11.30am: I’m off to the capital today with Ann to meet up with Janet and Carol. We’re all visiting the recently opened Tutankhamen Exhibition at the Saachi Gallery and whilst we’re in the area, home of the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ too — the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
For the King Tut Exhibition, it’s £24.50 for the young ones (off-peak) to get in, and £22 for us oldies. Off-peak generally means weekdays whilst peak is the weekends (obviously!) and school/ public holidays.
For the Royal Hospital, there are two choices for visitors — a guided tour or a DIY independent visit. Best of all, both are completely free (although certain parts are off-limits between noon and 2pm for the Pensioners to enjoy their lunch in peace!)
And to finish our day-out, Janet has booked us all a Chinese meal. Where else, but in London’s Chinatown! 😁
The Royal Hospital
We caught the 11.52 train out of Kettering and then it was a short trip by Tube to Sloane Square, followed by a twenty-minute walk, we were at our first stop!
After a quick stop at the on-site café (that would appear to have also doubled as the local sauna — boy, it was hot in there!) we headed back to the main building…
…by way of some very attractive garden displays!
…and a particularly attractive mobility scooter! 😁
There were two areas we were particularly interested in once we got inside the main building — The Great Hall and The Wren Chapel.
First stop: The Great Hall. What a location for lunch! It reminded me a bit of the dining scenes from the Harry Potter films. Seating 270 for lunch and 400 for drinks, it didn’t disappoint on any level — superb attractive architecture in a light, bright airy space! What a great place for the old soldiers to enjoy their meals!
Oh, and you can get married there too as it’s available for private hire!
If we’d been impressed by the Great Hall, nothing really prepared us for the splendour of what followed: The Wren Gallery. Simply jaw-droppingly gorgeous!
We were under a bit of time pressure, so we probably didn’t stay as long here as we would have liked. However, in spite of our shortened stay, I think we were all blown-away by how beautiful it all was! Add to that, everyone we passed, spoke to us and passed the time of day — it was like going back 50 years! 😁. Our verdict? Definitely the ‘surprise of the year’ in our book, and a great way to spend an hour or more if you’re in the area.
They’ve even got a museum there that traces the history of the building – excellent! 👍👍👍👍👍
The clock was ticking as we walked in the direction of our final stop for the day: The Saachi Gallery and our 3.30pm timed entry slot for the highly-anticipated Tutankhamun Exhibition.
We had already been advised on the tickets that we should allow for possible queueing whilst the security team did their thing, but as it turned out, it was all managed very efficiently. We were inside just slightly ahead of our time-slot and the entry-in-batches certainly helped avoid any sort of crush as we approached the myriad of displays
The spooky voiceover set the scene nicely for what was to come…
“According to Egyptian beliefs, they say you die twice. Once when you stop breathing and the second, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.”
Our first impressions meant you could probably hear our collective jaws dropping as we encountered the displays. Given that this stuff is close to 3000 years old, the condition was amazing… and the detail on the carvings too! How did they achieve this all those years ago — no Dremel drills or laser cutters to rely on!
Spread across multiple galleries and on two floors, it all felt very spacious. Together with the slightly subdued lighting and the ethereal music, it felt very relaxed and un-hurried.
It was all a real treat for the eyes!
All-in-all, it took us around an hour-and-an-quarter to get round, and we all felt it was a thoroughly enjoyable exhibition — maybe the best we’ve seen in many a year! Get along there before it closes in May next year.
Our final stop of the day was for our Chinese meal. All we needed to do was to get to Chinatown. Even for a Friday late afternoon, the Tube was even more manically busy. We learned that not only were there serious delays on the network, but there had been a terrorist incident on London Bridge causing extra congestion in and around the area.
The Meal – Yummy!
We arrived (eventually!) where the Chinese restaurant of choice was an old haunt for Janet, Jo and Carol but a first visit for us. Opened around five years ago in the heart of Chinatown, The Orient is a slightly more upmarket affair — and it impressed us from the moment we arrived. Lightning-fast service, piping hot food, a varied menu, all served with a smile. It a great end to our day of culture.
As expected, we all ate far too much and as we waddled our way back towards St Pancras, the Tube network was now even busier! We squeezed ourselves into the carriage, and it wasn’t long before we were looking for our final train home. In a rare case of perfect timing, we caught the 7.35pm where its first stop was Kettering!
We said our goodbyes in the entrance to Kettering station as Janet and Carol were in the North car-park whilst we were in the newer, south parking area. By now, the temperature had dropped significantly meaning that the car was covered in frost. Luckily for us, one of the many benefits of an EV is that heating is instantaneous and although we couldn’t remotely trigger it (like many other EVs), we didn’t have to wait long until we had a frost-free motor! 😁
What an incredible day! Considering Chelsea Hospital was on our schedule as a ‘filler’ before the main event, it turned out to be probably our highlight of the year. The King Tut exhibition exceeded all of our expectations and I’m sure it’s going to be a great success!