Wednesday -mental soundtrack - Flight of the Conchords -munching on a Marks & Spencer feta and roasted tomato pasta salad whilst the Heathrow Express whisked me to Paddington -free room upgrade and a leafy tree view on the top floor of the fabulous Stylotel -heading straight to The Concise Dictionary of Dress, Artangel's interactive site-specific show at Blythe House, and having my mind blown by what happens when fashion curation and psychoanalysis come together in the V&A's storage and conservation space -an ice cream cone and Cadbury Flake from the Mr. Whippy truck outside the British Museum, eaten amongst the riot of South African flowers and trees currently planted in the front courtyard -a quick check-in on my favorite pieces in the Museum, none of which have moved in the past fifteen years -apple/cucumber/lemon/mint juice + amai udon + apple and sweet yam tart with vanilla pod cream at Wagamama -Anne Schwanewilms singing Strauss and Schoenberg at Wigmore Hall, accompanied only by piano and in a setting so intimate it felt like a recital -Ribena and a Cadbury Caramel bar for a nightcap
Thursday -mental soundtrack - Jimmy Scott -morning stroll through the grounds of Alexandra Park, pausing at the boating lake to say hi to the water birds -the views from the steps of Alexandra Palace, both of the city and of the burly boxers of various nationalities arriving for their bouts at the Palace -Picasso's Mediterranean years at the Britannia Street Gagosian Gallery, curated from the Picasso family's private collection and better than some museum shows I've seen -a magical show at Sprüth Magers London pairing Joseph Cornell and Karen Kilimnik, full of twinkling stars and their shared love of ballet -Father's Day shopping at Smythson of Bond Street -paintings Matisse made in the South of France on display at Helly Nahmad, gorgeous women and sun-drenched landscapes, plus four of his massive bronzes on loan from the Tate -delicious smells inside Ormond Jayne -a glass of Italian white + shaved radish salad with truffle oil, pomegranate seeds, pecorino + spaghetti with basil, cherry tomatoes, olives + espresso gelato at Bocca Di Lupo -toys both vintage and new at Honeyjam -towering over the British boys in my three-inch heels as I step out for the evening -Chardonnay + butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant ravioli with chunky tomato sauce + rhubarb sorbet at the Fish Shop -extreme emotion brilliantly translated into movement by the Belgian Les Ballets C de la B at Sadler's Wells, choreographed by Alain Patel in the manner of Pina Bausch and with sound developed and generated by the company -a Toffee Crisp candy bar
Friday -mental soundtrack - Divine Comedy -a moment of morning meditation at the always-charming All Souls Church -stepping outside at the exact moment Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni arrived at the BBC building across the street, and literally feeling my jaw drop open as I recognized them -the wonderful and wee Monocle Shop -the summer sale at Liberty, where I found myself the perfect Paul Smith stripey knit hat -Mark Wallinger's clever explorations of portraiture at Anthony Reynolds -lettuce and mint vichyssoise + the ideal fish and chips + organic red ale at the Giaconda Dining Room -The Surreal House at the Barbican, an amazingly constructed multi-room home filled with art, film, architecture from Bourgeois, Keaton, Deren, Godard, Cocteau, Tarkovsky, Magritte, Woodman, Cahun, Švankmajer, Matta-Clark, Cornell, Duchamp, Kienholz -Rude Britannia at Tate Britain brings together a surprisingly comprehensive survey of hundreds of years of British humor and comic art and proceeds to make me giggle a lot -Tate Boat! -the room dedicated to Viennese Actionism at Tate Modern, complete with warning label at the door about disturbing content -hot sake + Japanese nibbles at Tsuru: wasabi peas + cucumber and wakame salad + agedashi tofu + veggie tempura -glorious pageantry and a very strong Queen Katherine (and Ian McNeice as Cardinal Wolsey!) in Henry VIII at the Globe, as well as watching the groundlings get rained on from my dry seat in the galleries -another Cadbury Caramel bar
Saturday -mental soundtrack - Kominas -morning ramble through Hyde Park to gawk for a bit at the reliably gaudy Albert Memorial -1:1 - Architects Build Small Spaces at the V&A that had me sitting in a treehouse tea room in the Medieval and Renaissance gallery and clambering up the world's largest bookshelf as well as a few other unexpected architectural experiences -a Tsingtao + little steamed parcels of deliciousness at Ping Pong -Netherlands winning their World Cup match against Japan, even if De Hems was so full of Oranje supporters they turned me away at the door -more surreal architecture (seriously a major theme of this trip) at the Hayward both in the New Décor show and in Ernesto Neto's joyful interactive installations upstairs, including his fully-functional swimming pool on the roof -massive weekend Tube closures giving me the perfect excuse to just stay put and chill out on the South Bank for a while -a Red Stripe + three-bean soup + a healthy veggie salad + warm naan at Giraffe -Al-Thawra, Fun-Da-Mental, the Kominas bringing the Taqwacore punk doc to gloriously noisy life at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and striking a deal with the guards so we could jump up and down to the music at the front of the stage -one last Cadbury Caramel bar
Sunday -mental soundtrack - Mahler -devouring William Trevor's Love and Summer while waiting for my flight to be called at Heathrow -getting caught up on some movies in between Dramamine wooziness on the plane: Shutter Island (Scorsese does his own excellent version of Session 9) + Where the Wild Things Are (OK, could have used a plot) + The Road (worth seeing for Viggo and Hillcoat's direction and the last scene) + How to Train Your Dragon (cried more in this than during all the other films combined) -how hard I'm going to sleep in about fifteen minutes flat, after I displace the cat from my lap
I'm still feeling so refreshed and inspired from my London mini-break, even if my head is occasionally tilting sideways from the jet lag. I just posted a ton of pictures, which start on my flickr photostream here. Please enjoy!
Wednesday/Thursday -Mental soundtrack ---> The Kinks -Flight over sandwiched between a cool UC Davis physics professor and a woman from San Diego who demanded explanations of both my liberal Christian theology and my vegetarianism -Dangerously good shopping on the walk from the Hampstead tube stop to my guest-house -Dropping my bags off and running straight to the British Museum -Discussing Herzog's remake of Bad Lieutenant with the nice boys at Gosh! Comics -Udon noodles with a sweet tamarind sauce, teppan-fried with egg, fried tofu, leeks and beansprouts topped with crushed roasted peanuts and a wedge of lime at Wagamama -Yay Beard Papa now in London! Much more unfortunately, so is American Apparel. -Wow High Street fashion looks like Nu Rave barfed on everyone. And you think Agyness Deyn is over-exposed in the States? Woo boy. -Jumping straight into the disturbing art with Jake and Dinos Chapman's remake of Hell at White Cube -Graffiti going seriously giant all the way up the outside walls of Tate Modern -Tea and cookies on the seventh floor -Street art scavenger hunt in Southwark - gotta catch 'em all! -Across the Millennium Bridge and into the City, land of handsome well-suited types -Pilgrimage to the foot of 30 St Mary Axe, aka Norman Foster's Gherkin -Rain, interspersed with sun -My room on the second floor at the Hampstead Village Guesthouse, complete with a shelf of books in Dutch, a kitty painting, and a view of more gorgeous Victorians across the street -Slice of Margherita pizza and a lager near the London Eye -Jacobean horror-play meets oontz oontz oontz in the National Theatre's production of Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, starring an incredible Rory Kinnear and featuring some of the best set and sound design I've ever experienced -An art installation of sound-activated columns of shimmering light on the South Bank and a walk across Embankment Bridge cap off my first night in town quite nicely
Friday -Mental soundtrack ---> The Troggs -Apricot pastry from Louis Patisserie -Morning constitutional among the overgrown gravestones and chirping birdies in Abney Park Cemetery -Geeky monster fun from Tom Friedman at Gagosian -Gravity defied, architectural interventions, and oh yes a damp paddle in a makeshift rowboat in the Psycho Buildings exhibition at the Hayward -A crocheted coral reef -Roasted pear, gorgonzola and radicchio sandwich + celeriac and apple salad + wasabi-dressed bean sprout and seaweed salad at Concrete -Sara VanDerBeek's kaleidoscopic photographic universes at The Approach -Highly personal time-lapse, young Bogota goths, and sewing up wounds in bus upholstery from Colombian photographers and artists at the Photographers' Gallery -Caramel-coated shortbread + a vanilla chai latte -The back garden of my guest-house -Amazing veggie food and truly delightful company in the form of Ally and Mike at The Gate. My main course was mushroom duxelles & goat’s cheese rolled in thyme-infused potato, served on a bed of french beans with a white wine, cream & cep reduction, topped with deep-fried leek matchsticks. We also shared mind-bendingly good appetizer and dessert mezze platters. I will be fantasizing about that meal for months. -Sucking down Oranjeboom and watching the Dutch soundly defeat the French 4-1 in their Euro Cup game at De Hems, surrounded by fellow roaring fans. Hup Holland! -I could have continued drinking until last call without paying for a single beer myself, if you know what I'm sayin'
Saturday -Mental soundtrack ---> Tin Tin -Roasted mushrooms, veggie sausages, baked beans, potato wedges, toast and scrambled free-range eggs at Giraffe -A quiet moment in the newly-restored St Martin-in-the-Fields with Shirazeh Houshiary's beautiful new window -Thomas Schütte's Model for a Hotel atop the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square -The Edwardian grandeur of the Admiralty Arch, barely diminished by the hordes of tourists on their way to the Queen's birthday celebration -Helen Frankenthaler's luminous color field paintings at Bernard Jacobson -David Attenborough-curated illustrations of the natural world at the Queen's Gallery, including a page of cat drawings by Leonardo da Vinci that I wanted to steal right off the wall -Watching a procession of 70 years of British military planes go right over my head. For the Queen, of course. Totally awesome, and also totally terrifying. -Asparagus in butter sauce + a mushroom Wellington with aged cheddar, spinach and organic spelt at Inn the Park -Michael Smith playing with ideas about students and study at Hales Gallery -Gorgeous artists' books on display at the V&A, including Anselm Kiefer's weighty tomes. I'm only sad I wasn't allowed to flip through them. -Tea by the fountain -Meeting my guest-house's resident cat, aka The Monster -Vegan Thai platter at Manna including tom kha gai, spring rolls and green papaya topped with fake duck. All this plus Mazzy Star, the Stone Roses, Velvet Underground, the Cure and Primal Scream playing as background music. -The view from the top of Primrose Hill -In Search of a Midnight Kiss breaking my heart in the best possible way at the Curzon Soho. Instantly one of my favorite movies ever, all witty banter and salty language and a killer soundtrack. And of course I'm going to adore a film about looking for love in LA. -Last night in London sadness
Sunday -Mental soundtrack ---> Dodos -Bus to Paddington, and then the magical Heathrow Express making itself well worth the splurge -Giving in to temptation at the Smythson of Bond Street outpost at Heathrow. I blame the charming sales associate who saw me lingering and took his moment: "A small indulgence, madame?" -Making it home relatively unscathed despite having to sit next to a posse of 19-year-olds from Fresno for the 11 hours back to SFO
An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess'), about 1513, by Quinten Massys. I'm as much a sucker for classically beautiful Renaissance paintings as anyone, when a woman's skin glistens like alabaster and her gown seems to catch the light just so. But I also love the stranger pieces, like Massys's duchess at right or Arcimboldo's rendering of Rudolph II as a stack of produce. This fall London's National Gallery will stage a showing of Renaissance portraits that will include those paintings as well as work by the likes of Botticelli, Raphael, and Dürer. New director Nicholas Penny says the intention wasn't necessarily to create lines of visitors around Trafalgar Square, though the exhibition will undoubtedly rake it in:
Asked whether the show, which opens on October 15, was pitched as a
blockbuster, Penny said: "Some exhibitions are planned with the
intention of being popular, and some are planned with the intention of
being good. This is planned with the intention of being good."
The Guardian has a preview of the exhibition here. Portrait of a Lady with Spindle and Distaff by Maerten van Heemskerck looks a lot like Scarlett Johansson to me, and I totally blame that dumb Girl with a Pearl Earring movie.
In other news, it's time for me to unplug my computer for a few days and go run around London myself. I still have to write some public service announcements for KALX (and pack) before I can go, but I just fortified myself with a gorgeous sweet potato and kale soup I made from the remnants of my last Eatwell box, so I'm ready to power through. I'll see you on the other side!