Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Preparing for London


Do you love planning and researching a trip as much as I do? It's almost as fun as the actual journey! I am getting ready for a trip to London and Yorkshire in the spring and have discovered three fabulous books on London to help me create my itinerary. Each one validates the well-known adage that if you are tired of London you are tired of life. They are filled with wonderful suggestions for things to do in London. Some have been on my to-do list forever, some are ones I have never heard of until now, and others are places I have already been to and now can't wait to revisit. Here are the books and some interesting things I learned from them:

Literary London by Eloise Millar & Sam Jordison. This books gives us the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our literary heroes. It tells the stories behind the stories, giving us fascinating facts about London's best literary landmarks, taking us into publishing houses, cafes, parks and all our favorite authors' stomping grounds. There are charming maps within the pages to help us find the best of literary London. Here are a few fun and quirky things that stood out to me:

1) A Dickensian pub crawl including the George Inn on Borough High Street, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (love the name) on Fleet street and the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden which boasts a little plaque in the alleyway commemorating Dickens' time there. In his days the tavern had a slightly more sinister name: The Bucket of Blood!

2) Berry Bros & Wine Merchants on St. James Street. I walk past this wine shop every time I am in London. I loved learning that it has had the same slanting floor since 1698 (better for rolling barrels) and was the poet Lord Byron's shop of choice for his wine cellar.

3) Brown's Hotel. I've been to Brown's for afternoon tea but didn't know it was the model for Agatha Christie's "At Bertram's Hotel." An interesting fact: Brown's Hotel was opened by Lord Byron's former valet a few years after the poet's death in 1837 (and on Albermarle Street, the same road as Byron's publisher). And the tea is supposedly very similar to the one Miss Marple eats.

4) Maison Bertaux. Located at 28 Greek Street, Soho, this is London's oldest French patisserie. The Bloomsbury Group loved to gather here for pastries and coffee.

The Art Lovers' Guide, London. This is a fully illustrated guidebook about the finest art in London. I learned a few interesting facts about some very famous paintings.

1) "Ophelia" by John Everett Millais which is at the Tate Britain was worked on by the artist for four months. He worked on a riverbank in order to copy the background accurately. For the foreground his model Lizzie Siddal posed for days in a cold bath, becoming ill in the process.

2) "The Swing" by Fragonard is the most famous masterpiece of Rococo art at the Wallace Collection, one of my very favorite places to visit in London. The Wallace Collection is located in London's Hertford House which was once the home of Richard Wallace and his descendants. It is now a national museum exhibiting the family's acquisitions of European art, including London's finest group of 18th-century French paintings. Next time I go I will seek out "The Swing."

3) "A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres" by Manet is one of my favorite paintings and I have enjoyed seeing it at the Courtauld Gallery. This painting of the famous Paris musical hall was Manet's last major work. The Courtauld is located in beautiful Somerset House and has a fabulous collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art. I haven't been for many years and after reading details about its impressive collection, I can't wait to go back. The description of the paintings by Degas and Renoir at the Courtauld are especially enticing.

The London Cookbook by Aleksandra Crapanzano. This wonderful book is both a guide to some of the best restaurants in London as well as a cookbook featuring some of the best recipes from these restaurants. Here are a three that I want to go to that feature some of the the best of British cooking.

1) La Fromagerie. This is a cheese shop with a cafe that is supposed to be a great place for lunch. The featured recipe in the book is "Alpine Fondue." In the notes for the recipe, the author writes that a great fondue is a balancing act, melding different varieties of cheese so no single one claims center state. This dish is served with bowls of cornichons, ham, boiled potatoes and cubes of crusty bread. I would love to order this dish if I make it to the restaurant!

2) Bucca Di Luppo.  An Italian restaurant that I have been to, it is located on a tiny street in Soho. This is another great place for lunch, especially sitting at the bar where you can watch the cooking. After reading about the featured recipe, Chestnut Straccetti with Mushrooms and Chestnuts, a pasta dish that includes chestnuts, pancetta, sage and mushrooms, I now want to go for dinner.

3) Nopi. One of Yotam Ottolenghi's restaurants, Nopi is a brasserie located in Soho. I have all of his cookbooks and would love to finally eat at his restaurant. The featured recipe is Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Olive Oil Mash. As the author says, "You may well wonder why I've included a recipe here for what is essentially mashed potatoes and grilled broccoli. The answer is simply Yotam. When Yotam cooks vegetables, magical things happen." That answer is good enough for me. I have been cooking his food for years and have total confidence that this dish will be delicious!



And one more thing: a good friend just returned from London where she saw the Vanessa Bell retrospective at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. She brought me home a copy of the collector's edition of the March  2017 issue of Harpers Bazaar UK which includes two fabulous articles about Vanessa Bell and Bloomsbury written by Virginia Nicholson as well as a short story by Virginia Woolf that was originally published in Harpers in 1936. I am planning to see the Vanessa Bell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and can now read up on it. I will be adding this to my ever-growing pile of research for my trip!

19 comments:

  1. I can highly recommend afternoon tea at Browns Hotel. It is not cheap but it is excellent. It is often very busy and you may be wise to make a reservation. We have also had a very good (set price) lunch in the Mark Hix restaurant there. I would love to stay there but the prices are way out of my bracket.

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    1. Hi Lesley, thanks so much for the tip about the lunch at Browns Hotel. I have been there for tea and really enjoyed it. That room is beautiful with lots of red as I remember. So cozy and elegant!

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  2. Fabulous cakes at Maison Bertaux - but the Cheshire Cheese, which used to be a journalists' pub, is now a sad tourist-trap.

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    1. Mary, so good to know about Maison Bertaux, I will definitely try to get there on this trip. Too bad about the Cheshire Cheese. I am planning to go to the Lamb and Flag this time, so at least I'll get to one of the pubs Dickens frequented!

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  3. We returned from London recently and saw the Vanessa Bell exhibit which was beautiful. Don't miss the David Hockney retrospective at the Tate either - it's stunning, and very well curated. We ate at Nopi (have your concierge make a reservation, hard to get in) and it was fabulous. It's very casual and the food is amazing. I believe that quote and find London endlessly fascinating.

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    1. Kathy, thanks so much! I am planning to go to the Vanessa Bell exhibit on our first full day. I can't wait! xx

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  4. Sunday...it is so exciting you are going to London once more. That is the trip I want to do. I so appreciate the suggestion of books in preparation for the journey. Please tell all when you return.

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    1. Thank you so much, Judie. I am very excited. xxoo

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  5. If you haven't seen it already you may enjoy a BBC production called "A life in squares" about the Bloomsbury set. I am not sure if it was critically well received but I enjoyed it!

    Lots of lovely places in Yorkshire - I am from a small town which had the distinction of being right on the boundaries of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. I am pretty sure Haworth will be your main itinerary, but Saltaire with its (permanent I think) Hockney exhibition is very interesting.

    Bon voyage!

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    1. Julia, thanks for those great tips about Yorkshire. I haven't seen "A Life in Square" but know about it. I would love to see it.

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  6. I love London. Please relay my prayers and admiration 💕

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  7. I can feel your, well-founded, excitement!
    And I'll be right on your heels!
    xx

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    1. One day we will be there at the same time. Wouldn't that be fun! xx

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  8. Sunday, when I read your blog I immediately looked for a magazine, I did find one which had an article but not the one you referred to. The Special Edition seems to be all sold out, so it's good your friend found one for you. I shall keep looking and trying to find one, but with not too much optimism. I hope you enjoy your visit to London, it has been way too long since we were there.

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    1. Doris, I think it is only available at the Dulwich Gallery, but you may be able to get it from their website. Yes, I am so grateful my friend bought one for me when I was there! Thanks for your good wishes!

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  9. I remember visiting the Tate to see a couple of paintings by Hogarth and being stopped in my tracks by 'Ophelia'. It's an image we're so familiar with, but to see it right there in front of you...especially when you're not expecting to...it was fabulous. And thank you for reminding me about Maison Bertaux!
    I'll be in London in July and have tickets to see Queen Anne with Romola Garai and a panel discussion on Jane Austen at the British Library. You're so right, Sunday, planning is a big part of the excitement of travel. Have a wonderful time!

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    1. Darlene, isn't that painting breathtaking! And I loved the Tate Britain which I hadn't been to for many years. How exciting that you will see Queen Anne as well as a panel discussion on Jane Austen. I can see you're doing some very good planning for your trip. I hope you have a wonderful time!

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