The last week of September was unseasonally beautiful here in grubby, grey old London. And by unseasonally beautiful I mean seven solid uninterrupted days of 28 degrees and blue skies and skirts and sandals and sunscreen. It was a gift from the God I don't believe in. Though I have to confess that there was something slightly disconcerting about leaving the house in a t-shirt in early October when it should be covered by another layer or two. I just couldn't shake that strange sensation that something about my ensemble wasn't right - you know, that foolish feeling you get AFTER someone tells you that you've spent the last four hours with your skirt tucked into your decidedly sensible underpants. That feeling.
|The inner courtyard at the V&A|
I am Very Excited about a number of exhibitions here in London - opened, opening and still to come - and have a list (yes, another one) of all the shows I'm going to see in the next six months. Grayson Perry at the British Museum, Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward, Yayoi Kasuma at Tate Modern in February, Gillian Wearing at Whitechapel in March. Excited, inspired, ready to get arty. Recent exhibition loves include Taryn Simon's masterpiece, also at Tate Modern and Ron Arad's Curtain Call at the Roundhouse.
|Inside Yayoi Kasuma's The Gleaming Lights of the Souls, 2008|
3. Art and cocktails
I love great art, I love it even more when it comes with alcohol. The last Friday of every month usually means late night openings at most of the big institutions in London and last month I met my lovely ex-flatmate Katie at the V&A for some sitting and drinking in the balmy weather before a stroll through their new show 'Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 - 1990'. The exhibition was ok. I loved the coathanger gorilla in the 'Power Of Making' show more.
|David Mach RA, King Silver, 2011|
4. Theatre dates.
I love a good theatre date and the next day in fact I took in a matinee (and some well-earned air conditioning) at the Trafalgar Studios with the lovely Nina. The play, Top Girls, was a recommendation from my mother-in-law-to-be and it was a brilliant production but I did find it disconcerting that a fucked economy, a post-feminist society and a world class education that has set me up to think I can have it all left me confused about which character I empathised most with. I blame a particularly sympathetic portrayal of the Thatcher-esque anti-hero. I love a complex play. I also love dissecting said complexities at Gordon's wine bar with a cheeky half bottle of pink wine in the warmth. Heaven.
I love pedicures, I love shiny painted toes, I love decadence. I also love, love, love visits from home. Mum and Max had a week in London at the end of a two-week Spanish adventure, and I took the time off work to spend it with them and Just Because I Could, I booked us a day at the ridiculously fabulous spa at Brown's Hotel on Albemarle St. This place manages to be both super posh and super fabulous. Mark Hix has opened a branch of his restaurant here and the hotel is famous not only as the place from where Alexander Graham Bell made his first UK phone call, but also because Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while staying here.
But it was the 'seasonal pedicure' that really sold it for me. Changing throughout the year (as is generally inferred by the use of the word 'seasonal'), this magical experience sees in-season and other organic ingredients (ginger, rose petals, sea salt etc. etc.) incorporated into each step of the pampering process - the hot milk soak, the leg scrub, the moisturising mask. All this before what can only be described as the best paint job of my life.
6. Pedicures and cocktails
Did I mention it came with a matching complimentary cocktail? Peach bellini to match your polish, anyone?
We had two days in London (which included a traumatic fitting for The Dress that is another post for another time) before heading to Paris. J'adore Paris. Maman et moi adore Paris. Two years ago we had a decidedly girly trip to the city of love. This time we had Max's company and while not as girly it was just as delightful and thanks to Max's graciousness it also involved no less 'window-licking' than last time.
I love travelling with parentals - it means champagne at lunch and creme brulee for brunch. This time around it has also meant lots of cuddles and talk of Nan and home and a summer I am counting down the weeks for (nine as of tomorrow). We wandered about, we ate good food, we took in the Musee D'Orsay before taking shelter from the rain at the delicious Le Cinq Mars. Even though my laptop got left in the taxi from Gard du Nord and there were four hours where my only consoling thought was one of thanks to my brother and fiancee for teaching me about the importance of backing up before it was returned with a 26 Euro fee, it was STILL a lovely three days.
|Notre Dame - five minutes walk from our hotel.|
|The bridge of locks.|
I love the kind of travel where you wake up in say, Paris, only to rest your head that night in say, San Sebastian. Lovely Boy joined us for the second leg of Parent Week and we had a flying 36 hours in this totally charming seaside city in Spanish Basque territory where we again ate and wandered and ate some more. We promenaded, we took in the breathtaking view post-furnicular ride and in the evening we partook of a pintxos tasting tour. Two guides, five bars, six Americans, the four of us and some of the most fantastic food and wine I've had in a while. The gin and tonics that came in balloon glasses the size of my head at the end of the night probably were unnecessary but the whole experience was fantastic and just such a great way to get a sense of a city.
|San Sebastian old town|
|Looking down over San Sebastian.|
Ok. I should clarify. I like puppies made of flowers. I like puppies made of flowers made by Jeff Koons. I especially like said puppies when they're tethered to the forecourt of the spectacular Gehry-designed Guggenheim Bilbao. It was like being back amongst friends - Kutlug Ataman's Kuba, Mona Hatoum's Current Disturbance, Louise Bourgeois' big spider and a room full of Richard Serra steel sculptures. This was a favourite. Undulating, perception-altering corten steel structures that swallowed you as you wound your way through and into them but not in an aggressive or threatening way, as you might imagine with such a masculine, heavy material. It felt disconcerting but at the same time familiar and maternal. They were really quite extraordinary - both for their size and the sheer volume of them. It was a puppy perfect ending to a great weekend.
|Jeff Koons, Puppy, 1992|
10. Lunch with my ladies
Monday just gone and my last day of holidays before Mum and Max left for Sydney. What better excuse than that for lunch with my dear friend and my dear Maman. Another stellar recommendation from Tor, the three of us went to the Ridinghouse Cafe on Great Titchfield Street and talked relationships, eyelashes, weddings and denim. The company, like the sorbet, was exquisite.
Tomorrow is Friday and I am counting down the hours until the weekend. I have a hair appointment on Saturday, a date to collect The Dress, dinner plans at Gordon Ramsey's new restaurant and a Sunday work trip to Frieze Art Fair. I've always avoided the fair like the plague, there being something unappetising to me about paying 30 pounds to be trampled by crowds looking at art no-one normal can afford to buy. But curiosity - and free tickets - have got the better of me. And I'm quite looking forward to it. And if the need so arises, I may yet write another list.