And we hit the ground running. After Manda let me sleep for two hours, we ran to get me an Oyster card and took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. The Queen aka Helen Mirren was waiting for us.
We were lucky to have scored two beautiful tickets to the second preview performance of “The Audience.” In case anyone was worried that Ms. Mirren needs to make films in order to showcase her acting skills – stop worrying. She shone for a full 2:45 minutes. She rarely left the stage – and while her co-star Prime Ministers were all laudable, she carries the show. Changing her voice from a higher pitched young Queen Elizabeth at 25 the slower pace and more matronly figure of an octogenarian Queen – we were mesmerized. Surely, an afternoon we will never forget. And throughout, Sir John Gielgud watched over us, ensuring it was remarkable.
Next – dinner. Jamie Oliver’s Italian awaited in Covent Garden. Flowers, pretty shops, Seven Dials and an impromptu invitation to a lingerie fashion show for Fashion Week ensured it was a busy day.
Sunday started at a reasonable hour as Cat (Catherine) Kellogg joined us for the day. We explored, we ate at Bill’s in Covent Garden, shopped at Harvey Nicks, Harrods, and Liberty – where we bought nil. Manda and I ended the evening at a local little eatery – Muriel’s Kitchen. Yes, Shepherd’s Pie is still lovely.
The next day Manda worked and I headed off to the V & A. It missed me. South Kensington was my home during my London Study Abroad and while all the shops and restaurants are oh, so trendy, and tres chic, it is still my favorite neighborhood. While disappointed that all the costume exhibits had ended, I did love all the iron work, had a picture perfect lunch, and Manda and I had a wonderful dinner at Flat Iron, a recommendation from her lovely boss, Louise. And then there were doughnuts – hot, dusted with sugar and filled with rhubarb cream.
Have I mentioned how brilliant our hotel, The Ampersand is? I have not – shame on me. Decorative, in every nook and cranny. Luxury at a very affordable price and a half block from the South Ken tube station. I will definitely go back there.Whilst Manda went back to London and Partners I strolled through the van Gogh, Constable, Gainsborough, Renoir, Degas … you get the idea. Good thing one of my daughters is an art history major so I felt rather at home – and every school child in England was also in the same gallery as was I. Not quiet – “Please Mummy … can we go home now?” I vote for that. I did Trafalgar Square, decided against a matinee of Billy Elliott, and met Manda for pizza and pasta at Da Mario on Kensington. Great pizza – lovely pasta and an early night in.
We headed off to Windsor and the Castle the next day. Spent the day with the masses touring the castle and the town. Not nice clerks at Barbour so Manda and I found another place to spend our pounds. I always love looking at the Queen Mary Dollhouse and the semi-private state rooms were open – as was an exhibit of paintings and photographs of Queen Elizabeth – some of then glorious – and some not very flattering. You have to admire a woman who allows unflattering paintings of herself to be exhibited in hr home. Notting Hill and Portobello Road – dozens of cheap shops with clothing, hats, and memorabilia. Dinner at Harrad’s Rotisserie and apple pie to takeaway (no “to go” the term is “takeaway.”) Oh, and the Biebs (aka Justin Bieber) leaving Harrods in a white limo.
We weren’t done with galleries and museums yet – much to Manda’s dismay. We went to the Tate Modern, although not my favorite, we did want to see the Lichtensteins. We did. They were great – and Manda, who has the same bootleg photo skills as her Monet photo stealing sister, Madison, got a few pics and one of a Kandinsky for Maddy. Gotta love Kandinsky.
But we still haven’t seen “The Swing.” The only reason Manda came to study in London was simply because this painting was here and not in Paris. We found it! A small collection in a beautiful mansion – The Wallace Collection is amazing. I walked by the Fragonard twice but found a Rembrandt I’d only seen in books and a Hals Maddy had pointed out to me. These paintings are always smaller than I imagine – except for Gainsborough. They’re huge. Turners. Awesome. And the walls were covered with paintings – sometimes four high. It makes it so overwhelming and hard to concentrate on the beauty of one. Oh, well.
Salted Beef Sandwiches at Borough Market made up for it – and then off to Kensington Palace to have tea with Kate. The Orangery was lovely and white, as always, and the Palace is totally under renovation. Other than the Victoria exhibit, we probably could have skipped Kensington. The park is lovely, but it was freezing outside. We caught a bus, headed back for a few hours, and then off to see the magical Matilda. Those children are so talented, the set was amazing, the use of the fly space and the traps was incredible and just as an aside – pay those children more! Sixty pounds a week simply isn’t enough.
Friday morning we headed off to York and spent a lovely weekend with Rob, Ruth, and our new best friend, Georgie! We were treated to the kind hospitality of the Jones’, Barry and Jenny, as well as Trevor and Joy. Yes, we saw the Minster, Betty’s, and found all the shops, but we also stopped at Barley Hall. Mr. Darcy’s outfit as well as Lady Mary’s dress from Downton and the outfits from “The King’s Speech” were in York all the time. I finally got my costume exhibit! Busy train back after an all too short visit and only one more day to go.
It’s been a lovely holiday, never long enough. Thanks Manda for letting Mummy blog – and yes, Maddy, gifts are all packed in Mummy’s bag – things for Harrison and Rowan – and their mummies – oh, and even something for John! See you soon, USA.
(the only picture we got together.. we are taking one together tomorrow. DO NOT WORRY)
This has been a Manda&Mummy Production.