Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend London

 You might – or might not, depending on how much attention you have been paying to this blog – be surprised to consider that this is the first weekend I have spent actually in London, although it is about six weeks since I left Sydney. Weekend-wise, it was a welcome quiet one.

Saturday began with my very first visitor! Kyle came to inspect the premises, and said nice things, so let’s count that as a success. I am in the throes of planning my first entertaining: a small flat-warming soiree in a few weeks’ time. I have discovered that Carluccio’s caters, so what could be simpler?

Kyle and I then ventured abroad in the great city, with him insisting on the bus rather than the Tube, which rounded out my public transport education. We rode on the top of a red double-decker to Ludgate Hill, to check out a potential venue for the concert we plan for next February, to commemorate our respective birthdays, which fall within a week of each other. The venue we are keen on, an ancient church named St Bride’s, was sadly closed; so we continued on (by bus again) to Somerset House and The Courtauld Gallery on The Strand, where we lunched at Tom’s Kitchen. Bangers & mash for me, and very noice too.

The eponymous Tom at Somerset House, from his website

While Kyle set off for home, I waded through the West End matinee crowds to Covent Garden, where the weekend Jubilee Market was in full swing. Considering this to be a major pick-pocket risk, and full of tat anyway, I continued my quest: for good bread. Jocelyn has suggested that Waitrose carries a fine selection, and indeed I did find some good stuff at a ‘Pauls’ , a chain of French bakers, and a nice handmade rye sourdough from ‘Flourpower’.   Now to find a cafe that uses this good stuff!

My quiet Saturday was rounded out with catching up on emails, telling you about ‘Warhorse’, and putting together a flat-pack bookshelf. One shelf is in upside down, but I am beyond caring. There is one more bookshelf to put together, and then I refuse point-blank to ever buy another flat-pack thing again. The Australian Stuff is due to be delivered tomorrow afternoon!

On Sunday I was supposed to go to a service at St Bride’s to check it out, but I didn’t make it. Upon realising that tomorrow and the next day I have class, I thought it would be prudent to spend the day doing some study, so Plato it has been, with a brief pause to go downstairs for some Neuhaus chocolates, which in my opinion considerably assist study. Remember how I raved about Neuhaus when I visited their shop in Brussels? Little did I realise that they have an outlet right here in the St Pancras concourse. So that is the Chocolate Report from your London Correspondent, and I hope you find it useful.

The weekend Guardian reported that The Savoy is about to reopen after several years of refurbishment. Luckily it is owned by a Saudi prince, since the refurb cost £220m. The Savoy was built in 1889 by the theatre impresario D’Oyly Carte who produced Gilbert & Sullivan musicals and made a great deal of money (though not as much as a Saudi Prince). His Savoy Theatre was next door. Cesar Ritz managed it, and Chef Albert Escoffier invented Melba toast for Australian singer (see the A$100 note) and celebrity of the times, Dame Nellie Melba (though why she wanted the toast is not recorded). Monet stayed there and painted his scenes of the Thames from his balcony. Vivien Leigh, Lawrence Olivier, Errol Flynn (who was Tasmanian, BTW), Fred Astaire, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and HG Wells were all regulars, according to the Guardian. Prices for champagne in the new Beaufort Bar range from £14 for a glass of Louis Roederer to £18,900 for a Methuselah of Cristal 2002. Since I am living la vie boheme, I will be quite satisfied with a glass of the Louis Roederer, thanks.

Dame Nellie Melba
Melba Toast

I have acquired and stuck up on my wall a large map of London, out as far as the near suburbs. This is to help me understand where exactly I am in relation to everything else. I am getting competent at finding my way around the streets of my ‘hood, but further afield I lose my sense of direction quickly. I did hop on a bus again this afternoon, to bring home some cushions from John Lewis (this no-car thing is challenging sometimes). The bus was all very well, although everybody else in London appeared to get on it at the same time: Sunday evening crush.


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