I took a quick trip to London earlier this month for just two days. In early January I read that the Alexander McQueen-Savage Beauty exhibition was coming to London and booked my ticket immediately. I regretted not seeing it in New York at the Metropolitan in 2011, as I was told it was one of the best fashion exhibitions ever mounted. If you book your Eurostar ticket 60-90 days in advance, you can get an 80€ fare round-trip.
I arrived on Tuesday morning to warm weather with temps in the 70s already. London was in bloom in all the parks and squares and people were already dressed in shorts and short sleeved shirts.
The exhibition was at the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of my favorite museums in London, known for having exceptional and innovative fashion exhibitions. I met some friends from New York and London for lunch first in the museum café, which had decent food, and we caught up about life in our perspective big cities. The added bonus of the show was that it was an expanded version of the New York one. I’ve been to many shows where the hype exceeded the content but in this case the hype was right on and in fact well deserved. The show was beyond exceptional, taking you into the psyche of Alexander McQueen, one of the great artists of the late 20th century. Much more than a fashion designer, he was a visionary and also a philosopher, commentator, and interpreter of the art of fashion. Going through the exhibit you not only saw a wild imagination with his fantasy looks, but you also saw a master tailor with razor sharp skills. He referenced the history and roots of British fashion from the 1800s and 1900s and used them to create his own futuristic looks. The execution and layout of the show was superb and I experienced a universe of a creative genius. It made the loss of McQueen in 2010 seem even more tragic.
Culture vulture that I am, I decided to cram as much of it in two days as I could in different forms. I haven’t been to New York or London in a few years, so I have desperately missed English-speaking theater. Without realizing it at the time I booked the tickets, I ended up seeing two shows with religious themes. I’ve been dying to see The Book of Mormon ever since it opened on Broadway and was able to get a good orchestra seat for $72, less than half-price of a ticket on Broadway. Even though the show was bawdy and sometimes outrageous, I didn’t find it as shocking as people said it was. It was just good, satiric fun with excellent tunes and music, and terrific and talented performers. The tunes were catchy and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed it with a smile on my face for the entire 2.5 hours. Bad Jews, an American play by Joshua Harmon, is an intimate comedy/drama (intimate also in the fact the action takes place in a small living room of a New York apartment) about a family squabble over a meaningful heirloom from the Holocaust left by a deceased grandparent. The play also deals with themes about religious traditions versus religion, the weight of family history, and blind belief of faith.
Food is always an important part of my travels and I had two excellent meals. A good friend of mine took me to a secret address restaurant in the trendy Shoreditch area. Rochelle Canteen, hidden behind a door of a brick wall of a bike shed from a former school building, is the informal restaurant of chef Margot Henderson. Once the door was opened there was a grassy knoll with people relaxing and enjoying the sunny weather on it. The daily changing lunch menu is organic and some of the herbs and vegetables are sourced from the surrounding garden and herb beds. We both enjoyed a juicy, crisp skinned BBQ chicken with a Romesco sauce, and dessert was one of the most delicious and unusual ones I’ve had in a long time, a blood orange polenta cake with crème fraiche. My long time friend and I are about the same age and we poked fun at the over serious hipsters flooding the restaurant and the neighborhood with their scruffy, unkempt beards and rumpled faux bohemian clothes.
Ever since I bought two of Yottam Ottolenghi’s sumptuous cookbooks for Vincent, I’ve been hungry to eat at one of his restaurants. Ottolenghi is a hugely successful transplanted Israeli chef with a cult following of an empire of popular restaurants and best selling cookbooks. His specialty is vegetables and he uses a fresh mix of middle eastern and Mediterranean ingredients and traditions for his recipes. I had his famous zucchini fritters, and now know why they are famous, and the pork belly is a must order if you go there.
FG Properties, a company that offers short-term apartment rentals in London and Paris, offered me a complimentary two-night stay at an apartment in West Kensington. The check in office was close to a tube stop and the check in only took about 10 minutes with minimal forms to fill out. I was taken by taxi to the apartment and was shown all the features. The staff was helpful and courteous and followed up with emails during my stay to make sure everything was all right. The apartment has two floors, the bottom floor with spacious kitchen and living room in a modern decor with a large flat-screened TV. Upstairs was two bedrooms and one bath. The mattress was comfortable but pillows were lumpy but overall the apartment was clean and well kept. It was a convenient location, a five-minute walk from a tube stop that was close to all the attractions I was visiting. The only complaint I have was the entranceway, lobby, and elevator were dirty and littered, but beyond that I would recommend FG Property Management.
After two full days of culture, culture, and more culture, I arrived back in Paris a little exhausted but inspired by what I had seen and eaten.
Alexander McQueen-Savage Beauty at Victoria and Albert Museum till August 2
Nopi (Yottam Ottolenghi restaurant)
21-22 Warwick St. W1B 5NE
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more. In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.
Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour