A few weeks ago I read an article where a restaurant abroad had lined up a series of greenhouses along the canal side so that people could have a meal whilst social distancing. I thought that this was a great idea and then to my surprise on a recent trip to Salford Quays, on a day far removed from the stormy weather we are experiencing at the moment, I discovered that the idea had reached Media City!
The sheds and greenhouses are spread out on the area adjacent to where The Blue Peter Garden is situated. Meals are ordered online from the participating restaurants and you can book a box to eat in. A novel idea which I'm sure in the evenings are popular, however on a hot afternoon. they were empty. People were taking advantage of the deckchairs and picnic tables, relaxing and chilling in the sunshine.
As I wandered around, one of the main things that impressed me was that local artists had decorated them. I thought that this was an excellent idea. As well as making the pods and greenhouses more attractive, it also enabled artists to display their work and share their talents.
In these difficult times, with art galleries closed and exhibition space limited, many artists are struggling, and taking part in this innovative venue, will have helped them out.
It also publicizes the importance of art in modern life, creating something special, bright and beautiful, in what could have been quite a sterile environment.
A unique outdoor dining experience. A piece of impactful public art.
30 ‘boxes’ outside of Media City’s restaurants. Winding through the gardens and along the waterfront. Self-contained dining pods taking the form of sheds and greenhouses, decorated by Salford-based artists and creatives.
After walking around the area, I did have couple of worries though.
On the day ! was there, it was very hot and the idea of sitting in a glass greenhouse would not have appealed.
On a day like today, it could be quite enjoyable watching the heavy rain outside but I do wonder about the food arriving from some of the restaurants that are a distance away.
Anyway, it is a super idea and I would love to hear from someone who has had a meal in one of these pods.
On our last day in Oxford, we decided to have a drive out to Blenheim Palace and like a lot of places nowadays, we had to book a time slot before going. It was quite busy when we arrived, as the weather was nice, but possibly because of the lack of overseas visitors not too crowded.
As it was supposed to get hotter later in the day, we decided to visit the palace first, although having booked a time slot, we still had to queue for over half an hour. On entering, we listened to a guide who gave us a short introduction to the palace and new restrictions. We then headed for the Winston Churchill exhibition, Unfortunately, the queue for this was quite long so we decided to tour the rooms first.
All the rooms were very impressive with with large portraits of family members and royalty. Although, not all to my taste, one can only appreciate the skill going into painting these.
The first paintings I really liked were a series done of the palace and grounds by John Piper, a very under appreciated artist in my view. I really like the looseness of his work.
The tour takes you from one impressive room to another and none of them were too crowded by visitors. Unfortunately, you don't get to see any of the upstairs rooms, which would give you a more complete picture of the living quarters.
Outside we walked around the extensive grounds, seeing the impressive water features and sculptures, before continuing to see the place Winston Churchill proposed to his future wife and the rose gardens they would sit in.
The whole area is undergoing a 40 million pound makeover and the cascade water feature and lakes are being improved and many repairs taking place,. When finished, the grounds will be even more impressive.
After a pleasant walk, we decided to go back to the palace and see the Churchill exhibition as it was now a lot quieter. As well as learning about his life, I was interested to see the exhibition of his paintings. These were more impressive than I had expected, although I wouldn't have minded having the support he had from several prominent artists of the time, including Walter Sickert amongst them.
A pleasant day out and a change from city life. We even became members for a year, as part of the entrance fee. which means if we visit again we can get in for free. As a short break Oxford has a lot to offer and as more places open up, there will be plenty to keep you occupied.
I leave you with this quote from Winston Churchill that sums up the importance of art in these troubled times. He only had the war to think about!
Deciding to try our luck with a short break in this country, we booked a stay in Oxford, and were interested to see how the changes would effect our stay. Arriving at the hotel there were safety signs everywhere, telling us to wear masks and to use the hand sanitizer. We were greeted by a friendly receptionist who was situated behind a screen also wearing a mask.
After filling in a couple of forms and having our temperature taken, we were given the room key. The room was as normal, with a sign telling us that it had been thoroughly cleaned and that this would be done each day if we wanted. The only big difference was that there was no longer a breakfast buffet. The hotel would provide us with a continental breakfast in a 'grab and go' paper bag. However, the next morning we were also offered cereal and toast which was very much appreciated.
On our visits, we like to see the sights as well as the local art galleries, unfortunately we were a week to early to see the galleries and most of the colleges had closed months ago and were undergoing renovation work.
We did manage to visit the grounds of Magdalene college and were surprised by the size of the grounds, which included a Deer park.
The buildings in the city were very impressive and they had kept the old buildings and not added huge modern that ruined the skyline, which has happened in a lot of cities.
As well as the city centre, we visited the parks, which were superb open spaces, and strolled along the waterways, often stopping to watch the boats and at times admire the people using the punts, although a couple of them looked like they were going to give themselves heart attacks!
One thing that surprised us was the lack of sculptures. In Queen's park there was one that incorporated nesting boxes for Swifts, which seemed to be a good idea. It seems a shame that artworks weren't added into the landscape. especially in a city of educational excellence. It surprised us that the arts weren't celebrated in this way.
Maybe the abundance of figures etc. on the old buildings made up for this, or we weren't looking in the right places! The only time we came across modern artwork was in the new shopping centre, but after a couple of visits we failed to notice any, until on our way out, where one was situated and a sign mentioned the others.
For the last month, during lockdown, I haven't managed to get out to do any sketching, and my favourite haunts, the local cafes have been closed. Also, the weather hasn't been good so I've not been able to visit local beauty spots and I have found that I need more practice on my sketching. This break had allowed me to recapture some of my skill and I enjoyed putting pen to paper so to speak!
Oxford is a beautiful city and a great place for a short stay, with superb architecture, open spaces and other places to visit nearby. People's reaction to the virus was evident although face masks in several places aren't compulsory there yet. The half price meals helped keep our food bill down and we had some enjoyable meals.
Having experienced this type of short holiday, in this country during the present problems, we may well look for another one in a few weeks.