It's definitely a jungle

although perhaps it's a desert!

Well actually it's both! For the sake of the narrative we'll call this place 'The Conservatory' irrespective of the fact that emblazoned across the top of each entrance doorway are the words 'The Conservatory'. I'm glad we've got that straight.

Just recently the weather has been mostly cloudy but fairly mild then a few days ago the temperature dropped to around freezing. Brrrrrr! Where better to warm up than a semi-tropical environment – so on Sunday off we went (no it's not Kew).

This is a very large conservatory and although we had only a quick look round it still took us an hour. It also features a small aviary about the size of a small garden shed but containing an amazing number of different species. There were small quail no longer than about seven inches

and some Zebra Finches. All these birds were devilishly difficult to photograph because they kept hopping or flying around. Very inconsiderate.

This small area may give you an idea of the conservatory's size:

The people on the high level walkway on the left and the people below gives an idea of scale. It is not hot and humid in here but pleasantly warm with a remarkable number of plant species not to mention the occasional fish.

This next picture is that same pool, seen from a higher level, showing a small part of the little wooden footbridge which crosses the small channel which connects this pool with a larger pool elsewhere.

There are, of course, the inevitable palm trees including some quite tall ones.

There are other types of tree, also quite tall, and we saw some nice flowers.

You may be able to tell from the conservatory structure that this is not a Victorian structure but something that is much more modern. There is also an Arid Plants Gallery which has an amazing collection of Cacti. Amanda commented that she prefers this one to the Cactus House at Kew and would like to return in Spring when the cacti should be flowering.

Some of the cacti were rather tall. A lot taller than Amanda.

There were also orchids in this gallery.

This is one of the high level walkways which leads into the Arid Gallery.

So, where could this possibly be? I'll give you a clue. When we had finished looking around we left and then walked south for ten minutes and ended up at – St. Paul's Cathedral! The road we walked down was Aldersgate so, yes, this is in the City of London, believe it or not, and is part of the Barbican Centre on Level 3 not far from the Museum of London. We 'discovered' this many months ago when we were in the Barbican during the week and, currently, the Conservatory is open to the public only on Sundays so we were unable to go in then. It is not really publicised and so is pleasantly uncrowded. It is also free. The days on which it is open to the public are displayed on this page http://www.barbican.org.uk/visitor-information/conservatory which you should check before you go. That page describes it as 'a little hidden treasure' but I would have thought that it's a big hidden treasure.

Having walked to St. Paul's Cathedral we went into the Crypt for lunch and very nice it was too. Amanda (on the left) had spicy chicken and I had fish pie.

After lunch we hopped on a number 23 bus and headed west. Regent Street was pretty crowded with, probably, Christmas shoppers

but Oxford Street looked manic from the top deck of the bus and we were both glad not to be walking along down there. We got off at Bond Street Station and headed north for a short distance to Manchester Square and the Wallace Collection.

The Wallace Collection, we found, was even more astonishing than the Barbican Conservatory. It was rather like a mini Victoria and Albert Museum and Amanda commented that some of the displays here put the V&A to shame. It is free although they do ask for a donation if you are so inclined.

This is the view you will see if you approach north from Oxford Street via Duke Street.

The main stairway will be your first sighting as you walk into the main hall.

The Back State Room apart from having bright red wallpaper and curtains has displays of paintings and porcelain.

This is just some of the Sevres porcelain in the Back State Room.

This vase and cover is not glass, as you might imagine, but engraved rock crystal.

One of the painting galleries upstairs. They do have some bright wallpapers here.

One of their most famous pieces – the Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals painted in 1624 displayed in the Large Drawing Room upstairs.

In the Oval Drawing Room, upstairs, this amazing writing desk is just like the one I have at home. Well mine has four legs too.

You want armour? They have armour. There is also a comprehensive display of weapons.

We finally left the Wallace Collection to head home although we had one last venue planned which was the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in, unsurprisingly, Great Ormond Street which is north east of the British Museum and we caught the number 98 bus to get there. If you go into the main entrance of the hospital, veer to the right around the reception desk, then go left along the corridor you will see a sign sticking out on the right-hand side saying 'Chapel'. We went in.

Dating from about 1875 this is a good example of Victorian 'over-the-top-ness' and really is worth a look. It is very small, about 21 feet square, so it won't take you long. The view below of part of the ceiling demonstrates that just about every inch of space is decorated in some way with plenty of gilding. It is said to be decorated  in "elaborate Franco-Italianate style". It's certainly that.

We were the only visitors in the chapel.

Finally we caught the number 8 bus to take us back to Liverpool Street Station and thence home. A very interesting trip.