London Diary – One Weekend with Jane Austen, National Portrait Gallery, China Town and Antique Fair

“London is not a city, it is a world!” I couldn’t agree more. Since moving to London, my motto is “to live like a tourist”, the reality is closer to ‘Resident during the week and Tourist on the weekend’.

Jan 9, 2016
It is a day dedicated to Miss Jane Austen; I am joining Jane Austen Society in London for the first time for a group meeting in the afternoon. So it seemed a perfect plot to see Jane Austen’s portrait by her sister Cassandra at National Portrait Gallery before the meeting.

As it turns out, China Town is in the area, so we decided to walk through China Town from Tottenham Court on way to National Portrait Gallery, which is right next to National Gallery.

We finally made it to China Town for the first time, after all these visits to London. It is a small area encompassing a few streets and decorated by colorful and handsome gates and large red lanterns. Gerrard Street in the center of it is lined with enticing fronts of restaurants and shops. Grocery stores, bakeries and shops displaying Cantonese style, deliciously golden roast ducks. While there are Hunan and Schezuan restaurants, most seem to serve Dim Sum and Cantonese/Hong Kong style cuisine.

As soon as we arrived, craving for Dim Sum surged and we decided to slightly alter the plan by having Dim Sum for lunch instead. We tried Wan Chai Corner, it was delicious!

After lunch, we had an hour for National Portrait Gallery, luckily, it was about 5 minutes’ walk to it from China Town, passing Leicester Square on the way.

It was my first time at the gallery and we went straight to level 2 where we’d find Jane Austen’s portrait. Once inside the exhibit room, I was instantly drawn to it. What a fascinating place, rows and rows of beautiful portraits covering its walls. I felt as if I had stepped into a wonder land. After a few rooms full of grand, opulent royal portraits, we came to the room of the Romantics where the small portrait of Jane Austen, a penciled sketch by her sister Cassandra, is ensconced in a highly protective case. It is quite sad, really, that this is the only portrait of her that exists. Moreover, it is said to not be a true likeness and is called by some “Cassandra’s failure”. Nonetheless, Jane Austen is vividly alive in the hearts and minds of her fans.

Once I paid my pilgrimage to Jane Austen’s portrait, I was able to direct my attention to the other portraits in the room. It was mesmerizing; there you have in the room some of the giants of the Romantic Movement, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, so on.

I asked about Lord Byron, and was told Byron is on loan to Russia.

The Bronte sisters were my next search and I found them on ground level next to Charles Dickens and not far from Charles Darwin. That was all the time I had. I was sorry to have to leave already but I know I would be back.

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Jan 10, 2016
I watch Antique Road Show, both US edition and UK edition. In addition to the items themselves being interesting, the history and stories of people involved with them are also fascinating.

In comparison, UK edition has showcased older and higher quality items. When I found out about The Mayfair Antique and Fine Art Fair, I couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity. It was a 3 day event held at Marriot at Grosvenor Square. Exhibitors are antique dealers and the items on display are beautiful, museum quality pieces. It was great, we enjoyed it very much.

Unlike other type of shopping, you can bargain, and don’t be afraid to do so. This fair is held multiple times a year at various locations. Find out more at this link:

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