Back to London - Nov 2018

Hi friends and family,

Some people have gotten the impression that London is not my favorite location, which isn’t at all true. It is just that it is often at the end of our trips, and I run out of time, as I am mostly behind when writing these blogs.

Lately whenever we go to London, there is a new building on the horizon. The view as we walked out of Victoria Station, having just flown in from Bordeaux, France.

We had rented an AirBnB apartment in Notting Hill. We’d never stayed in that area of London before, but I liked the neighborhood a lot.

There was an Ottolenghi, the original, a couple blocks away.

Our neighborhood. I can imagine Freddie singing “On the Street where You Live,” strolling down the street, not sitting in his black Porsche.

Our hostess, who we never met, left a notebook of instructions mentioning a nice walk and restaurant along the canals and an area called “Little Venice.” We had never been there before, but it was a lovely walk and absolutely gorgeous weather.

Can you see the William Wegman dog poking his head out of his houseboat? He didn’t bark at all, was simply curious.

You were allowed to double park on the canal if your boat was narrow enough.

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Stopped at our hostess's recommendation, a lovely spot for brunch, The Waterway.

The old warehouses with the new (and ugly IMHO office buildings).

We thought we would visit the Canal Museum, but got waylaid at the British Library, which we passed on our walk, where they were having an exhibition of amazing relics, like the Domesday Book, Lindisfarne Gospels, Beowulf, many early Anglo Saxon manuscripts and codexes gathered together for this special exhibition. No photos allowed, which may be a relief to many of you. Could be dull viewing unless it is really your thing. A terrific day.

We walked in London for hours every day, enjoying the brisk clear weather. Now I’m especially glad we did, as when we got back to the Bay Area the air was thick with smoke, and many people, including us, were wearing face masks.

Walking though Hyde Park, which we did several times, crossing it diagonally.

An average of 15 to 17,000 steps a day or about 7 miles; a good stretch for us.

Went to the Victoria and Albert Museum where they were having a special exhibition on dying fabrics from plants. Very elaborate processes. These different shades of violet were all dyed from the same plant, purple gromwell - I’ve never heard of it. It’s an endangered species and Mr Yoshioka (seen below) worked with farmers to revive it.

Safflower petals used to make red dye. It takes one and a half kilograms of dried safflower petals to dye one sheet of paper. And there are many steps that must be taken to extract the dye and get it to adhere to the paper or silk.

This special paper is used in a Buddhist ceremony held once a year at the awesome mammoth Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan.

That tree looks as if it had been dipped in safflower. This is the courtyard outside the cafeteria in the Victoria and Albert.

We remember when there were almost no restaurants near the V&A. Now the area is bustling with restaurants. Went to Ceru for lunch, a Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant. Delicious food.

One of my rare desserts: Cardamom ice cream with a nut brittle & burnt honey caramel, ground pistachios on top.

Hyde Park encore

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Amazing weather. We sat on a tree stump and meditated for a while.

A Blue Heron, similar to what we see at Lake Merritt in Oakland, but our poor trees don’t look this healthy. Not enough water.

Saw one of the most gorgeous exhibitions ever at The National Gallery, Mantegna and Bellini, who were related by marriage. Two of my favorite artists, so this show could not miss with me. No photos allowed. We’ve sent away for the catalog, which looked very well done.

Stopped in to visit with our dear old friend, Angus O’Neill, whom we met on a train over 20 years ago. At the back is his friend and now ours, Tim Bryars, proprietor of the antiquarian bookshop, Bryars and Bryars in Cecil Court. He is the one who a few years back sold Don the early 18th c book with the child’s handprint in it. Don, Tim in the back, and on the RH side is Angus and closest to us, Nick who works at Bryars and Bryars.

Era and Tim 

A group of friends began dropping in for their after work drinks. As Angus's sister, Sophie Bacou, charmingly comments: "I love the group shots ... they remind me of the Audrey Hepburn/Kay Thompson film Funny Face ... a mixture of the bookshop (“one of those sinister-looking places in Greenwich Village”) and the Paris Existentialist party!"

We also saw another special exhibit at the NG, works from the Courtauld intermixed with works from the NG. This was less spectacular than the Mantegna and Bellini (again IMHO), but they did have that wonderful Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, with the barmaid staring into space.

As we're fans of Cervantes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honore Daumier

A couple lovely Cezannes.

Detail of the Doge's galley

Everyone takes some version of these pictures.

Met Peter Bowers for lunch. He is a famous figure in the world of handmade paper, general editor of the British Association of Paper Historians. He’s often called in to authenticate old manuscripts and works on paper. Has helped Prince Charles with his collection, among others. 

We met at The Windmill, an artist hangout, Peter says. They’re known for their meat pies. They were very good, although Don and I passed on the steak and kidney version.

Holiday decorations starting to go up. 

Flew back the 16th; Marisha’s due date was the 20th, so we were cutting it close. Thankfully, she and her daughter Miachelle waited and are still waiting. 

When we arrived back the air here was disgusting; we were all wearing masks, but it rained (blessed rain) and now the sky looks much like our photos of London.

Went to a poetry reading at Peter Koch Printers in Berkeley, hosted by Susan Filter and Peter. The poet was Franco Ferrari, who once took us on a tour of Venetian islands in his little boat. Great fun. Don filmed a short excerpt - Poetry by Franco Ferrari, English translation by Susan Filter. It reminded us of our visit to Bryars and Bryars. Similarities amongst book people.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We have so much to be thankful for.

♥️ Era and Don