London – The Weekend

 

 

“When I was a child, running in the night

Afraid of what might be.

Hiding in the dark, hiding in the street

And of what was following me…”

Kate Bush

Hounds of Love” from Hounds of Love

1985

 

 

When I woke Saturday morning, I was still floating from the joy of the previous day’s Harry Potter adventure. I was also still dragging from the London Croup. Mister had kept quiet so I could sleep in a bit, and I greatly appreciated that. But I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I was willing to try and muster up the energy to tick a few items off our to-tourist list, so I bucked up and put my big-girl pants on.

 

 

 

As it was post-breakfast and I knew I couldn’t handle one more day of skipping meals, I practically begged Mister to go out with me for a nice Indian lunch. The way I saw it, some hot, spicy curry might help the symptoms of my evolving London Croup. It was worth a shot, right? So we made our way to the Covent Garden area to Dishoom. When we walked in to find nearly half of the customers resembling folks of Indian descent, we knew we were in the right spot. After feasting on a lunch of amazing food, we were incredibly happy with our restaurant choice. If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend Dishoom.

 

 

 

After lunch we walked and talked, taking our time. There was no place we had to be, so we simply roamed. At some point we decided to refer to our list of things we wanted to do in London.

 

 

Our next agenda item was The Courtald Gallery, located in Somerset House (which has a fairly interesting history in and of itself). This is one of those places we would never have known about, had my art teacher not recommended a visit.

 

 

It’s not as vast a gallery as The National Museum, but it’s still impressive. Now that I think about it, maybe the fact that it’s more manageable in scale is part of its attraction. We saw the whole joint and it was pretty danged cool.

 

 

From there, we walked in the direction of our hotel.

 

 

As we neared the hotel, Mister’s curiosity could wait no longer. You see, each day we would pass a pub called Bag O’ Nails and each day Mister wanted to go in. I wasn’t completely against the idea, I just thought it would probably be a little too touristy, as it was across the street from the Tube. (I do realize we ourselves were tourists.) As we were still fairly full from lunch and would not be ordering food, I said okay. So the Bag O’ Nails it was. Mister ordered a pint and I ordered tea – London Croup and all.

 

By the way, have I mentioned that I had my last drinks after the Harry Potter experience? I tried, thinking a bit of alcohol might serve a medicinal role. That didn’t hold true, however, and I was therefore off the drink. Sad. Sad, I tell you.

 

Back to the Bag O’ Nails. Mister had his pint and I had my tea and by then we’d both had quite enough. It wasn’t a terrible place, but it wasn’t grand, either. It was, however, checked off. And that meant a short walk to the hotel and sleep.

 

 

When Sunday morning arrived, I was more rested. I was also more ill. I mean really, London Croup! What the hell? Anyhoo, against all odds, Mister and I woke during breakfast hours. And we actually had breakfast! Can you imagine?

 

 

We ate and then walked around a bit before heading back to the hotel, via Buckingham Palace. Food had helped, but I was beat. I encouraged Mister to head out on his own, so as not to waste the day, but he’s not that kind of guy. He stayed in with me and we did a bunch of nothing. For reals. Just - nothing. We read a bit. We watched telly. We chilled. And it was awesome. By early evening, I was more rested, but also tired. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how I felt. And I couldn’t have appreciated Mister’s willingness to let me off the hook any more than I did. Honestly, that day in felt like it saved my life.

 

 

At some point we thought to go out for dinner. It was one day before the official start of Autumn, but London seemed to have already crossed over. The air was crisp and the temperature dropped. We walked around the corner to our “local” – The Phoenix – for one last meal. As it was Sunday, we ordered The Roast (for 2) and dug in. For those of you keeping score, that meant we ate 2 meals that day. A record!

 

 

After dinner, it was still fairly early, so we opted to walk a new-to-us route back to the hotel.  There were some interesting sights along the way.

 

 

Back in our room, we made plans for the next day, knowing it was to be our last in London.

 

 

With full bellies, we settled in…

 

 

To be continued…

London – Big Night

 

 

“Take the stone out of the mango.

You put it in your mouth and pull a plum out.”

Kate Bush

“Eat the Music” from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

The morning after the Kate Bush show found us happy. Happy and famished. This one meal per day business was for the birds, I tell you. We pulled on some clothes and headed around the corner to The Phoenix, our temporary local, for breakfast lunch. Neither of us wanted to overdo it, as we knew we had a Big Night before us. And by Big Night I mean a spectacular dinner reservation. Once sustenance had been obtained, we got in a bit more tourist-ing.

 

 

After making our way to the Trafalgar Square area, we stopped in St. Martin-in-the-Fields church. Years ago on a London trip without Mister, I had gone there almost daily for the lunchtime concerts. I wanted him to see how beautiful it is. Musicians were assembled and rehearsing a bit of Vivaldi. It was lovely.

 

 

There’s just something about this church that’s relaxing and calming. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones finding respite within its walls.

 

 

We then moved over to the National Portrait Gallery. As the name implies, this museum is filled with portraits – the largest collection in the world. Some are traditional, some are contemporary. It was a gorgeous outing, but I have no pictures as photography was not allowed. Still, I’m glad we went. There were some amazing works and I learned a lot.

 

 

At some point we realized we needed to get back to the hotel to ready ourselves for dinner. Dinner! We had made the reservation 3 months prior. That’s right – 3 months. Is it a hot ticket? Yes. Worth it? Dear Lord, yes. Anyhoo, we made ourselves presentable and traveled the short distance to Hyde Park and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Here’s the gist: Chef Heston Blumenthal has unearthed a bevy of old and sometimes ancient recipes. He has updated them to suit today’s palates and ingredients and serves these dishes in his beautiful restaurant. It ain’t cheap, y’all. But for a special occasion, I highly recommend it.

 

 

We had talked it over beforehand and decided to really be present at dinner, and to focus on the meal (and each other). So we have only a couple of photos of food from the entire night…

 

 

This dish is called Meat Fruit and the menu describes it thusly: Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread. The original recipe dates from between the 13th and 15th centuries (!) and is super-fabulous. I first learned of this amazing starter a few months back when I read a beautiful step-by-step, with photos. The tutorial didn’t make me want to prepare this dish, but it did make me want to eat it. And eat it we did. With gusto.

 

 

By the end of dinner, I was so pleasantly plump that I wished for a wheel barrow to take me to the hotel. Since none appeared, Mister and I took the Tube back and were ready for beddie in no time.

 

It had been another privileged day, and it wasn’t lost on us. Just before nodding off, we remembered what the next day held…

 

To be continued…

London – Museum Day

 

 

“One more step to the top of the city, where just a couple of pigeons are livin’

up on the angel’s shoulders.”

Kate Bush

“Top of the City” from The Red Shoes

1993

 

 

We arrived early evening on a Monday and sorted out everything belonging to that. Heathrow Express from the airport into town. The Tube to the area nearest our hotel. The hotel itself and unpacking. I was hesitant to admit it, but everything up until then had been so, well, easy. There were no incidents, no problems. Airport parking at LAX was easy. Checking in and boarding the plane was easy. The all-night flight itself was easy. Heathrow Express was beyond easy. We liked our room. Easy! After a light snack, we tucked in and tried to sleep.

 

 

Mister and I had arrived in London armed with a list of things we wanted to do. Some of the items were from our own brain holes, some were suggestions culled from various friends. With those plans in mind, the first day found us on foot, looking for The London Eye. This particular to-do had never been done by either of us during previous visits. But first, food. We had seen Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover – London” and knew what a taxi stand looked like. And by taxi stand, I mean a place for drivers to grab a bite. We spotted the green clapboard and headed over for a Bacon Butty. One each, please.

 

 

Once food was checked off the list, we continued across the Thames toward The London Eye. It was overcast and good weather for walking. Full bellies helped, too. But once we got to The Eye, we looked at each other and realized neither of us really wanted to get on the danged thang. It wasn’t cheap, but that wasn’t the deterrent. It would take quite a while to go all the way around, but that wasn’t it, either. I don’t know what to tell you. It just wasn’t our thing. Content that neither of us was depriving the other of a ride, we walked away.

 

 

Back along the Thames, Mister and I strolled and took our time. It was still pretty early, but the riverfront was coming alive. Street performers were getting their costumes readied. Mothers pushing prams began crowding the walkway. Restaurants and shops began opening their doors. We walked past the National Theatre, where a lovely statue of Laurence Olivier resides. And we also saw some street artists in the act of creating.

 

 

Just when we were starting to feel closed in by the growing crowd, we spotted The Tate Modern. I had been before but Mister’s Tate cherry was intact. We headed inside and succumbed to the amazing collection. I love The Tate Modern. There’s something about all that contemporary art being housed in one location that triggers a particular appreciation in me. It seemed to work for Mister, too. When we wound our way to the Mark Rothko room, I pulled Mister aside and said, “Look. The last time I was here, I had a religious experience. I’m going to leave you alone while you go in. See you in a bit.” And with that, he turned and entered.

 

 

Those Rothko works – The Seagram Murals – really get to me. I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it. But there’s just something about them, something that grabs my soul and doesn’t let go. The first time I saw them I cried. This time I was just quiet. No tears. The awe was still there though, and I marveled at how Rothko was able to paint such seemingly simple works – works more complicated than I can comprehend.

 

 

After a while we needed a break. So we headed up to the top of The Tate for drinks. The view was lovely and the drinks were pretty nifty, too. After all that museum-ing, it was good to sit. We talked about what we’d seen and what we wanted to do with the rest of our dwindling day. Once the drinks were downed, we made our way out and back across the Thames. Our intention was to walk through St. Paul’s Cathedral and get an eyeful of that. When we got there, however, we were too late. So we pointed ourselves toward our hotel and got to stepping. Once there, we realized we hadn’t eaten since the morning’s Bacon Butties, so we changed clothes, headed back downstairs and asked the doorman for a good local. That guy did us right, I tell you, and we walked the short distance to The Phoenix. The joint was hopping, and after a short time we understood why. Not only was it charming, it was also friendly with good food and drink. And being right around the corner was none too shabby, either.

 

 

Anyhoo, we drank and ate to our hearts’ content and then we walked back to the hotel. Though we were jet-lagging, we were wiped out from our fantastic day of being tourists. We got ready for bed and as we were falling asleep, we remembered our concert tickets. The show was the very next night…

 

To be continued…