Travel/Food 2004 – London

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Saturday 23rd/Sunday 24th October 2004 – London

Well, the weekend was fun (if somewhat damp – torrential rain seemed determined to get us). The Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery was well worth the effort, and thoroughly enjoyable. I’d recommend it highly. There was a fine mix of different works, including some amazing ink drawings, and the whole thing was especially well organised into different phases.

What was fascinating was the difference in his work after he went to Florence and encountered both da Vinci and Michaelangelo. It’s almost as if you’re looking at work from two totally different periods of history, with the “before” stuff having a very medieval feel, while the “after” works seem far more modern. There’s a wonderful self-portrait he drew while he was a teenager, and all sorts of details in the bigger paintings are worth a very close look.

Lynne and I were both taking by a smallish painting though. It’s a representation of St. Michael, slaying a dragon, while in the far background there’s a representation of the 8th Circle of Hell. It’s the middle distance items that are fascinating though. If you get to the exhibition, just take a look at the bottom left-hand corner of the painting, where something that looks like a fluffy version of something from a Bosch painting is seemingly jumping up and down on top of what may well be some sort of serpent. It’s very surreal, and looks like something you might get if someone tried to paint a teddy bear in Bosch-style. It has horns too… It’s maybe not quite as odd as the unicorn in the otherwise sublime portrait of a young woman. Said unicorn looks like a sheep with a horn bolted on. I enjoyed the exhibition so much that I actually bought the catalogue, not something I do too often in Britain, as art books are so much more expensive than they are in Europe. However, I felt I had to!

Anyway, the evening was taken up at the Hartley, which may well have won awards, but won’t be getting any from me any time soon. To be fair the cooking was very good, but the ambience left quite a lot to be desired, with the noise levels (in a place that isn’t that big) reaching horrendous as the place filled up. A few baffles or something similar would cure that. The fact that the service was a bit haphazard won’t be so easily cured, especially as they automatically slam a 12.5% service charge on your bill. If I’m paying fifty quid for dinner, I expect somewhat more efficient and attentive service.

I like a really dry, well-chilled sherry for an aperitif, and when that’s what I ask for (with ice), I don’t expect to be presented with a room temperature sweet sherry (with no ice), and with no word of apology either. Nor do I expect the glasses to arrive covered in dishwasher marks – I worked in a restaurant for a few months after leaving college, and spent hours polishing glasses, and cutlery, over steaming hot water after they’d come out of the dishwasher. If you’re charging that much, you can afford to employ someone to polish the glasses before they’re put on the table.

Sunday was lazy really, though I did take a case full of books round to the storage unit. Working on the assumption that I will be leaving France at the end of the year, and knowing full well that an awful lot of stuff may well not fit in the car, I’m trying to shift some of it now. And once that was out of the way, a trip to Leicester Square and the Odeon on Wardour Street to see The Motorcycle Diaries, which we both enjoyed enormously. I’d been planning on buying it on DVD anyway, and now will definitely do so. A very fine film indeed…

And yesterday evening we braved what appeared to be a second Flood, to get to Sabor do Brasil, as we hadn’t been for a while.

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