Wednesday, May 14, 2008

London - Day Two

When I was told that I was to go to London and Paris for work, I asked (insisted actually) my boss if I could pad the trip with a bit of free time as a 10 to 12 hour journey each way via airliner is a commitment to be sure. He agreed (thankfully) and my colleagues and I hopped a flight last Friday, arriving in the late afternoon last Saturday, leaving us free to explore the city on Sunday before putting noses to the grindstone on Monday at the office.

Sunday was a beautiful day in this fair city, sunny and warm (hot really), perfect for taking to the streets on foot and exploring. Random exploration would not do however, as I had an overall plan. I longed to go to Tate Modern and peruse floor after floor of creative genius, much of which I'd only seen previously in my art historical texts during college. This was my day to experience the work in person!

In the morning, I grabbed one of my travel companions and we set off for a bit of breakfast before crossing the Waterloo Bridge to the opposite side of the Thames in order to make our way to the Tate. Upon reaching the facing shore we were inundated by throngs of people enjoying the sunshine, watching any one of the many street performances taking place, clamoring to hop aboard the London Eye for panoramic view of the city, just generally enjoying the touristic riches available to them on such a fine day. Despite the crowd, I was able to discern a few banners flanking the front of the County Hall Gallery emblazoned with the name Dali. Intrigued, my colleague and I moved to investigate.

One of the many performers along the water.

London Eye.

Upon entry to the building, we each forked over 11 pounds and made our way to the entrance of the Dali Universe. Mind you, my expectations were quite low regarding the happenstance we were about to partake in. Fortunately, I was more than pleasantly surprised once moving through what could only be characterized as a tunnel, painted black, marked by both image and the ever-quotable verbiage set forth by the Surrealist master, to the exhibition. The space beyond was literally filled with paintings, prints and sculptures made by the hand of Salvador himself.

How did I not know about this place?

We perused image after image ranging from the tight, expertly detailed work Dali is most known for to lose, painterly fare that took me by surprise. Wicked wit, erotic machinations and clever unconventions, image after image. Dali was a genius.

Art appetite moist, I was ready for the lengthy tromp along the Thames to the Tate. Along the way, my colleague and I stopped into many a waterside pup for a pint of cider in an effort to stave off the humidity and heat, which was fast becoming oppressive. (It was actually hotter in London than in hometown Los Angeles last weekend!) An hour and some change later we were standing in front of the mighty Tate Modern (my new favorite place on the planet)!

Tower at the front of the Tate.

The edifice alone is awe-inspiring. Yet strolling among the works contained inside was positively astounding. Now, I'm not exactly an art neophyte. To the contrary, I have two degrees in fine art. I've been to museums and galleries around the globe. Actually, I'm pretty jaded when it comes to looking at, speaking about, experiencing art in all of its many forms. However, as "old hat" as the world of art is for moi, I did, in fact, lose my ability to form words at the mecca of modern as I feasted eyes upon some of my favorite creations by some of my favorite artists: Duchamp's Fountain and Nude Descending a Staircase; Kapoor's Ishi's Light; Judd's untitled steel homage to the rectangle (hey, just call me a square); Giacometti's Standing Woman and of course a little Bacon. There was so much to see. So much that I loved, have always loved for that matter. The experience will stay with me for some time to come.

One really works up an appetite when one is in the presence of great artistic wonders. It was finally time to hit the hotel, wash off the heat of the day and ready ourselves to tie on the feedbag! Eating well is a feature of all my travels, business or pleasure, and Sunday evening's spectacular meal was a perfect example of this essential experience.

Hubby's flight had arrived just in time to join my co-workers and me for a lovely meal at Veeraswamy. This legendary locale is an outstanding example of east meets west decor. The place is beautiful, filled with color, glitz and glam. Very cool space, indeed. We sat adjacent to one of the floor to ceiling windows, allowing our party a bird's eye view of the bustling street below.

Veeraswamy's grand interior.

We began our meal with round of cocktails. While half our party chose to imbibe some fairly pedestrian alcoholic fare, two of us felt a bit more adventurous, choosing to indulge in lychee and rose water martinis. Can you say sweet and refreshing?

Next up a host of family style dishes such as Nizami Murgh (a Hyderabadi dish consisting of chicken breast and koftas with pine nut, lemon and rose petal), spicy Saag (by far, my favorite spinach dish ever), Sukhe Aloo (you say potatooo, I say potaaato), Kolhapuri Kofta (deep fried veggie croquettes in a savory brown sauce), Bombay Dal (mild yellow lentils spiced to perfection) and multiple orders of Naan. We ended the meal with a plump pot of chai, mango sorbet and banana kulfi to share. Another good meal to be sure.

As we strolled back to the hotel after dinner, I reflected upon the days events, feeling blessed to have had the experiences and readying myself for the week ahead. More to come folks!


jenna! said...

Hmmm, here I thought I was up on the current cider trends. I'm not familiar Magners. Obviously I'm going to have to investigate on my upcoming trip across the pond.

Dali sounds *fabulous*...I'm so jealous! And yes, the Tate Modern is overwhelming to say the least.

As for the weather, according to the google, that heat you were enjoying is flying back to our side of the pond. Today we were in the 70s, tomorrow the 80s and Friday up to 90!

Miss you!

sara said...

*sigh* what a lovely trip you're having. I'm jealous, but happy for you :-)When I took a group of students to Spain this year, I tried so hard to convince them to run away with me and become gypsies..they said no.

Jessica said...

You certainly seem to have gotten very lucky with the weather - this weekend was just lovely. Sadly we are now back to traditional English weather and I got pretty soaked on the way into work this morning.

You seem to have certainly made the most of your time in London - I'm going to have to check out those two restaurants that you visited myself now as they both sound fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Hey - glad you're enjoying our fair city, and as others have said you could not have been luckier with the weather.

Will you be making any crochet creations based on things you've seen? It sounds like you've had a LOT of food for thought :)

Caroline B said...

Glad you are making the most of what's on offer in London - cider, galleries and good food, what better way to spend your time!