Saturday, April 19, 2008

spoilt for choice

london is an amazing city for so many reasons. if you were ever to get bored of the dozens of interesting things to do on any given night, you could always hop onto a train or plane and be in a completely different culture/language/country within hours.

i think now, after over three and a half years in the city, i often forget how spoilt for choice i am -- the day-to-day of rush rush rush, hideous tube journeys, surly teenagers, pouty shop assistants, and general bad attitude can really wear you down. but occasionally i'll see a few amazing things in the short space of a week that will jolt me into remembering what a great city it can be.

the first this week was seeing all the coverage in the papers of bjork's performance at the hammersmith appollo -- reportedly she was absolutely incredible. sadly all three shows were sold out, but hopefully she'll come back and i'll somehow manage to get tickets. big act or small, everyone seems to come through london, which is great -- maybe that's why there is also such a strong indie-music scene.

the second this week was the cranach exhibition at the royal academy (think opening title sequence of desperate housewives with adam and eve illustration for visual reference). i have to say i never used to be a big fan of art pre-1800s, but i think working for an art museum now has given me a much greater appreciation for older art, and a bit of fatigue for the contemporary stuff. the detail and colour of cranach's paintings are incredible to see "in the flesh" -- reproductions in books just do not do them justice; it's like the difference between listening to great music live versus on cd. there was also such a great humour about his work -- like the paintings depicting the beheaded st. john the baptist, with blood spurting out of the fresh cut kill-bill style!

as i walked around the exhibition, i realized it was quite an extraordinary thing to see a lifetime of his work together in one space -- you simply would not get the same insight seeing one or two paintings in isolation -- and how amazing that these works have endured since the 1500s. it certainly isn't something i would have experienced in vancouver, as much as i love my home city.

the third thing this week -- i discovered my six-year-old niece (in-law) will be taking a school field trip to "my" museum to see van gogh's sunflowers. i remember my first visit to new york city at age 20, seeing so many works of art i had only studied in textbooks previously, and being in absolute awe -- this feeling, for the first time, that there was so much to see and experience in all the wide world that you simply couldn't glean from books alone: i could almost feel my brain opening previously locked doors at the thought of it. i couldn't have fathomed studying van gogh when i was six, let alone being able to see some of his greatest works in person. what a remarkable thing that must be.


and finally, although the state of japanese cuisine in the city is horrendous (chinese is slowly improving), you simply have to play to the city's strengths. great and authentic italian eateries are to be had all over the city (fantastic pizzas and pastas), but also some of the most delectable french pattisseries have made their way across the channel. so if you find yourself in london (or, luckily, in paris) be sure to check one of these out:

LADUREE (girly girly girly)
D and i stumbled upon the bonaparte location of this bakery in paris, and it is one of my absolutely fave parisian memories. the bakery is famous for their pastel-coloured macaroons, but we had their cakes, which were divine. i felt like marie antoinette after half an hour, and indeed the bakery supplied sofia coppola's movie with all their pretty pastries. the bonaparte location is tucked away from the touristy areas, surrounded by cool designer furniture shops, art bookshops and cute boutiques.

i first came across this bakery / cafe in marseille. for breakfast you can order the bread of the day, and they will bring you a huge tray of different spreads to try – from pear jam and honey, to dark chocolate, white chocolate, and hazelnut spreads. soooo yummmmmmm. coffee is served in bowls, as was the tradition (i am told) in the french countryside.

PAUL (on-the-go)
great for grabbing a delicious baguette sandwich on the go (although their cakes are equally delish!).

MAISON BLANC (a treat in london)
gooooorgeous mini cakes! they supplied our wedding party. everything from lychee mousse covered in white chocolate, to creamy smooth cheesecakes and indulgent chocolate.

photo: malaga, southern spain, in "winter." orange trees everywhere!


happyd said...

oh my gosh, i want to go to laduree.

that's funny you mention how our NY trip had such an impact on you. i'll never forget seeing real live Klimt's, Monet's and being disappointed when seeing Pollack's Autumn Rythm.

'member how ken was all, 'it's so powerful. you can just feel the energy.'

also i remember it was you and i together looking at the tony oursler installation of the head under the mattress.


Anonymous said...

I felt the same way visiting Rome and Florence.... Nothing like seeing the real thing