Growing up with an English step-father, I was quite the little Anglophile when I was young. My room was decorated with posters of the English countryside, I listened to English music and watched English tv shows, and as a family we travelled much more around England than we did in the states. I not-so-secretly dreamed of moving to London, acquiring a cool English accent and finding a floppy-haired English boyfriend.
When a twist-of-romantic-fate landed me in Paris instead, I spent a good many years feeling like London was a far superior city. But slowly I got to know Paris better and although I regulary went to visit the "rosbifs" (as the French call the English) Paris became home.
Recently I realized that 10 years had gone by since I stepped foot across the channel. Much of this was due to having 2 small children and London being so damned expensive, but still 10 YEARS! So when my good friend M found cheap day trip tickets on the Eurostar, I jumped at the chance to revisit the city.
There's something pretty incredible about stepping off a 2 1/2 train ride in an entirely different country. Especially one where everyone is speaking English. It usually takes me a 12 hour plane ride to get the same effect. M and I got very lucky with the weather that day, the sun was shining and the air was warm so we decided to start off with a walk through Regent's Park.
Unlike Paris, you can actually walk on the grass in London and we were immediately greeted with the sight of a group of equestrians in full battle regalia, complete with helmets, swords, and in one case a bugle, practicing maneuvers. From the dressed-up bystanders, we presumed it was some kind of ceremony for the Royal Household Cavalry (yes, it still exists!) whose barracks were stationed nearby. I would guess something like that probably still exists in France as well, since we have our share of military parades, but I can't really imagine running across it in the Jardin de Luxembourg.
After our walk we treated ourselves to lunch at an excellent contemporary Indian restaurant and made our way to the Tate Museum, or the Tate Britain it's called now. The Tate Britain focuses on British art from the renaissance to the modern day, not to be confused with the Tate Modern across the river, which houses international art from 1900 to the modern day.
I hadn't been to the Tate Britain since I was a teen and frankly, didn't remember it at all (in any case, I think it's had a major renovation since). M and I decided to check out the permanent collection of 20th century art ("A walk through the 20th Century"), which included works by Lucien Freud, Gilbert & George, Damian Hirst, Francis Bacon and others.
There were also a couple of rooms devoted to temporary exhibits and I was glad to be introduced to artists I didn't know at all, like Claudette Johnson, whose colorful large-scale portraits of black women reflected a side of British society you don't usually see in museums, and Don McCullin, whose black & white photos of post-war Berlin and homeless British were particularly haunting.
After some more walking around various parts of town and a drink in Russell Square, it was time to head back to Pancreas (an architectural marvel in itself) for the train ride home. What I mainly took from the trip, besides how much nicer London parks are than Parisian ones and how much better the Paris metro is than the London underground, is that one day is really not enough. Which is why we're planning to go back for a long weekend at the end of October, so stay tuned for more London adventures...
To finish up, just a few words on the new American TV season, as new shows are starting to trickle in. I've seen a few comedy and drama pilots and so far my favorites are "Up all night," featuring the great Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph, and "Revenge", a modern take on the Count of Monte Christo whose juicy over-the-top intrigue is sold by its solid performances.
I was also surprised to quite like "A gifted man" about a brilliant but cold surgeon who is visited by the ghost of his do-gooder ex-wife. I know, it sounds terrible, and I mainly tuned in because I love Margo Martindale. But I was surprised to actually find the characters and story pretty compelling so I will keep tuning in to see how it develops. The biggest disappointment to me was "Person of Interest," which I found boring and predictable despite the fine cast.
What have been your favorite new shows so far? Your biggest disappointments? French television continues to blow, so help me find some escapist alternatives!