THATMuse

Both Paris and London are cities with a huge number of recognisable, famous landmarks. Show most people a photo of Tower Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, and they’re likely to know what they’re looking at.

Both cities also have their share of landmarks that have been lost to time. For example, the huge Tuileries Palace in Paris was burned down during the Paris Commune of 1871.

In this post though, we’ll discover five London and Paris landmarks which were almost destroyed, but lived to tell the tale. With a bit of luck, when the current crisis is over and we can wander the streets of Paris and London once more, we’ll appreciate what we have.

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According to an article on the British Museum blog in 2017, the most popular seach term on their website was “Egypt”. This isn’t very surprising, but the second most popular term, “shunga” is more interesting. But what is shunga? And why are so many people searching for it? Well, shunga is a type of Japanese erotic art. The British Museum hosted a great shunga exhibition in 2014, which perhaps goes some way to explain the search term. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the history of shunga, and the influence it had on later artists around the world. But first, a warning. Since we’re talking erotic art here, this post does of course contain some content that is decidedly NSFW.

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For as long as there has been VR technology, there have been half-excited, half-scaremongering think pieces proclaiming that a new age of tourism has begun. Physical tourism is out, and “virtual tourism” is in. Well, we haven’t quite reached the stage where a vacation mean a trip to the living room. We haven’t given up on visiting museums in favour of touring them with only a VR headset.

But, since we’re all more or less marooned at home at the moment, it is useful to know that museums have, apparently, been preparing for the apocalypse all along. From basic functions allowing you to explore museum collections online using their websites to fully-fledged virtual museum tours, there is a way to see all five of our museums online, from the comfort of your own home.

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London might have more iconic landmarks than any other city in the world. Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye are all instantly recognisable to people all over the world, even if they’ve never so much as changed flights at Heathrow. A lot of this is down to film and TV. Hundreds of establishing shots of London’s skyline have fixed it firmly in the public imagination. Let’s have a look at some of the most famous London film locations. And once the lockdown’s over, you can go and find them yourself!

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We’re all finding different ways of coping with being stuck at the home during the lockdown. Some people are nurturing new passions for crafts, from knitting to felting to jewellery-making. Others are taking to the kitchen, discovering new recipes and baking more bread than they could possibly eat. And of course, all of us are just trying our best to get on with it. Whatever that might mean for each of us.

Personally, I’m extremely grateful in these times for the arts. Not just fine art of the sort you might find in our museums. But everything: from Netflix to books to Hollywood films to music. And particularly, I’m grateful for podcasts.

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Since I moved to London, almost 5 years ago, people have been asking me what I miss most about Italy. Well, the list is long, of course. I miss the sea, the weather and my family, for a start. But most importantly, like most Italians abroad, I miss the food. While there’s nothing like my grandma’s ragu’ or my dad’s cannoli, there are some wonderful Italian restaurants in London that make me feel (almost) at home.

As lockdown’s slowly lifting, making plans:

You’re right, during lockdown restaurants have been closed a long time. But, hey! Surely, we can make plans for when we return to the new normal! When people say that pasta and pizza are always good, no matter what you put on top of them, the heart of all Italians ache a bit… If you’ve tried some authentic Italian food, I’m sure you understand the difference between a good and a mediocre pizza. In case you don’t know where to get a real taste of Italy, let me tell you about the three best Italian restaurants London has to offer!

1. La Mia Mamma, For the Best Pasta in London

La Mia Mamma is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in London, and is definitely the home of the best pasta in London. The restaurant literally ‘imports’ Italian Mammas from all different regions of Italy. There is a rotation of moms taking over the kitchen and creating a great selection of regional dishes. Other than making fresh food every day, the mammas welcome all guests singing Italian patriotic songs or hugging you when you arrive, just like a real loving mom would do. With Italian music in the background and loud Italians debating at the tables around you, it really feels like being in the Bel Paese. Located in Chelsea, I usually enjoy a nice walk after dinner. And remember, they have a super long waiting list, so make sure to reserve your table far in advance!

Until restaurants are allowed to open, La Mia Mamma are also offering deliveries of “survival packs”, DIY packs and more!

Fresh pasta, tomatoes, cheese and other Italian food

2. Santa Maria Pizzeria, for Authentic Italian Pizza

Is there anything that makes Italians happier than eating a real Napolitan pizza? The answer is no! We might be able to get used to London’s windy and rainy weather, but not to a life without pizza. Angelo and Pasquale, both from Naples, imported a wood-fired oven from Italy (without which you wouldn’t be able to make the perfect pizza). Soon afterwards, they opened Santa Maria in the borough of Ealing. I guarantee that the pizza you eat there tastes just like the ones you would eat in the top pizzerias of Naples. One of the things I love the most about Santa Maria is that it is a place for anyone! From penniless students to famous singers, to politicians and VIPs, this pizzeria welcomes everyone. Also, Santa Maria is the place to go if you’ve had a light lunch and need your daily carbs intake: the pizza is HUGE!

Of course, all of the Santa Maria Pizzeria restaurants are currently closed. But you can still order online through Deliveroo!

3. Ristorante Orsini, a Delightful Italian Restaurant in London

Ristorante Orsini is another authentic Italian restaurant in London that I love. This small, family-run restaurant is perfect for both lunch and dinner. Located in South Kensington, many people like to go there during their break from a visit to either the V&A or the Natural History Museum. There’s a familial vibe and it is incredibly hard to choose from the wide selection of authentic Italian dishes that they offer. Of their delicious plates, I tried their amazing homemade pasta, and fell in love with their tagliolini, served with plenty of seafood. They’re also famous for their ‘fritto misto’ (fried fish). But… perhaps my favourite thing was the dessert! So… if you’ve got room, don’t forget to order their gelato or Tiramisu’.

Sadly, this restaurant is fully closed during lockdown. But once restaurants and bars open again, it will be important to support local businesses, so remember to stop by!

Transforming your Home into an Italian Restaurant

It’s true that it’s possible to eat good Italian food in London. But… be careful! While almost every single restaurant in London serves pasta, finding ‘real pasta’ in London is not easy. I’m looking forward to being able to visit my favourite Italian restaurants, but for now I’m cooking plenty of Italian dishes at home. For those of you are not lucky enough to be on lockdown with an Italian, don’t worry! Cooking Italian food is really easy. If the ingredients are fresh, they won’t need much elaboration.

Need some ideas for fun things to do at home (apart from making pizza, of course)? Subscribe to our blog for some inspiration!

Getting bored at home? If you’re anything like us, you’ll be missing visiting museums, and learning about history. So why not use some of the extra time on your hands to make (and play!) one of these ancient board games? After all, if there’s one thing we know about at THATMuse, it’s making history into a game.

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Money has always been an important part of the British Museum’s collection. Coins allow us to learn more about the kings and rulers who issued them, and the messages they wanted to send to their people. The British Museum has a whole department dedicated to coins and medals, and now money more widely: the Numismatics Department. In this fascinating gallery, you can observe the evolution of money across the world, and across the centuries.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my favourite books about Paris to read while stuck at home. I lived in Paris for six years, so I have a pretty good idea of the books which realistically portray the city (and those that don’t but are enjoyable anyway).

I’m not, and nor have I ever been, a Londoner. So I’m not the person to ask about whether the books about London offer a realistic picture of their setting.

But I do read a lot, and I have read a decent handful of books set in London over the years. So, if you’re dreaming of a trip to London while stuck in lockdown (or indeed stuck in lockdown in London, dreaming of going outside), read on for a few of my favourites. 

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The Natural History Museum seems beautiful and perfect from the outside. The museum is inarguably a force for good in the world, increasing our understanding of nature and how we can protect and preserve the living world.

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Are you itching to explore but stuck at home? Maybe your trip to London has been cancelled, or you just need to get your brain out exploring beyond your own four walls? Let me lead you on a walking tour of London from the safety of your own home!  

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Ever heard of the terrible 5th century Plague of Athens? Over 2400 years later we’re living though another dreadful health crisis. How did the Greeks handle theirs? And is coronavirus comparable to the many illnesses that have hit the world so far? Historians and art-historians like us love to say that the past always teaches us something. Some stories, like that of the Plague of Athens, are timeless, and we can learn from them even today.

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