Now it’s spring, it’s time to think about gardens in Kensington. Of course the obvious place to go is Kensington Gardens – though personally I find it’s a park that looks better in summer and autumn than in early spring – but Kensington and Chelsea are full of smaller and less well known gardens which are worth discovering.
Want to buy a fountain pen? Of course you could try the internet – but there’s no substitute for actually getting your hands on a pen, and seeing how it lays down the ink. And fortunately, London has some pretty good shops which can let you do exactly that.
You could try the department stores. Fortnum and Mason, though it’s best known for its food hall, has a quiet but spacious stationery department – all carpeted hush and wooden display cases. It carries a good cross-section of different styles of pen; the Faber Castell pens have a somewhat modernist German feel, with lots of luxury woods like cocobolo, pernambuco, and ebony, and gleaming silver caps; Yard-o-Led make rather Victorian pens in silver; and Conway Stewart, very classical pens with a surprisingly rich range of colours.
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Kensington is a lot more than just the South Kensington Museums, although they are wonderful, of course. If you’re bringing the family to London these ideas make a lovely day out in Kensington.
Start the day by simply exploring Kensington Gardens. This was originally part of Hyde Park but West Carriage Drive is now the dividing point for these Royal Parks.
Kensington Gardens was sectioned off when William III bought the land in 1689 so he could enjoy the clean air of country living, as this was not part of the city back then. He liked the place so much he commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build Kensington Palace for him and his wife, Mary II.