The last day of Antwerp we talked about whether it was worth going to see this. It’s the home of the painter Rubens, built when he was already rich and successful as a base to trade paintings from and I’d been keen, but now I was feeling lazy, and there were biscuits to buy, naps to have. I wasn’t so bothered about seeing a lot of art.


But it was five minutes from the flat, on the way to the station and actually this place – far bigger than expected, and showing a delightful mix of the art Rubens himself collected – was a charming mix of Italianate gardens, domestic rooms and fine art.


Possibly my favourite thing after the Begijnhof and Mode Museum?


All photos August 2017.

Ham House


Blazing hot on bank holiday weekend, reached by a welcome walk through trees or by the river.


Cool and dark inside, with tapestries, leather walls, portraits and a gallery


and then back outside to the grounds in the midday heat. August 2017.


Favourite place


Probably my favourite place in all of Antwerp, where we went for a tranquil hour early in the morning after tea and birthday cake. Built for an order of women who’d withdrawn from the world but supported themselves by seeing or spinning, each cell is still occupied by secular inhabitants now, and the cobbled streets, lawn and hollyhocks reminded me of Oxford colleges.


photos August 2017.

Les Jacobins


Not quite sure why a former Dominican monastery in Toulouse is known as Musee les Jacobins – the Jacobins are a name I associate mainly with a particular group in the early days of the French Revolution – but never mind. Isn’t it impressive? There was also a very good exhibition The Sky Before Us on when I visited, which was different photographers capturing churches, mainly modern concrete structures, or else the little meeting rooms over chicken shops / on industrial parks in urban wastelands. Not romantic at all, but definitely respectful.


photos August 2017.

Les Augustins


Toulouse has two main art museums which are converted monasteries, now with peaceful cloisters, deck chairs for tourists and collections of religious art. The Musee des Augustins is the bigger – and if I were to guess, the wealthier, a huge red brick building that reminded me of London’s V&A.


The cloisters and gothic architecture are certainly great, while the main staircase is totally throwing out the Harry Potter vibes, but for me the absolute coup was this downstairs hall which paired sci-fi-Essie lights with a great display of earthy and funny Romanesque capitols taken from the basilica of St Sernin.


It was witty and striking without denigrating either the old or new, and done with a sense of humour that sadly most modern art galleries (Tate, I’m looking at you) lack entirely.


Probably my favourite place to see in Toulouse?

August 2017.


St Sernin


The basilica and de facto cathedral of Toulouse (although there’s also a 19th century cathedral building).


I found this building completely charming. Incredibly peaceful, it was far less thuggish than the northern French (Norman) Romanesque, which is so obviously military in feel. Here the brick pillars were like a Roman aqueduct, or the vaulted roof like a Renaissance villa, and the light from the second storey of windows was something else. Try as I might to capture it in these photos, I’m just not skilled enough, so you’ll have to visit and see for yourself.

photos August 2017.



One of the (many) suspects for Jack the Ripper, and also a rather odd man who changed his name in his 60s, Sickert is probably best known for his sketches and paintings of 1890s and 1900s London. This is a snippet of the orchestra pit at “The London, Shoreditch”, long before the hipsters moved in.



In fact, twice in one day because I ┬ácan’t resist: a scrapbook of Instagram pretties: Schiaparelli dresses from @the_corsetedbeauty;


an Evelyn Dunbar sketch from @designfortoday;


an elegant doodle from @garancedore;


marmalade jars and the delightful National Trust home of Standen from phil._.b;


dogs on the beach from @thewomensroomblog