Wednesday at the Wallace

Valentine’s day came early for me this year, as Richard took me to drinks and preview of the new exhibition at the Wallace Collection last night.

If you’ve not been to the Wallace Collection, go. It’s housed in a beautiful mansion in Manchester Square near Baker Street, full of paintings, furniture, suits of armour. It feels like touring an exclusive private museum, but is open to all, free of charge.

It was a real treat for me, because I’ve loved the Wallace Collection, ever since I was a child. Mum used to take us at half term, and she’d been as a child herself. It has a very grown-up feel but the Wallace welcomes all ages. A couple of years ago I helped take a group from St Andrew’s primary, where I’m a governor, to see the Collection. The trip there was a bit of a nightmare – lots of over-excited kids with assorted adults trying to get on the same small bus (the 274 goes nearly door to door). They had great fun drawing the armour and hearing the stories about display suits for royalty, knights being winched onto their horses, and seeing how people were shorter then.There were even reproduction bits of armour to try on. Tired but happy, the trip home was easy.

Wednesday night was a rather exclusive do. We had champagne and canapes in the courtyard, with a speech from the French Ambassador (the paintings are on loan from the Louvre), before filing past the paintings. In theory, a preview should allow you to beat the crowds, but with all the guests keen to see the paintings, it was a bit of a crush.

We chatted to one of the French curators, Elodie, about the exhibition and contrasts between London and Paris. She was very dismissive of Sarkozy, and his recent marriage to Carla Bruni; apparently the French expect Presidents to be ‘serious’. No wonder they didn’t bond with George Bush.


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