We spent a long Thanksgiving weekend in London this year to satisfy our theater, cultural and eating bug! We flew out Thanksgiving night after the family celebrations. Getting on the plane with full bellies, we put our headphones on and slept. We woke up as we landed at Heathrow. The itinerary was simple: food, theater, museum, repeat.
We arrived around lunchtime and our wonderful and favorite hotel, One Aldwych, had a room ready for us. It was a gift when you are coming in on the red-eye. However, no napping for us. It’s a shower and hit the streets.
Our first stop was the Covent Gardens Christmas fair. It’s sort of like an outdoor mall from 1780. We ate in a sweet little shop that sells pastry and teas called Aubaine Deli (for a New Yorker, this is no deli!!!). We, of course, had prosecco and pizza. Delicious, simple and satisfying.
We strolled along and dropped into the National Portrait Gallery where there was their yearly exhibit of winners from a portrait contest. The exhibit never fails to amaze us. We walked through all the photos and tried to pick out our favorites. This year that was a little hard to do – as you can see!
The first theater we saw was Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman. It was an amazing production with an all-black cast. It’s a show that you should put on your list to see if it comes to NY.
For dinner we ate at Sabor – a Spanish influenced tapas place with menu seating upstairs and counter seating down. The menus are different – up is a full sit down menu and down is pretty much tapas and terrific.
We sat a the stone counter and our server came up and with a marker and wrote out what was to be our “check” with the items we ordered. Each time a dish is delivered, they crossed it off the list – all on the counter! After our server explained the elaborate specials of the night, she gave us some help with the menu and we ordered.
After much contemplation (the choices were all so tempting) we ended up ordering the sea bream, scotch egg, mushroom croquet, tomato Iberico ham toast, and a Spanish tortilla with chorizo. Add a bottle of wine and we were set for a great meal.
On Saturday we planned on two shows (no, it’s not normal…but hey, who cares?). We had our breakfast in the restaurant of our hotel and made our way out. We crossed the Thames to the east and then went to one of our favorite museums – the Tate Modern. They have these wonderful, mostly interactive, installations. The installations change and they take up the entire cavernous atrium of the museum. This time it was a work by an American artist, Kara Walker. The piece was inspired by London’s Victoria Memorial and one can feel the cruelty of slavery in the midst of this unlikely beautiful fountain. It was ambitious and powerful.
The first show of the day was the Boyfriend. The show is a London original in the fifty’s and then it was made into a movie in the seventies and now its back in London at the Menier’s Chocolate Factory far from the west end of London. The show was great fun – very light musical during the roaring twenties – and performed on the little sweet stage of the Chocolate factory! Oh, and yes, the theater was once an old chocolate factory!
For a quick bite between shows, we went to the iconic Fortnum & Mason. This beautiful and majestic department store started as a grocery store in 1707 (yea it’s that old). It supplied tea for the Royal family beginning in 1902. Since then it has become a department store that supplies exotic and specialty foods and gifts. In 1886 they bought the entire stock of a new product by Heinz and became the first store to sell baked beans! Now, the entire basement is dedicated to foods from around the world and a very desired bar on the lower level. We tried to get a table but that is a very hard thing to get. Luckily, the Fortnum had a wine bar on the top floor so we were able to get a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate. Perfect little interlude between shows.
With our little gift and a full stomach, we made our way to the Theater at Trafgler Square to see A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. It was a story about a family dealing with a child who suffers from cerebral palsy. It was a sad and moving play.
Now for a late-night post-theater dinner – yes, we are still going!!! We ate at the upscale, Indian restaurant Jamavar in the Mayfair area. The food was full of flavor and exotic.
The next day we took one of our regular walks, passed the National Gallery. We saw that there was an exhibit of Gaugain’s work and a retrospective on DaVinci. We decided to see Gaugain on Sunday and DaVinci on Monday. It is always great to be able to see a traveling exhibit when you are away from home. In addition, the National Gallery hosts an impressive impressionist’s permanent collection.
Sunday was a day of rest….from theater but there is still plenty to do! The Gaugain exhibit was all about portraits and very well done. It was so interesting and beautiful. We learned a lot about Gaugain and though he was a masterful artist he wasn’t such a nice guy (to say the least!).
Our dinner choice for tonight was our much loved Palomar. Starting with a martini spiced with chili peppers our meal was delicious, beautiful to look at, and as always, a fun dining experience.
Monday, our last day in London and one last show. We first went to the DaVinci exhibit at the National Gallery. A small exhibit but not really that interesting so we made quick work of it and headed to St. James Park to walk and see the crazy collection of birds. They have birds that are rare like the Egyptian Goose to Pink Pecilans. We spent the day walking, crossing over some of the old bridges and the waterfront. We decided to eat dinner before the show, so we made our way over to Barafina. They don’t take reservations and the line forms before they open. We were lucky that it was five on a Monday evening so the crowd was not the same as a Friday!
Our final show was Translations. The story was powerful and moving. This was a true British play at the National Theater and set in Ireland during the early 1800’s when the British were trying to decimate the Irish culture. The stage was large, bleak and rugged. It was set on a bog, and you could smell it in the air.
That was our holiday in London. We had a great time and we love this city!! I am providing web site addresses to all the restaurants for you to puruse!!! I hope you go to London!!!
- Hotel – One Aldwych – www.onealdwych.com
- Sabor – www.saborrestaurants.co.uk
- Jamavar – www.jamavarrestaurants.com
- Palomar – https://thepalomar.co.uk
- Barrafina – www.barrafina.co.uk