Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Completed in 2012

We will miss the grand opening.

But have watched and photographed the progress from all sides.

The Shard will be the tallest building in the European Union.
“The tower will stand at 310 m (1,017 ft) tall and have 72 floors, plus 15 further radiator floors in the roof. The entire building has been designed with an irregular triangular shape from the base to the top. The tower will be clad entirely in glass and will be used for mixed-use purposes, including offices, residential apartments and hotel. The viewing gallery and open-air observation deck will be on the top (72nd) floor.”

Manolo Blahnik

Is charming, soft-spoken, wonderfully offbeat in his choice of clothing (not everyone can pull off such a colorful plaid suit with striped socks), quite self-deprecating, and uses his hands (a lot) while talking.

Martha Stewart gave him the gloves and he finds her ‘divine and a really beautiful woman’.

I would guess that 300 people, most in fabulous shoes, were in attendance for his talk last night.

He answered the interviewer’s questions, went off on tangents, lost his train of thought, and sketched and painted 4 pairs of shoes while we watched and listened (as every shoe has a back story).

When he ripped up one of his drawings ‘this isn’t very good’, there was an audible gasp in the room!

He names all his shoes.

Meet Charlotte.

Autographed for the Design Museum.

It turns out that Manolo is a voracious reader, gifted in many languages, has a beautiful home in Bath that is threatening to collapse under the weight of his collection (the man has designed 30,000 shoes and had no formal training)!

He doesn’t like holidays or television, can’t get behind the term ‘cool’, abhors the word ‘awesome’, and was shocked when one of his younger fans had never heard of Audrey Hepburn!

He loves Harper’s BAZAAR ‘the best magazine in the entire world, truly’, TNT classics ‘I only watch old movies’, the word 'groovy', size 37 for making his sample shoes out of either plastic or wood, and books, books, books – he keeps an enormous stack near his bed.

Had the privilege of a front row seat to watch this talented designer...lucky me!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Nothing to Wear

Thrilled to get this email:

MANOLO BLAHNIK TALK: Monday 29th November from 7.30pm

Tried to purchase a ticket in October but they sold out immediately. Went to the Museum (to beg) and they put me on a waitlist. Then a spot opened up and now I have a ticket.

But I have nothing to wear.


I brought 4 pairs of shoes, designed for weather and walking, to take care of my footwear needs for seven weeks in London.

These are my limited and sad, oh so sad, choices.

Bear in mind that I haven’t worn the black suede flats ONCE as they pinch my toes (last minute purchase before leaving San Diego, assumed WRONGLY that they just needed to be broken in).

There will be a crowd at the event so I probably won’t get to sit in the front row (with prime shoe visibility) but still….


Perhaps this will work in my favor.

I will meet him, shake hands, he will look down, express sympathy and offer me a pair from his 2011 collection.

A gal can dream.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Tower of London

“He was a part-time butcher, a part-time executioner and a part-time drunk and at this particular execution all his talents came together. After 5 attempts he still had not beheaded the traitor and needed to whip out his carving knife to hack away and finish the job.”

This was just one of many colorful stories told by the Yeoman who lead our tour through the Tower of London.

The guards are called Yeoman Warders. They are all former officers and sergeants of the British Services. Their nickname is Beefeater. The name is likely to have originated from the time when they were paid part of their salary with chunks of beef.
Highlights of the tour included:

The torture displays --- the ‘rack’, manacles, and a compression device that squeezed one to death.

The House of Jewels, that contained one sparkly crown after another mingled with tiaras and an enormous solid gold punch bowl (William and Kate could use it for their reception, regardless of the size of their guest list). No photographs were allowed, unfortunately.

And caged ravens -- for according to legend, at least six ravens must remain lest both Tower and Monarchy fall.

There are seven ravens at the Tower today (the required six plus one spare). 

London Time

We fly home in two weeks.

How shall we spend the next 14 days and 14 nights…so many choices, so little time.

It feels like the clock is ticking!

Friday, 26 November 2010


The American holiday is such a feast that it usually makes sense to wear stretchy pants since undoubtedly you will be having seconds of pumpkin pie after having seconds of turkey and all the trimmings.

We celebrated the holiday in London’s Covent Garden at an outstanding Indian restaurant, Moti Mahal.

We did miss the camaraderie of family and friends but so enjoyed this meal!

Just opening the menu and reading the stories was transporting….

Started with a passion fruit Lassi (traditional Punjabi yogurt-based drink) and an Indian beer, King fisher.

Then came the salad course, a platter of fresh vegetables. Meant to be chopped, then sprinkled with spices ground by mortar and pestle, and topped with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

The mains were Prawn Rogan, Tikka Makhani with Naan and a potato-aubergine side dish.

So excited, didn’t take a photo until we had ‘tucked in’ already!

For dessert, Mango Malai Kulfi, or Indian creamy popsicle!

To top off the meal, I was invited into the kitchen. Met the head chef (he also teaches cooking classes in the restaurant but they are booked solid until next Spring) and got to see how Naan is made, fascinating.

Flattened dough is placed on a damp ‘pillow’ and slapped against the side of a 500 degree clay oven. As soon as the water evaporates, the bread is done. Long handled ‘bread seekhs’ are used to grab the cooked Naan and pull it out of the oven.

Same type of oven as used for Naan but this one is kept at 500 degrees via charcoal (expensive in London) and is used to infuse a smoky flavor to kebabs and other meats.

The traditional clamp grill or ‘thattee’ is an ancient technique. Moti Mahal is apparently the only restaurant in town using this type of grilling method.

Incredible meal with a quick tour and lesson --- a real treat on a special holiday!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Richmond, Part 2

Kings Arms, The Brittania, The Horseshoe Inn, The Hartley, The Pommelers Rest.

These are all pubs I have been to with my husband.

And I am not a beer drinker.

Sunday was my turn ---- and he willingly (and I use the term loosely) joined me for afternoon tea in Richmond.

Our server has waited on Mick Jagger, so men (or at least rock stars) do frequent the place.

A ‘Rolling Stone’ on their wall of famous visitors.
He has a home up the hill.

When we got off the train in Richmond, we went towards the right and spent half the day at Kew Gardens. Later we backtracked and went through a bustling city center that lead to The Petersham Hotel.

We had a 4 pm reservation.

It was everything I had imagined.

If you are going to have Afternoon Tea (in capital letters) then you have to find a place in the country that makes you feel like a princess.

And I give this spot an A+.

Simple, yet elegant.

The Earl Grey tea, scones with clotted cream, and crust-less sandwiches competed with the incredible view!

I stopped by the ladies lounge on the way out and thought about moving in, so pretty.

All in all, afternoon tea is a rather feminine affair.

Women celebrating a birthday and a baby shower surrounded us. There were various groupings of ladies who lunch (and dress up smartly to do so).

We chatted with the servers (all male)…the first one had two of his fingers wrapped in tape, the second one had his right arm in a cast down to his knuckles.

Had to ask.

Is this tea thing a hazardous occupation?

“Oh no, broke my arm playing football, you should see the guy in the kitchen with a neck brace.”

Added just enough testosterone to the day!


serves really good soup!

It has been in the 30's this week (chance of sleet or snow this weekend).

Spicy pork dumpling soup.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Richmond, Part 1

A dramatic change of pace from city life – Kew Gardens.

Trees, trees, and more trees and all things green.


Very few people on a chilly Sunday morning.

When we entered from Lion Gate, it seemed a steep admission to a park, especially when some of the trees were missing their leaves.

But this isn’t a park.

It is 300 acres of botanical surprises.

From the architecture…

to the green houses.

Stairs to the treetops…

to view from a different angle.

Private areas of reflection

and wild abundance of orchids.

There are art galleries and museums and cafes and shops and a play area for the kids.

And oddities, such as this:

But mostly, Kew Gardens is a vast open space.

Nature at its finest.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Portobello Road Market

Known for its antiques, this street market is also home to a famous blue door and bookstore.

Remember this line from a 1999 film?

“I'm also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Julia Roberts (playing a famous movie star) to Hugh Grant (playing a bookstore owner).

Notting Hill !

Well here is the famous blue door to his flat.

Only the actual blue door was auctioned off.
The owners repainted to keep all the tourists away.
 Now it is just a disappointing doorstep with columns.

Here is the bookstore…..which doesn’t disappoint. 

Walk around inside and instantly remember where the customer in the movie was standing while furtively trying to shoplift.

Movie trivia aside, it is a great way to spend a Saturday.

Started with cloudy apple juice and toast with avocado and parma ham at a little cafĂ© called Lowry & Baker. Got there early, while the vendors were still setting up, so we could actually walk down the street and get a table for breakfast.

By 10:00 am, it is a crush of people.

You wouldn’t know it to look at this crowd but they are buying up….

Old leather footballs and boxing gloves.

Fancy over-priced knickers.

Exotic fruits and seasonal vegetables.

Only pausing for street musicians.

Or a slice of pizza – no, it’s not a drive thru.
The car is IN the shop. It holds the pizza.

Topped off  with a dessert waffle.

Total mob scene but worth it.

Just remember to go early, it makes all the difference.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Men Should Weep


Lyttelton, National Theatre

View of the National Theatre (lit in red) from across the Thames.

Booked our tickets a few weeks ago to see a play about an extended family in Glasgow living in poverty and dealing with one crisis after another (sharing Granny between families, young child with TB, and alcoholism to name a few).

Heavy Scottish accents so probably missed a quarter of the lines but the context, expressions, and body language filled in the gaps.

Reviews online were mixed in the extreme ---- glowing to folks walking out at interval.

Enjoyed it and the set was amazing!

One big tenement building with a full view of the middle floor (where the main family was depicted) while you could see half of the floor above and half of the floor below. There was activity on all levels (the wife beater on the top floor was visible from the waist down while only the top of the heads could be viewed of the family living on the ground floor).

Besides the play itself, it was interesting to be part of the audience.

There were drinks before and drinks at interval and drinks during the show. Well, it was a 2 hour and 45 minute play so you don’t want to get parched.

It is perfectly okay to bring your glass of wine (or water or coffee or beer) into the theatre and your chocolate ice cream and snack during the performance.

Programs are purchased and not passed out.

Curtain call is simple. No fuss. Very civilized. 

All the actors come out at once, line up, bow a few times, and then it is lights on and everybody heads home.