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A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the tag “The Botanist”

Arrivederci, London!

Food festival Duke of York Square

Food festival Duke of York Square

Once again, and likely for the last time in the foreseeable future, we had the opportunity to travel to London. Michael had some meetings on Monday, so we made plans to arrive on Friday and spend the weekend.

We hadn’t been to the Victoria and Albert Museum yet, and it was a pleasant walk there from our hotel. The V&A, as it’s known, is famous for it’s large collection of textile arts. We arrived at lunchtime, and found our way to the cafeteria. I was so amazed! There were a variety of food counters offering selections of salads, sandwiches, sweets and hot plates, each one with more yummy choices than the previous. The checkout clerks were so nice and friendly. It was possible to buy a glass of wine from them. It was all so easy. I’ve been living in Roma too long!

We didn’t spend as much time at the V&A as we should have, but saw some interesting sculpture and a fashion exhibit of clothing from the 1800’s to the present that was great.  A longer visit is on my list for when we return.  That evening we met up with a lovely couple we had met while we were in Venice earlier in the year who live in London and Manchester. They took us on a bit of a pub crawl that ended at The Mango Tree, where we had a delicious Thai dinner.

Saturday we headed to Duke of York Square off of Kings Road in Chelsea for lunch. On Saturdays there’s a wonderful food festival that offers a variety of ethnic foods. After weighing our options, we settled on a perch in the square with duck confit sandwiches and a glass of prosecco. After lunch I took Michael to the Saatchi Gallery. The current exhibition is called Paper. You can see some of the highlights below in the slideshow, and then I have to tell you about the next pictures.

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This artist created these self-portraits in the style of 15th century Flemish portraits, while in the rest room on an airplane. She used the phone on her camera to take the pictures and dressed herself using objects she found on the plane, such as a neck pillow and toilet seat cover. Amazing or crazy? Maybe both.IMG_5254 IMG_5255

Michael wasn’t feeling 100%, so he went back to the hotel for a nap and I continued on to a play, The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, by Dennis Kelly at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. I’ve been by the theatre a number of times, which specializes in showing new works by established playwrights, so I was excited to finally get to see a performance there. I’m not sure I can tell you what the play was about exactly…the life of Gorge and how he becomes a shrewd and somewhat vicious businessman and person, but it was interesting and entertaining, if not a bit too long at two and three quarter hours. After a quick change on my part we finished out the day with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, The Botanist, where our waiter recognized us from past visits.IMG_5277

Sunday I took Michael exploring in the area called Spitalfields in the East End of London. We rode the Tube to the Liverpool stop and found our way to Shoreditch Market, a large covered marketplace with unusual shops along the perimeter and vendors inside selling everything from original clothing to chochkee crap. I found a funky dress and Michael a jumper (I LOVE saying that, “jumper” instead of “sweater”!) We wondered then along Brick Lane where we discovered these amazing old warehouse buildings filled with pop up restaurants and shops.  We scolded ourselves for already having eaten brunch, but you can see below what we missed.  That night we treated ourselves to American football on the TV and steaks at the Palm Restaurant, around the corner from our hotel.

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Monday, Michael went to work and I took myself to the National Gallery, which I hadn’t yet seen on previous trips. Located in Trafalgar Square, it houses one of the world’s best art collections with more than 2,300 masterpieces from artists including Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Monet, Turner, Titian, Da Vinci, and Caravaggio. The rooms where the art is exhibited are beautiful too. I have to say though the highlight for me was seeing the work of the Artist in Residence. The Gallery invites a contemporary artist to create and exhibit new works that are based on the collection in the Gallery. Michael Landy, an English contemporary artist, after months spent viewing the entire collection, created a show called Saints Alive, based on some paintings he saw of saints in the Gallery like Saints Frances, Lucy, and Jerome. He created not only drawings, but also these amazing larger than life kinetic sculptures, which you can see a bit of here. (unfortunately no photos were allowed)

Maggie and Michael

Maggie and Michael

Monday night we dined with Michael’s wonderful UK boss Maggie and his colleagues who work in the UK. It was lovely to see them all again and to share a delicious meal at Bluebird in Chelsea.

Tuesday brought a bit of shopping and lunch before we headed to Heathrow for our return trip to Roma.

So for now, Arrivederci Londra!!

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Sunny London

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Ah, London with the sun shining for 5 days straight is a glorious thing! I’d only seen her in the cold and damp. This time, the temp was in the high 60’s during the day and just a few fluffy clouds in the sky. Michael had a few days of meetings in the London and Brighton offices, but we arrived over the weekend and took advantage of some of the city’s treasures. We enjoyed great meals at Bibendum, Zuma and The Botanist (our favorite place in Sloan Square where we befriended one of the bartenders, Janus, who remembered us from our previous visit in January!). We hung out on Kings Road and at the SouthBank where there were food festivals and beer gardens along the Thames. We drank really yummy margaritas. We went to see Merrily We Roll Along, a revival musical featuring music by Stephen Sondheim, and stayed up way past our bedtime dancing at a private club, Home House, with new friends.

While Michael worked, I shopped around at new and familiar stores, explored more of the city including Covenant Garden; treated myself to lunch outside at a Greek restaurant and explored a small part of the British Museum.

I enjoyed cocktails at The Botanist with the windows open to the street; tried and failed to get into Westminster Abbey (they were preparing for a 60th Jubilee celebration for the Queen) and saw a great exhibit of contemporary Soviet art at the Saatchi Gallery, some of which I’m  sharing with you below. I must admit, it was difficult to get myself back on the airplane this time to return to Rome.

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London

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

We had the good fortune of being offered a coworker’s townhouse in Central London over the holidays while she and her family went back to the States. It was a generous offer, too good to refuse, so we didn’t!

We chose to fly British Airways (BA), which has an easy direct flight from Rome to London’s Heathrow Airport. Lots of folks have told us about getting incredibly cheap flights on Easy Jet or RyanAir. But in order to take advantage of their low fairs, you must be prepared to pay extra for every little thing and only have a carry on bag. We seem to be incapable of packing all the clothes, shoes and toiletries we schlep along into the regulation sized teeny, tiny bag. Michael is fond of saying “go big or stay at home”, so we go BIG and fly with BA where we don’t pay extra for a large bag. The flight crew on BA is so cheerful and chatty too, plus the booze is free. It’s a no brainer for us!

Our friend’s home is in the Belgravia area of central London, a short walk from Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace and wonderfully, Harrods department store. We arrived on Christmas Eve. After quickly settling in and meeting our friend’s cats, which were our house companions for the week, we jumped into one of the plentiful black taxis London is famous for and headed to Sofra in Mayfair. At Sofra, we enjoyed a tasty Turkish dinner complete with Turkish wine and took some baklava home for a late night snack.

This was our second trip to London, having gone earlier in the month for a few business meetings Michael had there. After living in Rome, London is striking for its orderliness, cleanliness, the cheeriness of its people and the multitude of languages you hear spoken on the streets. Hardly anyone we met was actually from London. Those few Londoners we did meet, always commented on how few of them there were around and how difficult it was to get traditional British food anywhere. (I can’t feel too bad for them, really, haggis, bashed neeps, fried fish, and blood sausage, yuk!) In fact, London is Europe’s largest city with 9 million people, where 300 languages are spoken by it’s many immigrant citizens and visitors. It’s also wildly expensive with the exchange rate at about 1 GBP (Great Britain pound, they opted out of using the euro) being equal to $1.81 US.

In front of Buckingham Palace

In front of Buckingham Palace

As we were in London over Christmas day and Boxing Day (the 26th), which is a national holiday originally celebrated as the day in which employers would gift their staff for Christmas, it was a quiet few days with lots of places closed.

We were however, able to enjoy a morning tour of the major tourist sites on Boxing Day through Golden Tours. There were only 5 of us on the little tour bus along with our guide David, who was a retired broadcaster for the BBC and World News Service. He was quite interesting and a great tour guide. He showed us Buckingham Palace and the surrounding parks. We viewed Westminster Abbey, the Parliament and Big Ben and got to see them from the other side of the Thames River, which is one of the most famous shots of London (we later saw the shot in a James Bond movie). We saw the old city of London, which is the original city, and now the main financial district. We enjoyed a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral where Diana and Charles were married and visited the crypts below, where many famous Londoners are buried and where the Royal Family sometimes holds church services in their private chapel. Our tour included Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus (which is NOT an actual circus, but a circular “square” in the city), Chinatown, the West End, the London Eye (a giant, slow moving ferris wheel that offers great views of the city) and 10 Downing Street where the prime minister resides. We almost got run over by the horses during the changing of the Calvary, who guard Buckingham Palace! It was a great morning, and I’d highly recommend the tour.

During our visit we went to see the musical Wicked at the Victoria Apollo Theatre. It was a wonderful production with great costumes, easily understood songs (I have tended to avoid most musicals because I find it hard to understand the singing), and a delightful story. I was tickled for days after seeing it.

We chose to go tour the Tower of London unfortunately on a cold and rainy afternoon. The Tower is a complex of buildings that were at various times in history home to royalty, and a prison which became famous for torturing it’s prisoners in cruel and crude ways. The Crown Jewels are housed in a museum there and unfortunately the line was sooo long and it was so nasty outside, that we decided to forgo it for another time.

Yummy Sushi at Zuma

Yummy Sushi at Zuma

It was great to sample some of the variety of cuisine available. We ate French food at La Brassiere on Christmas day, sushi at Zuma in Knightsbridge, yummy fresh salads at the Botanist in Sloane Square, great barbeque in Harrods’s food court and a lovely dinner with views over the Thames at Harvey Nichols with Michael’s boss. We shopped, mastered riding the Tube, had drinks at a few great hotel bars, and ate lunch at a traditional English pub. I got a good hair cut at an Aveda salon and we relaxed in our friend’s lovely and comfortable home.

It was a wonderful trip and yet we were happy to return to the sunshine and our familiar flat in Rome to celebrate the New Year. We return to London again later this month (more business meetings for Michael). I plan to use the time to see some of the great museums. Hopefully we will be able to take in another show or a play and try more yummy

I know it’s a bit late, but a sincere and heartfelt, Happy New Year to you all!

 

In front of 10 Downing Street

In front of 10 Downing Street

The bar at La Brasserie

The bar at La Brasserie

At the changing of the Calvary Guard

At the changing of the Calvary Guard

Michael and a phone booth

Michael and a phone booth

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Another shot of Big Ben and the Parliament

Another shot of Big Ben and the Parliament

Eye of of London

Eye of of London

Gates at Buckingham Palace

Gates at Buckingham Palace

Big Ben and the Parliament

Big Ben and the Parliament

Eye of London at night

Eye of London at night

Tower of London

Tower of London

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