. “But over here it’s completely different. Indoors, we might shout at each other around the dinner table, smash glasses at our weddings and do boisterous dancing, but outside you keep your head down. Of course we know why it’s like that in Europe – my mum escaped Nazi-occupied France – but we shouldn’t still be scared of that shadow.”

While New York’s look-at-me JCC seems like a slick private club, complete with a flashy sixth-floor swimming pool, London’s version speaks more softly. Set back from the roaring six-lane traffic on Finchley Road on a sloping site, accessed from a bridge that crosses a large sunken courtyard, its four storeys only read as two from street level. Designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, purveyors of inoffensive modernism-lite, it is dressed in understated beige, brick and reconstituted stone. It is trying to be the Savile Row to the loud Wall Street pinstripe – but it comes off looking a bit M&S.

JW3 new Jewish cultural centre, London“We knew we couldn’t just plonk the JCC down here,” says Nick Viner, JW3’s outgoing CEO who has steered the project since the beginning. He cites Hugh Casson’s Ismaili Centre in South Kensington and Denys Lasdun’s Royal College of Physicians by Regent’s Park as projects he was keen to emulate. Both contain a series of auditoriums and rooms arranged around large public levels and atriums. Both are also wrapped in fortified shells, standing like cultural castles ready to defend against an oncoming siege.

By contrast, Viner wanted JW3 to have “an open civic quality, not look like an exclusive club,” though this is not particularly evident from the street. The bridge, accessed through a big metal gate, reinforces the sense of a secure site, while a giant glass fence marches along the pavement, allowing passers-by to look down on activities in the sunken piazza – an us-and-them relationship with unfortunate connotations of a zoo enclosure. The whole thing is towered over by a nine-storey block of swish apartments, a necessary planning condition, replacing the same number of homes that were on the site before.

The fact that the building looks like an embassy should not come as a surprise: it is intended as something of a Jewish cultural ambassador. Within its relatively small footprint, it somehow contains a 270-seat auditorium, a 60-seat cinema, a restaurant and bar, a demonstration kitchen, dance studios, classrooms and medical clinics. This leisure sandwich is even topped off by a penthouse nursery with a ziggurat of ball pools and sandpits on its own roof terrace. It is the kind of ambitious hybrid offspring that might be produced if an academy school had a lovechild with the Barbican.

JW3 Jewish centre Hampstead“We would like to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Barbican,” confirms Viner, “along with the Southbank Centre, or the Roundhouse or Rich Mix.” With the Camden Arts Centre across the road, he hopes JW3 will lead to an “emerging arts hub” in this corner of Hampstead.

The bar is set high, and with 1,300 events scheduled for the opening three months, the programming team has a lot to live up to. Simonson points out that this only equates to two events per day in each space – “we wanted to start light” – but the calendar is already brimming with celebrity appearances, from evenings with Kevin Spacey and Nicholas Hytner to Ruby Wax and Zoë Wanamaker. The courtyard will become a mini-farm in the opening weeks and an ice rink over the winter, while upstairs in the classrooms there are courses on Hebrew lettering and henna body-painting, kosher cooking classes and lessons in Krav Maga – the lethal martial art taught to the Israeli Defence Force. But not everything is on-theme: “If you come for watercolour classes, it’s not Jewish watercolours,” says Simonson. “We won’t make you sit there and paint gefilte fish.”

Being in Hampstead, the centre has a guaranteed catchment and builds on a strong history of cultural life in the area. It is just down the road from the home of Habonim, AKA the “Socialist Zionist Culturally Jewish youth movement,” a group where Mike Leigh, Sacha Baron Cohen and David Baddiel started out telling jokes. In their honour, JW3 will host a Jewish comedy club called HavaNaGiggle, plus a comedy class for pensioners – “standup for the sit-down age group” as Simonson has christened it.

JW3 new Jewish cultural centre LondonJW3 is at pains to point out that it is not a religious centre. It may have the largest Shabbat-compliant lift outside Israel – programmed to function automatically on a Saturday, stopping at every floor – but there is nothing expressly Jewish about the building. “I hope people that might never think of going to a synagogue will come here,” says Simonson, adding that the programme should appeal to the new kind of “three-days-a-year Jew”.

“That used to mean going to the synagogue on our three holiest days,” he says, “but now there is a generation that might go to the Jewish Film festivalJewish Book Week and Limmud, a sort of Jewish Edinburgh festival. The idea of JW3 is to have this festival 52 weeks a year, open to everyone.” With an energetic director at the helm, and a long list of wealthy benefactors, the centre has every hope of adding another dimension to London’s vibrant cultural life – just as long as it can lure people past the fences and across the bridge.

Tabernacle or Religuary

As you go a little farther into the Medieval & Renaissance collection at the V&A museum you will be enchanted by a fairly good size tabernacle. It is such a beautiful object. The left, right, back and front are lavishly decorated with ivory carvings.

Apparently this piece was owned by Prince Soltykoff, who was once known for his great objet d’art collection. The above tabernacle was purported to have come from a Benedictine nunnery in Eltenberg. This beautiful art underwent a rigorous investigation from British and German experts to authenticate it and happily it was concluded that it is largely original. Furthermore there was a hidden fragment of parchment which was written in 1855 which shows that it came from a Benedictine monastery in cologne.

This item was dated to have been made between 1148-58, thus making it the earliest liturgical object in the form of a cross-shaped domed church. A real masterpiece in medieval goldsmithing!

DSCN8167 V&A 2013 017 V&A 2013 018 V&A 2013 020 V&A 2013 021

What is a tabernacle?


The tabernacle is a liturgical furnishing used to house the Eucharist outside of Mass. This provides a location where the Eucharist can be kept for the adoration of the faithful and for later use (e.g., distribution to the sick).

It also helps prevent the profanation of the Eucharist. Thus the law requires, “The tabernacle in which the Eucharist is regularly reserved is to be immovable, made of solid or opaque material, and locked so that the danger of profanation may be entirely avoided” (CIC 938 §3).

The word tabernacle means “dwelling place.” Any place someone dwells is a tabernacle. The term is also sometimes used for a temporary dwelling place. Thus the tent-like sanctuary that the Jews used before the Temple was built was called the Tabernacle, because God dwelt there. Similarly, for the feast of Sukkot the Hebrews erected temporary shelters to live in for the festival, which is often called “the feast of tabernacles” or “the feast of booths” as a result.

The tabernacle in Church is so named because it is a place where Christ dwells in the Eucharist.

Antoni Gaudi

gaudi gaudi 2

Today is the 161 anniversary of Antoni Gaudi’s birth.

Gaudi was born on 25 June 1852 in Reus, in the Catalonia region of Spain.

My husband and I celebrated our 25 wedding anniversary in Barcelona in November 2011. We went all over Barcelona, it is a beautiful city.

Many buildings in Barcelona had the touch of the great man. Gaudi was certainly a very productive man.  We spent most of the day at Gaudi’s Magnum Opus, the Sagrada Familia.

The Sagradia is without a doubt a work of great achitectural art.  To get into the cathedral, you had to pay an entrance fee, the fee goes into the work that still goes on.  I am rather chuffed to think that my Peter and I contributed a little bit into the making of the Sagrada Familia. 🙂


The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família



I have to admit that at first glance, I thought the Sagrada was my idea of what hell would look like. It was a bit unnerving.  The cathedral was all spiky with uneven facade. From across the road, the building looked like stalagmites. But as you go nearer, you will be blown away by the many figures that adorn or even sculpted on the walls.  No word can express how wonderful they were, perfection perhaps!!!

Interior ceiling

Interior ceiling


The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família




Chinese Tourist in a Graffitti Scandal


Here’s The Graffiti A Chinese Teen Scraped Into A 3500-Year Old Egyptian Temple
On Friday a micro-blogger posted a photo of graffiti at a temple complex in Luxor, Egypt, which said: “Ding Jinhao was here”.

That is not on.  The monuments have stood the test of time, of wind, of rain, of quakes and everything else.  They need reverence from all of us. Tourist must show respect to their host country’s artifacts, national treasures, the sights, tourist spots, laws and regulations at all times.

I know it is so tempting to leave a piece of ourselves in our surroundings documenting our own existence but we must try to contain ourselves.

Death penalty for Ding Jinghao is a bit stiff;) instead as the family must be quite rich to afford this kind of holidays, they should be made to pay for their son’s misdemeanor.  The family should see to it that the damage is repaired and pay some compensation. to the Egyptians.   Perhaps to boost its tarnish image as an emerging super-rich country, China should also make  a large donation to the Egyptians.

Nile relic vandal hunted down in China

AFPBy AFP | AFP – 8 hours ago

This file photo shows tourists visiting ancient statues in Luxor, on February 27, 2013. A Chinese tourist who defaced an ancient Egyptian monument was hunted down by Internet users who prompted his parents to apologise, state media reported on Monday

AFP/AFP/File – This file photo shows tourists visiting ancient statues in Luxor, on February 27, 2013.

A Chinese tourist who defaced an ancient Egyptian monument was hunted down by Internet users who prompted his parents to apologise, state media reported on Monday.

A photo posted on Chinese social networking service Sina Weibo showed crudely drawn Chinese characters written over an ancient sandstone panel lined with hieroglyphics, the Global Times newspaper said.

According to the China Daily, the vandalism took place in a temple at Luxor, on the banks of the Nile River.

Internet users hunted down the perpetrator, a 15-year-old boy named Ding Jinhao, and hacked the website of his school, forcing users to click on a sign parodying Ding’s graffiti before entering.                                     

The online furore prompted his parents, who said Ding had “cried all night” after learning of the cyberattacks, to issue an apology in a local newspaper.

The incident highlights fears over perceptions of the growing number of Chinese heading abroad for their holidays.

“This incident is not just about the problem of one person but has everything to do with national quality,” one Weibo user wrote.

“People must die if they lose face for the nation,” another said.

Earlier this month a top official said the dire manners and “uncivilised behaviour” of some Chinese tourists overseas were harming the country’s image, as he lamented their poor “quality and breeding”, according to state-run media.

Wang Yang, one of China’s four vice premiers, singled out for condemnation “talking loudly in public places, jay-walking, spitting and wilfully carving characters on items in scenic zones”                                 

China has seen rapid growth in outbound trips in recent years, and Chinese travellers are now the biggest source of international tourism cash in the world, according to a the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Renaud de Spens, a Beijing-based independent expert on both the Chinese Internet and Egyptology, told AFP that commenting on the case gave ordinary posters the opportunity to “denounce the behaviour of their elites”.

“Chinese media feel compelled (to) draw a moral from this… It amounts to propaganda, with the message: ‘Be careful, citizens. When you are abroad you represent China. Be loyal, wherever you are,'” he said.

Countess of Blessington & D’Orsay

220px-Maguerite,_Countess_of_BlessingtonMargaret Power better known as Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington (1 September 1789 – 4 June 1849) was an Irish novelist.

She was born near Clonmel in County Tipperary, Ireland.  She did not have a happy childhood as she grew up in poverty having had  a feckless father.

Her wretchedness was only increased as she reached her teens. At fifteen she was forcibly married off to an English officer, Captain Maurice St. Leger Farmer, who was a drunk.  His vice and debts killed him  in the end having became a  lodger at King’s Bench Prison in 1817.

Fortunately young Margaret had by then fled to Hampshire to live with the family of a sympathetic and literary sea-captain, Thomas Jenkins.

She was introduced to John Gardiner, the 1st Earl of Blessington, a widower with four children, two are legitimate.  Four months after her first husband’s death in prison,  Margaret was wed to the Earl.

Marguerite was stunning, of rare beauty and wit. She was also generous and extravagant, just like her husband, the earl.  They were spending too much that they encumbered their estate with a lot of debts.

Allegedly Marguerite and the Earl had met Count D’Orsay in 1821.  D’Orsay was French, a dandy – a follower of fashion.   There were evidences of sexual liaison between the three. A menage a trois?!!!  All very broad-minded. LOL

Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, Comte d'Orsay by George Hayter

Alfred Guillaume Gabriel, Comte d’Orsay by George Hayter

The Earl and Countess with their retinue of  children, sister-in-law and servants set off for a continental tour where again they met Count D’Orsay. They also met Lord Byron through the introduction of the Count; Marguerite was beguiled with the meetings with Byron that she wrote her most memorable work “Conversation with Byron’.

The Earl and Countess settled for a while in Naples and also spent time in Florence, often with D’Orsay.

Such was their close relationship that in 1827, D’Orsay married one of the Earl’s daughters.

Harriet Gardiner was fifteen years old at that time; it was not a happy, romantic marriage.   D’Orsay used the nuptial as a means of a  permanent connection with the Blessington family.

The sham of a marriage ended up in legal separation where Harriet paid off D’Orsay £100,000 to ensure that he does not make a claim to the Blessington estate. This was in 1838.

Prior to 1838, the Earl of Blessington died in 1829. His widowed countess returned to England with  D’Orsay. Their new life was one of literary pursuit, first at Seamore House, then at their Gore House, which became an open place for literary and artistic society of London. The likes of Benjamin Disraeli and Edward Burwer-Lytton would discuss arts with D’Orsay, who was himself an amateur painter and sculptor.

Their way of life was extravagant that the debt collectors were always knocking at their door.

D’Orsay went back to Paris whilst  Marguerite sold off all the furnitures and other things that can be sold in view of moving to France to be with D’Orsay.

Alas, she was only in Paris for two weeks when her heart burst. Apparently her heart had swelled up four times its size. 🙁

D’Orsay was left heart-broken.

He designed a grey pyramidal tomb for his Marguerite where he was also interred upon his death.

The comte's and Marguerite's pyramidal tomb at Chambourcy (Yvelines, France)

The comte’s and Marguerite’s pyramidal tomb at Chambourcy (Yvelines, France)


Genius is the gold in the mine, talent is the miner who works and brings it out.

Lady Blessington


Love-matches are made by people who are content, for a month of honey, to condemn themselves to a life of vinegar.
– Countess of Blessington
Religion converts despair, which destroys, into resignation, which submits.
—Lady Blessington.

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