Christmas in London has begun!
It was a week of cold-ish weather, some rain –and pretty spectacular Christmas decorations. London was alight with festive holiday designs that really set the mood for this season, especially since we have spent so much time the past few years in various degrees of lockdown. And to make it even more special ,we spent the week at the gorgeous London Ritz.
One of Cezanne’s palettes.
Our first day began at the Tate Modern, where we saw a special Cezanne exhibition.
I’ve seen a lot of Cezannes in different countries over the years, but this was the first time I’d seen some of his actual paint palettes.
What wonderful artifacts! His paintings are wonderful, but that little personal touch really brought home that this was a living, breathing man.
That night we saw the musical, Tina. Disappointing. That’s all I’ll say about it.
My British girlfriend Linda came in from Essex and met me at Spitalfields Market, an amazing covered outdoor space in East London, with tons of retail, restaurants and bars. We sat and dished for a while and then walked for a very long time. It was great to see her, she always makes sure we do something fun and special when I am in town.
Car we saw at Spitalfields Market.
That evening, our friends kindly invited us to dine at Boodles, an exclusive gentleman’s club founded in 1762, where they had reciprocal privileges. No women members allowed. Of course, I am about inclusivity, not exclusivity, but, I was curious, so this was a wonderful invitation. Just the history alone!
But that curiosity would not be satisfied this time, as the exclusive men’s club rooms were not open to us. We dined in what was clearly a basement area set aside for non-members (and curses! women!) and since we were early so we’d make our theatre reservation, we dined alone. It wasn’t as fancy as I expected.
The food was very good. My hearty portion of sole was memorable and nicely deboned. However, I was confused by two tablespoons of whipped potatoes in a teeny tiny bowl drowned by jus was served on the side. Tiny is the right descriptor. I mean, why bother? Oh and this: Not much green is served with meals in England. Anywhere.
But this was a great opportunity to step into the past, and I was grateful we could do it. If you’d like to know more about Boodles history, see THIS.
Six, the Musical was that night’s entertainment and I can’t say enough about it. FABULOUS! See it on tour if you can. This show was a highlight of our Christmas in London vacay. I can’t stop singing the tunes–but I’d better, because i have only a few weeks to memorize my own December performance of my piece!
The next morning we were off to Windsor Castle with an amazing tour guide we’ll recommend to anyone. I am an Anglophile (have you figured that out yet?) and up on history and all the Brit gossip so we gabbed the whole way—my kind of day! It’s off season so it was rather empty– we got to pay our respects at the graves of Queen and Prince Philip in St. George’s Chapel. No waiting, no crowd. Windsor is rich in history and we went through a lot of it with our excellent guide, Tim.
Dinner at the Ritz that night–a scrumptious Beef Wellington. Just a lovely evening with a great lounge singer doing old standards. It was good, but then there was THIS:
Sunday dinner was at La Mia Mamma. Love! If you saw the London episode of Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy, he also loves it. A rotating group of nonni (Italian grandmas) cook their regional dishes.
We lucked out: our nonna was Sicilian, like us! OMG the food was rockin’! Inspiratonal. One of the trip’s highlights.
Since the last F1 race of the season was at that same time, I followed a live blog of the action in between courses. So I didn’t get to miss out!
That night we went on a night bus tour of London. I called the bus the Covid Express (I masked). Cold, wet, screaming, coughing kids. The guide knew little to nothing that was correct and finally I started googling the facts when things didn’t ring true. We thought we’d be seeing the holiday lights but really, we saw more of the lights from our many cabs and Ubers. Thumbs down.
Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms were also on our agenda. She lives in a mental hospital, which lends an interesting angle to her work… and the rooms are incredibly complex.
The room with the water.
One required us to walk a narrow path that was surrounded by water–in the near darkness. Space as we know it ceased to exist in her rooms installation, which was disorienting. It certainly forced us to confront our fear–or rely on senses we don’t usually use.
I loved it. Avant-garde art, whether rooted in the creativity that comes out of mental illness or something else, challenges our assumptions, and in this artist’s case, our assumptions about space, our orientation to what’s around us.. Which is what I loved about it.
Only two rooms and we only got a couple minutes in each, which was too short, so unsatisfying. Intriguing. Oh, and she is now 93 years old!
You can find a 2018 documentary on her and her infinity mirrors on Hulu. It’s called: Kusama Infinity. And of course, I watched it right away, first day I got home..
Then, a quite magical Christmas Tea at the Ritz, our top event for the week….just magical. The tea room is spectacular; add Christmas decorations? Gorgeous. Really a big part of Christmas in London. Oh and one of our drivers told us the tea room used to be the Ritz Club Casino. They are remodeling the old tea room area so they relocated it to the Ritz Club–and it was so gorgeous I can’t even imagine what the actual tea room was like.
A quartet (soprano + 3 men) sang jazzy Christmas carols accompanied by a pianist on a magnificent instrument. I felt like I’d stepped back in time… maybe a night club back in the 1930s. But then, that was the feel of the entire hotel.
Tea sandwiches, scones and yummy Ritz Christmas tea plus a glass of champagne, just right. It all felt very 1930’s Ritz – the highlight of our week …not sure Christmas can get any better.
Don’t you just love that little tea cake? Brits really know how to live!
Witness for the Prosecution, the old Agatha Christie murder mystery, was performed in a very cool old County Hall in London–a great venue for it. This play aged pretty well, actually, and the actors were wonderful.
Witness for the Prosecution performance.
It was our last evening and while there was a fun double twist at the end, I really needed closed captioning. Oh, not for hearing, but to distinguish the words spoken in rapid-fire, heavy accents. But, I got the drift. It was a good mystery.
Our top events were Christmas Tea at the Ritz, Six theMusical, La Mia Mamma and Windsor Castle (thanks to our wonderful guide).
I did a little bookstore browsing, window shopping and of course, spent time at Fortnum & Mason. It would’ve been more pleasant to bum around had the weather been just a bit warmer, but we made do with our warm coats and sweaters. The weather’s the only thing that could keep us from actually doing a Christmas in London one December.
This trip was memorable–and ranks among our favorite vacations, ever. Oh and have I mentioned I have a fabulous husband who is up for just about any adventure, including Christmas in London?
Oh, one more thing: Don’t forget, my Etsy shop offers beautiful, supportive tools (and gifts) for healing and grief at https://www.etsy.com/shop/AHealingSpirit