After all my numerous claims to “London”, recorded via Heathrow airport, a 36-hour trip to London last December allowed me to live out several of my cliché dreams. My recent trip to LONDON was delightfully different, musically filled and bookstore centered!
My first quick trip to London was in December 2014. It included: drinking 2-litres of fabulous tea in one sitting, eating some crumpets and scones with Devonshire cream at Harrods, getting a lovely new haircut, visiting to the Abbey while they prepared for Christmas, and seeing and hearing Big Ben strike 12 noon (fluke). After circling around Piccadilly, I wandered around the market at Covent Garden and witnessed iconic characters hovering in the air like magic while listening to a handsome bagpiper ‘wow-ing the crowd’ at Trafalgar Square. I made my way to the front of Buckingham Palace, where I stood across from the litter of paparazzi photographing VIPs in old-fashioned and expensive cars entering the private parking lot. Tea with the Queen, anyone? I also loved seeing and crossing London Bridge in all its glory. And the final meal … authentic Fish ‘n Chips in Notting Hill, a portion fit for a King or after a week of fasting.
I couldn’t rid myself of this London ‘tickled’ after that trip. So this time, I would give myself more time, to just ‘be’ a little more.
My morning plans were set. It included getting my haircut once more at Harrods, clearly a new European tradition. The fabulous Andre and I spoke French while he cut my hair and I drank three cups of coffee – he’s awesome and I am working out the logistics on how he can move in with me to be my personal stylist!
Once my hair was looking voluminous (rare occasion), Ilinca and I visited the beautiful “St. Paul’s Church” Knightsbridge. Claim to fame: this church is attended by the Duke of Wellington.
Rumbling tummies zoned our senses to the nearest lunch spot at a charming pub called: “The Bunch of Grapes” (Oh how I love British pub names!).
Off again, we visited a beautiful French publishing house “Maison Assoulin“, showcasing beautiful ‘coffee table’ books and classic interior design.
We feasted on a huge range of things to buy from local artisans at the Piccadilly market. From old antique trinkets to homey things and personal items, I was thrilled to find high quality essential oils. I purchased some delicious English Lavender for the first time! It’s divine!
A bookstore lover, we wondered around until we found the oldest bookstore in London “Hatchards” founded in 1797.
We finished our London day of fun with “Happy Hour” at the Waterstones bookshop, 5th View Bar & Restaurant. Parched, that 50% off Muay Thai went down pretty smoothly I must say. Service lagged and I wondered if it was because the 20% gratuity was already included…But the view and experience was lovely nonetheless!
Going to the Royal Opera House (ROH) was not only important but a serious MUST. I love Opera. When I asked Ilinca if she would like to join me, I found out that she had never been to an opera before. We had to rectify this!
Growing up, my mom would blare Pavarotti on our stereo, especially on Sundays. When the Sunday morning edition, or other CBC radio programming was in overload, The Three Tenors and Pavarotti filled my Victoria childhood home. In my youth, I would sometimes pretend to be annoyed, but even then, my opera-loving soul was alight.
A get-to-know me more moment: In an earlier phase of my life, after years as an instrumentalist, in elementary and high school, I once held a very delicate dream of becoming an opera singer or classical singer. Upon discovering my dislike of studying Linguistics during my first year of University, I ended up switching majors, studying music for my undergraduate degree. Although away from this missed musical life I used to have, when I listen to dedicated passionate singers and musicians ‘bring it’, I feel as though I walk away with sparkles floating around my aura and my heart filled with a whole lot of gratitude. After all, it’s a universal soul-food.
The ROH was bustling. A sold-out noon show, in a gorgeous setting from set to seat, I was feeling excited!
David McVicar’s production of the “The Marriage of Figaro” was featured and performed in a jaw-dropping-ly beautiful and stunning interpretation that is forever imprinted on my inner rolodex of musical glee. It is one of Mozarts’ quintessennial operas with timeless comical wit translatable to today’s relationship woes. It is also one of the very few operas where no one dies.
Personally, I love those heart-wrenchingly beautiful, pull-on-the-heart-strings operas like: La Traviata, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto and so forth. They can invoke strong visceral reactions (and often tears!), but this Opera, (sans anyone dying), transports and carries you away into another more lighthearted world of music and story, where the world around you dissolves even for a little while..
Although everyone in the cast was beautiful and amazing, Erwin Schrott, who played Figaro, a charismatically talented and handsome tenor was the big sell, apparently. The lady (sitting in my lap) I mean sitting to my right, kindly let me know that she would expect a complete uproar should he be unwell and unable to perform. I was kind of curious to know what an opera audience uproar would look like. Thankfully, he was in fine form and still set to perform. Phew! No need for alarm bells. (End scene).
Best 3.5 hours. Bravo ROH!
Post-Opera? Coffee time! Surprised? We made a 180 degree creative turn to a special spot: “The Attendant”.
Having coffee in a converted men’s washroom below street level was a little surprising I have to admit. Thankfully, the coffee good and it included a whimsical design en plus!
But our exciting day of music did not end there! No siree! Off to the pub we went!
We went to the Westow House in the Crystal Garden district in South London. The band: two5, a blues and rock band. They entertained us as I tried some new beers, while chillaxing on a comfy sofa in the corner, near the stage. I had a lovely conversation with guitar player Ron McElroy (and Facebook page) learned a little bit about him and his musical life! A great way to finish the night! Check him/them out!
My last full day included a brief overview of some of the highlights at the British Museum where I was wow-ed by its enormity yet tameness. And it’s FREE! Impossible to see everything, I saw the British Museum’s “Top Ten”, if you will, and I can’t wait to go back!
We had great plans for my last night in London. Coincidentally, a university pal from way back, and super singer extraordinaire “Debi Wong“, mezzo-soprano was performing at the Scandinavian and Shakespeare festival in Kingston upon Tames. The Winter of our Discontent is this unique era-mixed music performance that is truly captivating. Follow the link for a little introduction! Bravo! And what better way to celebrate a great show but to have a tasty dinner at the pub with charming company and great beer.
My last moments in London were spent having a lunch catch up session with Debi before leaving for the train station and she, for the airport. This trip was great! And I of course have a long list of places to go to the next time I’m in town.
This trip would not have been nearly as fun, lovely nor as wonderful without my host and my dear friend Ilinca! Merci!! She also shared some of her photos with me, including that great one at the Pub!
And both London visits … no rain.