29 July 2009

Lycra in Paris and a giant cupcake in London!

I took a few days out of London to visit Paris , my second favourite city and one which makes a fabulous side trip from London. We've been many times for long weekends or just for a long lunch which is really easy now that the journey time can take as little as 2 hours and 15 minutes. The lycra was in abundance thanks (if that's the right word!) to the Tour de France racing through Paris for the finale on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday. We had a front perch on the road near Notre Dame to see the cyclists flash past in a 10 second blur of bright colour and wheels. A Brit won the day in Paris but overall scoring meant a Spaniard took the crown in 2009 as there are 2o other hard days' work to take into account. Great meals, lots of pastis and good doses of culture added to the fun.

Life in London's been busy and topped by a giant cupcake which was sighted in Covent Garden as a special guest at their regular Thursday real food market. How big you ask, well it was 2 metres by 1.25 metres and was big enough to offer over 2000 people a decent sized slice, brought to them by Culinary Olympic winner Michelle Wibowo. I saw it, it was huge and took forever to cut up.

More cerebral delights were tucked away in the massive Westfield shopping centre in small Getty Images collection of glorious celebrity photographs by Terry O'Neill. From Paul Newman and Lee Marvin's publicity shots to the casual snap of the Rolling Stones in a BBC canteen, they were arresting photos.

One local monthly event for us Notting Hill-ers is Book Slam which moved venue for July so had to be checked out. Book Slam is a live event and mixes poetry, book reading and music. We dropped into the Tabernacle, the new venue and also home of Notting Hill carnival, to see a performance poet (Luke Wright) and the novelist David Nicholls. We gave the new venue the thumbs up and even bought the book as it was signed and the reading had got us hooked.

I can't end without a mention of a restaurant or bar and for this blog it's the Champagne Bar at St Pancras International which makes a fitting start to any Eurostar train trip to Paris. It's the longest champagne bar in Europe and for those who have to ask the question - there is no clear answer to who holds the world award! From the bar you can enjoy St Pancras which has been renovated to become a wonderful and beautiful station.

londonliving blog will be coming to you on a weekly basis from now on as there is just too much to fit in each fortnight and I'll be able to do every entry a bit more justice. Hope you're enjoying it so far.

Bye for now.

13 July 2009

The heady days of Wimbledon are behind us and there was to be no win for our own Andy Murray but we are already looking ahead to next year....

The heatwave is also behind us but not before we enjoyed drinks in my garden until midnight in short sleeves - what a treat. Now we have sunshine with passing showers but easily good enough for an outdoor BBQ on Friday.

On Saturday evening we went to see something amazing. Sadler's Wells was the venue for Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray, a retelling of Oscar Wilde's gothic fable through dance. The fluidity of movement, the seductive choreography, the stunning elegance, the driving music, all came together in a fabulous experience. The dancers must be from another planet compared with us earth bound mortals. They lead us through the glorious rise and then the fall into decay of an advertising made 'It Boy'.

On a sombre note, last week saw the unveiling in Hyde Park of the memorial to the 52 people who were killed by terrorist bombs in London on 7th July 2005. There are 52 tall stainless steel pillars, one for each person, grouped into four sections which represent the four locations of the bombs. It's a public space and you can walk among the pillars and reflect on the loss, as the many visitors were doing when I was there. Very fitting.

For Sports fans, cricket has taken over and the 2nd match in the 5 match series called 'The Ashes' of England v Australia will start in London on Thursday. This is at Lord's cricket ground the home of cricket, by Regents Park. I won't even try to explain cricket to those not brought up with it but as a major sporting event it's great fun as the rivalry is intense. Not looking that good for England after the first match ....

A couple of restaurants to mention before I sign off. Launceston Place in Kensington for lunch was lovely, we had the set menu but they added in a couple of extra taster dishes, a pre-starter and pre-dessert which always cheers the diner up. The staff were charming and its conventional look is dignified without being stuffy. In contrast was Crazy Homies in Notting Hill, a very lively Mexican restaurant with loud music and wacky decorations. Good food, good service and a fun atmosphere has put this onto the list of local favourites.