I have way too much energy! After a long and draining travel day I woke up in London at 6am wide awake! I chatted with Noelle and Simon before they headed off to work and walked down to the Sainsbury supermarket down the street to buy some scones, clotted cream, Strawberry’s, two English Cheddars (a white VERY strong and well aged as well as a yellow that was more mellow) and Cadbury Carmel Chocolate! It rained last night which was a great relief as the evening prior was like a sauna across the city. The light rain was exactly what I needed after almost a month of hot weather in Spain and Portugal! I marched right to the Thames River to start the day walking through the gardens at Parliament and Big Ben. I passed Westminster Abbey on the way to Trafalgar Square. The Square is so different from the last time I saw it! The famous monument (the lions and very tall statue) are all covered up as they are cleaning and refurbishing the spot throughout the summer. The BIG surprise was the lack of the infamous pigeons all over the square! I found out very soon why…the Mayor has ordered that men with Birds of Prey stand at all corners of the square to remove the pigeons from the area. Huge falcons and eagles were throughout the square making sure the pesky filthy pigeons didn’t bother or dirty up the area.
First stop, The National Gallery of England: The following are the notes I made of my favorite pieces:
Scenes from the Passion of Christ by Master of Delft: the crucified men on the mountain are sporting the first ever G strings in Art History! The Virgin of the Rocks by Da Vinci: by far my favorite of his works. Jesus is seen blessing his cousin Saint John the Baptist. An Allegory of Venus and Cupid by Bronzino: my favorite painting on earth thus far. I remember this painting like yesterday sitting in my Art History Survey course in First Year. Tintoretto: noted that his works of Jesus Bathing Feet is very similar to El Greco’s works as the backdrop is dark black while the holy figures appear like a promising bright light. Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian always reminds me about the fantastical images that life can provide if we keep an open mind. Adam and Eve by John Gossaert: this is my favorite painting of this ever so famous couple. Adam actually has clown hair (border line fro). A nest of sorts. I headed into the Sainsbury wing which consists of the Gothic Art which I am not such a fan of. It is easy to recognize this period as all the paintings blind the viewer with the excessive use of gold paint and all of the characters (Biblical figures of course) look like aliens. My favorite example of Alien baby Jesus and Mary is Masaccio’s Virgin and Child. Along the halls I came across my favorite depiction of war. Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano always leaves me stunned. I always love to stare at the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck because it makes me laugh. Clearly this is a great proof that hot couples do exist! Other quick favorites: Piero della Francesca’s chalk coloured nativity, Dancing pink Poussin, Cuyps farm-scapes, Reubens Samson and Delilah (the most amazing candle work I have seen to date), Turners Rain, Steam and Speed, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (I think they may be a bit more orange than the last time I saw them) and finally Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres (which appear as a ode to river dreams).
I walked a few steps up the street to Leicester Square the famous little spot where all the Red Carpet rah rah occurs throughout the year. I am so pleased to announce that I purchased tickets for Noelle and I to see Evita! This is the second week of its opening but I managed to get relatively inexpensive tickets to my favorite musical 28 pounds sterling a piece!
I spent an hour or so in the National Portrait Gallery choosing to look at only my favorite areas of the building as I had been before on my last trip. I weaved through the Tudour rooms which are full of famous portraits of the British Royals. Andy Warhol had an exhibition called Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century which I rather enjoyed (my favorites where the Marx Brothers and Einstein). I have come to enjoy Julian Opie the up and coming British Modern artist who created the famous portraits of the band Blur. JK Rowling also has a notable portrait in the form of a pop out display (similar to the children’s books) and provides a great optical illusion. Sir Richard Branson has a portrait entirely made up of pieces of post cards and photographs creating a grand collage. My favorite is the David, a 67 minute digital video of David Beckham sleeping. Younglings love to sit around the plasma screen gah gah’ing every time he twitches or scratches his nose. I noticed this footy player has huge eye lashes and giant diamond earrings…I get mistaken for him on the street all the time.
In the late afternoon I walked down the Mall (the busy street lined with Union Jacks leading to Buckingham Palace). I hopped into a Cornish Pasty shop to eat a Chicken, Potato and Corn wrapped pastry for lunch. It amazes me how many varieties there are. This shop alone had 25 varieties but I will only list my favorites (Steak and Ale, Beef and Stilton, Ham Leek and Cheese, Pork and Apple, Lamb and Mint). I returned back to the house to vegetate a bit and watched the France vs Swiss match and then I was off with Simon to meet Noelle at Mango Tree an uppity and beautiful bangkok-london fine dining restaurant in the heart of the city. I had crispy vegetable spring rolls and a chicken pad thai that came decorated with egg netting, very pretty indeed. It has been raining on and off all day which is all I could hope for! I am so excited for the cool weather and wet rain drops on my face! This evening we are relaxing in the apartment as we unbloat our bellies and drink cold white wine…excellent.
Wednesday morning was damp and cool, my favorite. I sipped on English Breakfast and sat transfixed watching the early morning TV shows broadcast by the BBC. On the news a special report was done on the rising cost of Fish and Chip Shops. Apparently the price of cod has gone up 25% and Potatoes have gone up 50% in the last year! Chippy shops are having to increase prices, this is not good for the UK! I also sat and watched the UK version of Big Brother which is so scandalous, I could watch it for hours.
At the Tate Modern:
Tacitu Dean has an amazing room full of huge blackboards with white outlined diagrams describing a film storyboard for a movie based on sailors on a huge ship. Many splatterings by Mr.Pollock and a Lobster phone from the Dali. Jean Dubuffet of France with his The Tree of Fluids makes women look flat and obscure, monster like even. A special photography exhibit; in particular I enjoyed the photo of a man sticking to a brick building with bottles of household supplies such as windex and shampoo bottles. Jaunis Kounellis has a fantastic wall installation on the 5th floor containing charcoal, stuffed birds and arrows! Kandinsky with many memorable odd dream like netted paintings and a room painted entirely black with linear white stripes flowing in all directions to create triangles, circles and squares. Marcel Duchamps infamous fountain aka urinal on its back. Hanging painted eggs from string that when looked at from a distance form the shape of a suspended S. Nathan Cauter’s crazy wood mountings; one entitled “Attention Archangel Radio Free Dunkirk is Reporting a Scotch Mist All Risks Apply.” Umberto Boccioni’s futuristic Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. Roy Lichtenstein’s Poppy and pixilated Whaam! and Edgar Degas sculpture Little Girl Aged 14 (I saw the original at The Louvre in Paris). Warhol and giant hanging plugs…these are my memories as a snapshot at the Tate.
The smell of caramelized onions and juicy sausages perfumed the streets on my walk to the British Museum. I didn’t stay long here as I have been before for over 4 hours. I choose to visit the Middle Eastern special exhibit courtesy of Dubai and stared at the insane collection of Egyptian art as well as the Rosetta Stone (the British Museum has more Egyptian art than Egypt does…the largest collection in the world!) thanks to colonization! Most interesting was the temporary exhibit called Art and Sexualism. The exhibit has pieces from all over the world, namely Japan, Roman and Greek that explain the history of homosexuality through the ages. The Warren cup, a famous Roman goblet made over 2000 years ago was encased under high surveillance and has interesting images of love back in the day. A big poster of Brokeback Mountain was also found beside a famous Chinese Phallic statue…this made me chuckle (did I just say chuckle? Am I 90?).
A notable poem from Cavafy a Greek; And when the expensive drinks were finished and it was close to four in the morning, happy, they gave themselves to love.
The final trip for the day was to the ever so wonderful Cambden Market. The streets are lined with funky clothing booths, jewelry, fake purses and sunglasses (I almost bought a pair of Prada and Dior shades that looked incredibly real). You could shop on this one street and market place for hours but my feet were hurting so I went to the FOOD MARKET (I think better than the actual Cambden Market I dare not tell a lie). The food market is full of Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Chippys…you name it you got it. For 3.50 pounds I bought a tub full of steaming and juicy Chinese food. Doesn’t get better than that! On my way back to the tube to get home I walked right onto a movie set. I was plugged into my Ipod so I didn’t hear the crew and director screaming for me to get out of the shot. That was an excellent little experience as I stood to the side and watched them film a couple of takes…some sort of British comedy in the making. Noelle, Simon and I ate a quick meal at home and then Noelle and I (the musical lovers) went to see the one and only EVITA. I was so giddy through the whole thing, I couldn’t’ actually believe I was seeing my favorite musical live at the West End in London! Eva wasn’t so hot, her voice was high pitched and didn’t compare to The Material Girl. Peron was excellent though and the entire performance I was mouthing the lyrics. I still can’t believe after all these years I still know every word! I am clearly amazing.
I think I was born to live in London…I have to find a job here…a career even…I just love this city and it feels like it could be home. However, when in London throw your money into a bucket, literally it disappears when you have your back turned.
Thursday I actually slept in until 7am! I was so pleased to get more than 5 hours of sleep for once. I took the tube in the morning to Covent Garden and walked around a bit poking in and out of different shops. I then took the tube back to Cambden Market which I am clearly addicted to now. I bought a Burberry belt and a nice Louis Vuitton satchel that I plan on using at school to transport my school supplies. Education with style I suppose. Tonight I am making dinner. I did the shopping and here is the menu:
Lots of Wine (obviously).
Yam and Parsnip fries with olive oil, garlic and curry powder.
Basmati rice with Chardonnay marinated raisins, coconut milk reduction and lemon zest.
Chicken fingers (oatmeal, Corn Flakes, Paprika, flour…the secret recipe revealed) with Peanut satay sauce.
Tonight’s dinner is accompanied by the ever so thrilling footy match England VS Trinidad. The streets will be bustling and so will the pubs I guarantee it! After the scrumptious meal and football match (in which England won!). We made some cocktails and headed out to the George, a Pub in Covent Garden where we met Noelle’s friend Lorna. We also met up with Simon who was supposed to be interviewed by CNN at 8pm but the spot was canceled. I don’t remember very much about last night…other than watching a bit of the Sweden vs Paraguay match in the pub, drinking things and dancing at a disco with lights all around me. London is always awake.
I woke up this morning after having a crazy dream. I was just getting on the London Eye (the worlds largest/tallest Ferris wheel right on the Thames River) and I was standing right beside Madonna and her daughter Lortus. She was trapped in our little platform for an hour with me. I sang her entire Confessions on a Dance Floor album and she took me on a shopping spree after and we were the best of friends…dreams are the best.
Friday, my last day in London, for this trip at least. To make the best of it I can tell you right now I had one of the best days of my life (I am getting giddy sitting hear waiting to tell you all what I did!)
FOOD FOOD FOOD. The food tour started off at the WORLDS BEST food market. Borough Market is located right near the London Bridge and has a great ambiance as the trains zoom overhead and the bustle of people going to work is all around. This market is to die for; tons of fruit stalls, great big fish markets, nuts and munchies galore, cheese importers, crispy bakery stands (my favorite being a loaf of roasted onion, rosemary and sharp cheddar!). The interesting specialty shops worth mentioning; French wine and fois gras importer, UK Beer shop with over 200 micro brews and Organic Lane (an entire street of tofu, health food and all things that don’t bite back).
Drum Roll Please…
I then took the tube to Regent Park a beautiful public park filled with shady spots to sit and read, fountains and lush gardens. The moment I had been waiting for, the anticipation was going to kill me. I finally arrived at the ticket booth and charged 30 pounds to my visa and was in line for the 5th annual Taste of London, Europe’s largest and most sensational food and restaurant extravaganza!
You enter the Park under a bridge made of gold and bright red satin. On your left and right people hand you free food magazines and wine journals. As you come out of the tube and enter into the park the sun hits you and you adjust to the bright…realizing that in front of you is a giant expanse (almost a little city) of elaborate tents, red carpet streets and I kid you not…fountains gurgling Merlot and Pinot Grigio! As soon as I lay my eyes on this site I knew I was in for a good 3 hours! The restaurant stands can be found on the perimeter of the park. As they are the top restaurant and bakeries in the city you can only imagine how amazing the decor was for each shop. There were lots of French, Indian, Chinese and Italian food represented throughout the park. I initially made one full walk around the perimeter to see what foods I was most interested in purchasing. I went to the eastern corner for a free wine tasting (I had the Marques de Caceres tasting from the Rioja region of Spain, which was 5 glasses, at 12 noon!). I then entered my favorite spot of the day. A huge indoor building labeled “World Cheese Awards”. Only pictures can properly describe the awe this room made me feel. Twelve LONG tables full of cheese from across the world. The samples, oh just imagine the samples. It was like Epcot center for coagulated dairy as you walk from one country to the next. I especially enjoyed Germany, Switzerland (they rank their Gruyere’s like wines; Classic, Reserve and Premier Cru) and the softest Italian Mozzarella I had ever had, it was almost like sour cream! There were over 40 aged Cheddars in the running this year from England, Canada and the States; I tried 32 of these! My two favorite discoveries were Pecora with black truffles and organic Brockay with herbs. If you can find either of those on in Canada buy them in an instant!
After that wee cheese tasting it was clearly time to EAT, seriously I mean. So I took out my food tickets and purchased the following; Indian Kabob Assortment on Nann bread (Chicken preserved overnight in a pickling marinade char grilled to a country style finesse, Cuts of lamb soaked in yogurt marinade and rum, spiced with crushed garlic, pounded chilies, cloved and fenugreek char grilled). Pumpkin and ginger soup with fried onions and roasted pumpkin seeds (this soup was BRIGHT orange and I believe I could have put it on ice cream as a sauce, it was that good…ah I will never forget that fabulous bowl of cool pumpkin goodness.) Belgian Chocolate gelato with strawberries and cream. A glass of cava with fresh raspberries. An organic Carmel apple (to take to Norway tomorrow…sounds like a good plane breakfast to me!)
I continued my walk along the red carpet, walking passed the British Airways VIP only Cava lounge and passed several more wine fountains and waterfalls filled with rose petals. London’s top Jazz Band was playing all day in the center of the square of the park so it had a lovely relaxing ambiance to it. I finally made my way to Gordon Ramsey’s stand. I walked right up to him and shook his hand (I think he was alarmed). I told him my life story without boring him for one second. I also told him he isn’t that scary and that I know several chefs that are much more terrifying than him…he asked me if I could arrange a date for him to duke it out in a yelling match with them. I said possibly…he is a genuinely nice guy although he didn’t have much to say about Jamie Oliver (the Naked Chef) who I also chatted with over a glass of Pinot Grigio out of a stand alone fountain.
It seems that I always have to bring up beautiful people in my ranting. But it is necessary that I explain for all intensive purposes how beautiful everyone who worked at this event was. The men at the Cava bar looked like Versace models and the beautiful girls on the red carpet handing out empty wine glasses for use in the fountains were stunning. I wondered if it was just a necessity for restaurants to hire beautiful top models to sell their food. I mean we all know that we like to be around beautiful people, but how could so many hot people all work in this same little space. The answer unfolded when I boldly told a wait staff member that she was the most beautiful person I had ever met. The lovely lady blushed and explained to me that she wasn’t actually a waitress. She and all the rest of the people working the conference work for Ford Modeling Agency and were hired simply for their beautiful bodies and peaches and cream complexion. So little did the thousands of visitors know, but they were being served the most beautiful food by the most beautiful people all day. I just have to say in one word that that is, Fabulous.
My final evening in London was spent with my dear friend Lisa whom I met at Englishtown. She is in her 30’s and works for a wine importer from South Africa. She met Simon, Noelle and I at Trafalgar Square and we proceeded to find a place to have dinner. We found a nice spot in China Town and I had the best fried rice of my life with a plate of zingy lemon chicken. We spent the evening laughing our faces off at the Comedy Shop, London’s top Comedy Club. Five different acts including a hilarious MC who had me wincing in pain from laughter.
Any 4:30am wake up call is inhumane. I grabbed my things and bid Noelle goodbye and ran to the bus station for the 5:10am bus to Stanstead Airport. The bus ride was really nice as we left from Victoria station and drove through the streets of London at the only time of the day when they really aren’t jam packed with people. I bid London farewell as I slowly fell asleep…the bus was driving past Westminster Abby and then I got a glance at the London Eye and the Thames River with Big Ben behind me. I got to see the sun rise, a beautiful shimmering orange and red over the Capital of Europe. Lucky indeed.