Friday, April 22, 2011

London Shows, Some Confusion, and Some Successful Improvisation

on the summer boardwalk by the Thames "beach"

We had a full, busy day yesterday, here in London.  After a hearty English breakfast here at the hotel, we headed off to the Tate Modern to check out the Miró exhibition. More on this later, I hope, but for now let me just say that Pater and I struggled to reconcile the Miró we had recently seen at Paris' Maillol Museum (primarily a joyful sculptor, painter, and ceramicist) with this much more tortured man whose sculptures were confined to one room out of 12 or 13, and whose ceramics got barely a footnote. We're both completely intrigued by the man and looking to spend more time comparing the two catalogues, perhaps find a good biography to read. And we're so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time with so many of his works in a short time -- what a difference it makes to see the brushstrokes on a painting, to contemplate a large work up close, from various angles, stepping back for a different perspective.
Londoners and tourists enjoying the summer atmosphere
It's work, though, this viewing and contemplation and note-taking. We can't usually do much more than 90 minutes of it, at least not productively or at least not without my feet screaming nasty words at me. So we stopped for lunch on the top floor of the Tate. There are less expensive alternatives elsewhere in the huge building, but the prices upstairs are very reasonable for the food, service, and, above all, the stunning view. I asked our server if he'd grown blasé about working with St. Paul's in his view at every step, and he said he'd been there for four months now and was still pinching himself -- he says that with the different weather, different light, it's always a changing picture, and from the several times we've visited, I'd have to agree. The Gordes olives, fortunately, remain their steady good-tasting selves, and there's a really good Bulgarian pinot noir we like. It was a pleasant hour . . .
More sunshine today, but no beach on Brompton Road . . .
Along the riverfront, a sandy beach with colourful cabanas declares summer is here -- we sauntered along to the Waterloo Bridge enjoying the mood of the crowd, but my feet were getting unhappier by the step. Luckily, we remembered where the Birkenstock shop is in Covent Garden, and the hike was rewarded by almost instant comfort in my new gold-brown sandals. Worth every penny!!!
Everything looks better in sunshine, but I bet this pink and red Cheval house is charming in all seasons
Tea, scones, more comfort at The National Gallery cafe -- our young server was playfully indignant with the Alabama tourists at the next table who hadn't heard of her native Barcelona. Much as we enjoyed our many conversations with Parisian fellow diners over the past few weeks, it was wonderful to be able to join easily into the back-and-forth with no concern about unwitting faux pas.
I can't help it: as soon as I saw these kids playing in the water, I thought of bringing Nola here one day.
Another hike (back to the hotel), a much-needed nap, some freshening up and a change of clothes and we were ready to stroll out into the warm evening again. Tickets in Pater's pocket for a concert at St. Martin's, we looked forward to a perfect evening of music, followed by late dinner. Left the hotel at 7:12, and somewhere around Russell Square, at, say 7:17 or so, I talked about what we might do on Friday night. Well, this is Friday, countered Pater. Nope, said I. And then Pater checked the tickets. Isn't it the 22nd today? he wondered. Nope, said I. Remember it was the 20th yesterday when we took the train? Remember I said today's the 21st, my sister's birthday? (Happy happy, K) . . . . . .

So . . . You've heard that expression: All dressed up and no place to go? Suddenly, that was us. And with only 6 free show-going nights in London, one of them was now blown.
And there's Pater, looking good in his newlinen jacket, perfect for this heat (and so much better than the black cashmere he's been having to wear out for dinner -- remember, we packed for a normal April and it's averaged 9 degrees C. higher!
Except that I remembered that Chicago was within striking distance and we decided to put on some speed and try to get tickets. At the theatre by 7: 40, and the young ticket-seller cheerily assured us we could get very nice seats. Again, how delightful to do all this in English. Indeed, Pater was just delighted that the evening ended up working out so well, and I'm pleased to have something to remind him of when I'm doing my OCD thing over tickets at some future point.

So now we're in our room getting ready to head down to St. Martin's for a concert, it being Friday, April 22nd and all. We've had a brilliant day at the V&A -- Yamamoto's clothes, the Aesthetes paintings and furniture and rooms and clothing, lunch in a room decorated by William Morris. Good Friday service sung in Latin at Brompton Oratory for some glorious solemnity.  And 24 degrees of constant sunshine, less solemn, equally glorious. Yes, it's definitely all good.


  1. Wow, a full dance card for you both, but off the charts in fabulosity! I envy your itinerary-planning skills.

    I hope the weather holds for the remainder of your London leg.

  2. OMG, I clicked on your hotel link to find...the first hotel I stayed in in London, in the '70s- so evocative for me. Though we are often in Paris, have not been able to get Le Duc to London after a disastrous trip he had b/f we met. Maybe this year...

  3. You are really seeing the sights!
    When Mr. Hb and I travel we do have a very busy schedule too...I try to arrange a variety of things to see and do..
    just like you two!

    Happy Easter


  4. That's a crazy coincidence, Duchesse -- apparently it's the same family, albeit one generation down from those in the 70s, a couple about our age and their daughter and son-in-law. I can see why Le Duc prefers Paris, but there's much to love about London's energy. Maybe one of your longer Paris stays, you might try a Eurostar weekend . . .


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