A look around Shakespeare's Globe

We're getting back into the swing of enjoying weekends and treating ourselves, that's treating ourselves to not having a punishing gardening schedule that is. Last weekend we headed off to take a look around Shakespeare's Globe armed with our complimentary tickets from 365 Tickets for a tour and a look around the exhibition. I've walked past the Globe many, many times - but this was my first visit inside.

I know, I'm sort of shocked by that too.

heading into London by train for our visit to Shakespeare's globe with 365 tickets

Arriving at London Bridge and admiring the work that's underway to redevelop the station, which is way more developed than on my previous visits, then we headed off through as many back streets as we could towards The Globe, stopping to pause and take a photo of the Golden Hinde. I love how it's history and traditional-ness is parked (or docked if you want to be correct) amongst the modern buildings.

Heading past the Golden Hinde in London near to Borough Market

We arrived at The Globe, and joined the short queue to redeem our tickets. I'm terrible at queues and thankfully not only did it move quickly enough there was also plenty of artwork on the walls to entertain me. I know clowns aren't everyone's thing, but I fell in love with this photo.

part of the entry to the exhibition at the globe in London

Tours run every thirty minutes and we'd done well to time it right. We had a short browse around the exhibition, which was well laid out and informative, to whet our appetite and then made our way to join the tour.

part of the exhibition at The Globe in London
An exhibit from the props department in the Globe in London with 365 tickets

The exhibition was good, but it was the forty minute tour that made our visit. Our tour guide clearly had thespian tendencies and shared the history of the theatre in the most engaging way. 

He was (mock) dismayed that this tribute to arguably our greatest writer was led by an American, Sam Wanamaker and that all we'd managed to do to mark the spot of the theatre was to build a car park around a rather bland memorial stone. That means that the reconstructed theatre isn't in the true spot, but given the usefulness of the car park I'm sure having a riverfront position was really not too much of a hardship.

Throughout the tour much was made of the donors who contributed to the theatre; names were carved into paving slabs like this one and on perspex on walls and that was great to see, and for those donors to continue to be recognised some twenty years later. Yes, that's right this iteration of the Globe has been open since 1997, another fact that shocked me.

one of the £300 donations for the work at Shakespeare's Globe

Our guide pointed out some of the traditional features, and some of the less traditional ones too. Such as these silver trees and the giant illuminated letters attached to the side of the theatre, and signifying its summer season entitled Summer of Love. Dead pan he pointed out these weren't in the original theatre.  I love tours that work on all levels with facts and humour, and this was definitely one of those. Remind me to tell you the beer story later on.

Make believe silver birch like trees at Shakespeare's Globe
The summer of Love at Shakespeare's Globe in London

Ah good, the beer story fits here.  It's almost like it was planned.

It was a tour with something for everyone, even the kids. Our guide explained what it was like to be in the yard, or standing area, in the original theatre. Asking if the children on the tour had tasted, or liked beer. Of course there was a mixed response but one little lad gave him the best line, saying he couldn't remember if he liked beer, so of course the comeback was that that would happen a lot more as he got older and perhaps he might have had just a little bit too much beer.

It was the prelude to why the yard was often known for the penny stinkers. Entrance cost a penny - and even today there are 700 tickets at every performance that cost £5 - and the area was pretty full. Hygiene then wasn't what it is today, and then there was the beer too - probably safer to drink than the water - and we all know what happens after a beer, or two, or three. And well if you've got a good spot then you weren't going to give it up easily were you? I'm sure you can put all of this together!

Inside the theatre at the Globe in London with 365 tickets
the stage at the globe in London
looking up at the seating area at the globe in london

During our tour there were sound checks going on for the afternoon's performance, but yet the tours continued and each of the guides shepherded their groups around the theatre space in an almost choreographed way, competing with the sound checks as they went. 

Back outside we learnt why Michael Palin's donation stone was misspelt. The clue is in the stone on the right, on whose stipulation the spelling was given.  

More donors contributions at the globe in London - but can you spot the deliberate mistake?

So a great tour and exhibition and something I'd definitely recommend. I can't believe it took me so long to get to something that was so good. I guess that's the whole not seeing things in the town you live in, we're all guilty of that aren't we?

There's plenty around on the Southbank so you can continue your entertainment, whether that's heading along to see some of the film locations for Bridget Jones diary, heading off to the Tate Modern, Gabriel's Wharf or the Southbank Centre. Or perhaps like us you'll retrace your steps and head over to Borough Market.

Despite the recent terror attack it was thriving and that was lovely to see. We stopped at El Pastor for some great tacos, again managing to time it right before a queue formed (and that hardly ever happens to me) and then into the market for a look around and a bit of shopping too.

If you're thinking about a trip to the Globe - go! - I think it'll be busy whenever you go, but there's plenty of space in the exhibition so you're not on top of everyone and numbers on tours are limited. The group was larger than I expected but not unmanageably so.


Thanks to 365 Tickets and Shakespeare's Globe for entry into the Exhibition in exchange for an honest review.

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Discovering the story behind the Baltic Exchange Gallery

Just a short post from me today, and another one that I've been meaning to share for a week or two. A couple of weeks ago I told you of my bonkers week and of my lunchtime visit to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. My plan for that lunchtime was to scout out inside places to spend my lunch hours, and to check out the cafe there too.

I decided to take in one of the galleries while I was there, but soon found myself diverted towards the Baltic Exchange Gallery. It's not something I'd seen before, either in person or on the signposts so I was intrigued to see what I'd find there. I never expected it to be this.

Stained glass from the Baltic Exchange at the NMM in Greenwich


I was mesmerised. So much so that I spent my lunch hour in this relatively small space taking in each of the windows, and the story of how they'd painstakingly been restored after they were damaged by a terrorist bomb in the early nineties. I think partly the fascination was I remembered that bomb as I was working in the City at the time. I remember the devastation and the shock of the event, but had no idea these windows existed, their story, how much they were damaged and how much work went into piecing them back together.

That all changed in that hour though.

The information boards alongside these windows were excellent and told their story in a compelling way. I can sometimes flit through a museum and its exhibits, but these held my interest.  So much so that I had no time to fit in a visit to the cafe, so I think that tells you all you need to know.

The windows were commissioned shortly after the First World War and formed part of a memorial to the sixty members of Baltic Exchange staff who lost their lives during the war. They were unveiled in 1922 and consisted of a half-dome with five large windows below it. 

The information board told me "the subject is heroic and likens the British Empire to the Roman Empire." 

A section of the restored Baltic Exchange stained glass window

Above and below are excerpts of the two outer panels of the dome which names the major battles of the First World War.

Part of the restored Baltic Exchange stained glass windows

The half-dome is over three metres in height and is just fabulous. Standing in the middle you get the most wonderful sense of history and my photo below hardly does it justice. If you're in Greenwich, then you really should make time to see this as however I describe this, I know I won't be able to do it justice.

The half-dome stained glass window from the Baltic Exchange London

While I stood learning about the restoration work I was completely oblivious to The Virtue Windows behind me. Originally these would have been under the panels of the half-dome. And you may have already worked it out but they're named for the Virtues of Hope, Fortitude, Justice, Truth and Faith, which the Romans established as qualities that all humans should aspire to.

What a way to spend a lunchtime.  

the Pigeon Pair and Me