Thursday, 21 November 2013

Dateline London

Centre looking towards Trafalgar Square.

We arrived in London for a short 48 hour stay before our return to Canada. Wish it could have been longer, London offers so much in terms of exhibits in its museums, Daumier presently at the Royal Academy, Elizabethan Portraits at the National Gallery and a very special exhibit until 24 November at Houghton Hall of all the fantastic collection of paintings Sir Robert Walpole sold to Catherine II the Great of Russia, the painting have been at the Hermitage ever since. This is the first time since the 18th century that the collection has return for a special show in England.

There is also lots of theatre and at this time Christmas shopping with beautiful window displays. I went to visit Liberty the great department store for the first time, I had never been there, the building alone is a marvel of wood timber construction.

 Liberty department store on Great Marlborough street, London

inside the store all timber framed

We managed to have dinner in two wonderful restaurants, one was ZEDEL Brasserie in the former Regent Palace Hotel at 20 Sherwood street by Piccadilly Circus. The public rooms have been restored as they were when the hotel first opened in 1900, it is a very faithful restoration based on notes and photographs of the public rooms, lots of gold leaf, marble and beautiful wood paneling. The Regent Palace hotel is gone the rest of the building is use for offices.

The other was a wonderful fish and seafood restaurant which opened in 1896, J. Sheekey on Saint-Martin's Court, near Leicester Square, . This was a suggestion by our friend David N. who always has nice suggestions to make when we come through London. He and J. are in the know when it comes to exhibits, plays, opera or whatever is of interest, their suggestions are the best.  The Oyster bar is very elegant with a wonderful menu and great wine list and the other room is the restaurant proper with a different menu. The fish is probably the best in London without a doubt according to critics. 

 J.Sheekey Restaurant 

J.Sheekey Oyster Bar

 Zedel Entrance hall 
Zedel Brasserie 

We also saw a play at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, One man two govners by Richard Bean,     based on a the play of Carlo Goldoni, hilarious, crude, rude and highly entertaining vaudeville. The music by Grant Olding, the title role was played by Owain Arthur, who was excellent in this role.
I have not laughed this hard in a long time, there is some audience participation in the play and I am amazed to see how people are very willing to laugh hard at other people's embarrassing moments, you laugh because better them than me on stage. 

The story is very simple but the rendition makes it all the more entertaining, quite a few good lines. In this version the play is set in Brighton and it's 1963. The principal role of the play is Arlechino or Francis is this case, not too smart and easily confused but he knows how to take advantage of any situation while trying to serve two masters.

What I did notice is how in Canada we are dying of Political Correctness, at the theatre they will warn you in advance by way of a poster that what you are about to see has smoking, bad language, nudity and whatever. In London, you are an adult, you made a choice and you are respected for that, the play we saw had, bad language, crude remarks, smoking, no warning, you know what you are going to see since you bought a ticket and read the synopsis. No member of the public died as a result. Looking at the program, I saw an advert for another play by the National Theatre and the warning at the bottom said; Bad language, lots of bling and a fake tan, I think we should tried that approach with the Ottawa crowd.

During the play, the characters make predictions of what will happen one day, say in 20 years time (1983), one character says I predict that Britain will have a women PM and we will have no more wars and a caring and just society where the poor will not be forgotten, a reference to Margaret Thatcher who despite being a women did not turn out to be much different from previous male PM.  Putting the lie to all that Feminist propaganda which did not turn out to be true.

London remains a fascinating city, it is full of energy and I found it to be much cleaner than Paris who has a sorry look these days. We came out of the theatre at 10pm to find the streets hoping with crowds of people, bars and restaurants are full, very often in the case of Pubs spilling out unto the streets where you can see dozens of people having a drink. Another line from the show is about Pubs, we forget that Pubs only sold drinks and chips until very recently. In the play the character learns that the Pub around the corner is now a ''Pub serving Food'' He says ''Think of that a Pub with Food what a novel idea''.  

The subway is crowded, main subway station shops are open until midnight, serving food and drinks. There is lots of trafic and people on the streets, not bad for a Tuesday night.

Shopping is always a pleasure, so many nice things on display and so much choice, products you do not necessarily find in Canada. I also love Heathrow Airport though it seems to be in a perpetual state of construction. I cannot remember once in the last 35 years that I have been through Heathrow that something is not under construction.

What I really like about the Airport is the Duty Free Shopping, real bargains and so many products. This time around found a Single Malt Scotch which is not available in stores, they have tasting stations to entice you to buy and sales people who promote products and can talk about it. I also got some of my favourite shower soap Molton Brown, a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne 2004 Grande Cuvée and a beautiful Plum Pudding for Xmas. They also have many beautiful shops like BULGARI and Hermes. Many restaurants and bars for a varied clientele, not everyone wants a packaged sandwich.  One bar serves a selection of Caviar, smoke salmon and Champagne just the sort of picker-upper you need before a flight. It is very different from any other airport I have been through in all my years, Heathrow has that special something, it's not just Starbucks or tacky souvenirs. Everything is there to entice you to buy a luxury item.

 Talisker Dark Storm Scotch not available in stores.

 Vintage 2004 a very good year

 A favourite soap of mine Molton Brown

For our Xmas dinner

We also discovered another way to get to the airport. We were going to use the Express Train from Paddinton Station but then our friend C. suggested we take this Limousine service called London Airport Cars, it is cheaper than the train and just as fast. We saved, being two persons, 30 Pounds, nothing to sneeze at and we did not have to carry our luggage, we had too much luggage for this 23 day trip.

The weather in London was very nice, we were expecting rain, this according to the weather map but I have learned with time that London being close to the sea, the weather changes very quickly, sometime surprinsingly so, when we arrived in late afternoon, the sky was gray, then the next morning beautiful sunshine and blue sky though with a cold wind. Before our departure again cloudy and gray but by the time we got to Heathrow around 11am, it was sunshine and blue sky. As we took off we flew over Windsor Castle and got a good look at the park and Castle. 

So this is how our 35 Anniversary celebration trip ends. Very memorable what shall we do for our 40th?


  1. It is not forbidden to mention who introduced you to Sheekey's and was so delighted to see you both there, recommended 1M2Gs and raved about Houghton Hall - which is in Norfolk, a very long way from London! Did you get to the Daumier in the end, then?

    1. David I always try to be discreet on naming names, indeed a trip to London would not be complete without your wise suggestions. No in the end we did not see any exhibits, sadly.

  2. what a journey you two (Three) had. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

    1. According to the theatre notes Richard Bean is a former Psychiatrist who now writes plays. This one has been on for almost 2 years now.

    2. I wish I could be a former psychiatrist !

  3. What a great anniversary trip. I can't believe how much you managed to cram into those 48 hours in London on your way home.