Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trip to London!

Of course there should have been at least four posts before this one that I put off writing...so I figured I shouldn't put off writing about our long weekend in London. This is going to be a long one because we did so much stuff! I hope I remember it all.

We took a 4:40pm flight into Gatwick, then hopped on the tube to our hotel, which was just at the edge of Hyde Park. We dropped off our things and then headed out almost immediately to grab some grub. I had printed out this long list of vegetarian restaurants in London, so we decided to try one in Soho. But unfortunately, by the time we got there, they were not seating anymore, so we went around the corner to an Indian restaurant that had gorgeous food. Then we moseyed over to a pub called the Nellie Dean for a couple of pints. Here's Mark enjoying the first of many warm pints.

We went back to the hotel for some shut eye, and then Friday morning I went for a lovely run through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Then we set out for some museuming. We got off at Waterloo and walked along Southbank (the Thames River) towards the Tate Modern, passing by all sorts of vendors and venues like the National Theatre. At the start of our walk, I snapped a photo of this art installation.
You could see the London Eye, which was around the way, but we didn't really feel like going up on it (read: one of us was too afraid).

Here's Mark looking at some used books for sale. He bought one for me!
We also ran into...JEDWARD! They were filming some kind of TV show. A small crowd had formed, and at first glance I said, "Hey look! Someone's dressed up at Jedward over there!" but no, it was actually them! We tried to get some photos, but you know Jedward, they don't stand still for very long.

We stopped and had really tasty veggie sausage subs and then headed to the Joan Miro exhibit. Holy smokes! What a fantastic experience. We shelled out the few extra bucks for the audio-guide, and the whole thing took a couple of hours to get through. It runs until September, and I urge anyone in London to visit it. We did a run-through of the rest of the museum, but I admit that it was cursory because we'd been so thorough in the Miro exhibit. Here are some photos of pieces that I found particularly compelling.
In particular, the Cy Twombly painting really energized Mark (it's the one with the orange circles).
After taking in the art, the weather was fine so we grabbed a seat at the Tate Modern outdoor cafe for some lunch. I ordered a bloody mary (which wasn't so great) and we ordered a bunch of little things to share. I just love eating at museum cafes. I can't help it! It feels luxurious. Here I am enjoying myself in the breeze.

By the time we were done eating, it was about half past five, so we crossed the river and wandered around until it was time to see the play in Soho I'd bought tickets for. We made our way leisurely and stopped into some shops.
We saw a play called Mongrel Island I liked that the play took place in an office, since I've had my fair share of office jobs: "Marie struggles to cope with her day to day life. She is hidden in an endless pile of files and the same people saying the same things every day." I hemmed and hawed for days over which play to see, but I chose this one because it seemed unique, new, and cheap. And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The description "Terry Gilliam’s Brazil meets The IT Crowd" was pretty apt.

After the play, we got a table at the restaurant we'd tried to go to the night before, Zilli Restaurant, which was excellent. And they had vegan tiramisu!! It was delicious. From there we went to a pub in Soho, but I didn't catch the name and to be honest they were kind of rude in there. Not a great vibe. And that was the end of our first day!

Saturday the weather wasn't as nice, but we didn't let that stop us! We ate a big breakfast at a hotel restaurant near where we were staying (our hotel was self-catering), then hopped onto the tube to the Imperial War Museum. We didn't have much time there, which is a shame. We visited the Holocaust section, which of course was harrowing. I left it in tears. One thing in particular that touched me was a video of a man talking about praying to God to save his family. He said that his prayers were not answered, and his family were all killed, so now he only meditates, but does not pray. He said he still believes in God, but not in the power of prayer. When you first walk into the museum, there is an impressive number of tanks and planes and such displayed.
My favorite exhibit was the Women War Artists, which is on until November 27, 2011. I wrote down a lot of names of artists I want to look up.

From there, we rushed off to the Hayward Gallery in Southbank for the Tracey Emin exhibition. I was not particularly a Tracey Emin fan before, but once I left, I sure was. Of course, photos were not allowed in the gallery. There were many pieces that I loved, but in particular I liked a video of Tracey Emin talking about her first abortion, which ended up being an incomplete termination that caused an internal infection. Her description of getting the abortion reminded me of my own experience, and although my own termination went smoothly (as smoothly as that can go), her story really resonates. The other installation that touched me was a video of Tracey and her father swimming in the ocean in turns, one swimming while the other filmed. It reminded me of a particular time when I was at he beach in Florida with my father, and he walked up to the water. A big wave came up and knocked him over. At first I was worried, but then he popped up, and we both had a good laugh. As I watched Tracey Emin's father falter in the waves, I saw him through her eyes, and realized that she must have had the same maternal feelings toward her father that I had towards mine. This exhibit ends on 29 September 2011 and I strongly suggest that anyone in the area visit it. You will enjoy it.

From there, we decided to walk toward Hoxton, our next destination. On the way, we happened upon a cemetery, which amongst others, was the resting place for William Blake, so we decided to pop in and have a looksee. It had only just stopped raining, so it was a bit dreary, but what should we see what a brightly colored piano and an equally brightly dressed woman named "Jezebel" playing it and singing!
I took a little video but sadly my camera memory became full so it's only about seven seconds long:

From there we headed to Zigfrid von Underbelly in Hoxton, where a Swedish musician, Action Biker, was playing along with three or four other acts as part of a night called Librarians Wanted.

We especially enjoyed the French band The Sunny Street. There, we met up with my friend Aug, whom I haven't seen since he moved to London (and I moved to New York) back in 2005. We probably should have stayed for the DJs after the show, but I was hungry, so we went off in search of food. I was not into Hoxton, I have to say. We found a crappy felafel place, "debated" what to do next, and finally just went back to the hotel.

Sunday morning, I went for another run in the park. What glorious weather! Mark went off to St. Paul's cathedral for mass (don't ask), and I showered up and headed to Notting Hill. When I got off the tube, I decided to eat at essentially the first place that looked decent, The Prince Albert. There, I had a fantastic vegetarian breakfast (complete with veggie sausage), and a so-so Virgin Mary (really, just tomato juice). Happily full, I walked in the direction of Portobello Road

and blissfully window shopped for ages. Actually, I didn't window shop. I was actually shopping, but I didn't buy very much.
So much to look at! It was fun pretending that I could have whatever I wanted, if only I could decide. In the end, I bought a skirt at a shop called Darimeya, which I'm so in love with I'm not sure where to wear it. The flea market was fun to ogle as well.
I met up with Mark as the vendors were packing up, but most of them were overpriced anyways, so I settled for taking photos instead.

Mark was hungry and we just weren't into the choices in the vicinity, so we walked back to The Prince Albert for some pints and dinner. But then I sure was ready for a nap, so it was back to the hotel for a snooze.

I was so comfy there, I almost wanted to bag out of our evening plans, but luckily I got myself together and we went to see our friend Holly at her place, where a gig was on -- a band called Pseudo Nippon.

I thought they were really funny and fun but I had missed Holly so much that we went upstairs for a good ole chat. She showed us around, and I was amazed by her giant espresso maker and giant courgette!
I'm afraid we talked her ear off a little, but hopefully she didn't mind. While waiting for the bus back to our hotel, we took these snaps. We had a good laugh over Holly's missing hand (ok, maybe you had to be there).
and here it looks like Holly might be wondering if she's about to get socked in the nose!

Monday morning - our last day!! We packed up our things and took a walk south through Hyde Park so Mark could see this crazy memorial to Prince Albert.
It's nuts! And huge!

We made our way on foot to the Victoria and Albert museum, but ultimately decided not to go in because it was just too overwhelmingly huge and we didn't have enough time. We'll have to put it on the list for our next London visit. So, after a stop for the worst Japanese food I have ever tasted (I actually didn't think it was possible), we arrived at the Saatchi Gallery.

We had a fantastic time there, what can I say?
The great thing about the Saatchi is that they let you take photos. Which I definitely did.
This last photo is me with two giant sculptures. I look even smaller than I usually do!

But that was it; we were out of time, and out of town. We took the bus to Victoria Station, hopped on the train to Gatwick airport, and were off back to Dublin. I bought myself some gorgeous Organic Scotch Whiskey at the duty free shop as a little souvenir.

This post has taken me several days to write. I feel like I left out a bunch of stuff, but so be it! We're both looking forward to our next trip to London!

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