Wednesday, December 28, 2005–London. The morning was leisurely. To our distress, we discovered that the Patisserie deux amis was closed for the whole we, so we had to settle for a decidedly lower-market coffee shop up the street.
We took the Tube to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, especially so that I could see the large exhibition of glass sculptures by the American artist Dale Chihuly interspersed with the plantings in the glass houses of Kew (particularly the Palm Court, the Temperate Building, and the Princess of Wales Conservatory). George had seen the show when he was in London in October, but he knew that I would like it. We took the “old lady tram ride” around the whole Kew Gardens facility, so that I could get a glimpse of the whole thing, but in late December, in the cold, there was not a whole lot to see outside of the buildings.
Chihuly’s work is amazing (although I’m told that the Brits find it contrived and don’t like it on the whole). It is as if alien brightly colored creatures are growing next to the plants. I think it is really quite organic and well-conceived.
By mid-afternoon we were cold, and ready to catch the Tube back to the city. We got off at Oxford Street and made our way among the immense crowds out shopping the sales. We made a stop at the John Lewis Stores (one of the large department stores on Oxford St.) It was really too crowded to be fun, but interesting to see the place in full array. We headed back to the hotel, changed clothes and went to dinner at a restaurant called Bank in Aldwych. Apparently a few years ago it was very trendy–the place to be seen. It’s now gotten past that, but is still an attractive place, with good service and excellent food–some of it re-inventions of traditional English cooking. I had Cumberland sausages and mash for my main course. For dessert it was a “sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce.” I could have eaten three helpings. The restaurant was not too busy, which was a blessing, because even though we had a corner table, I think that the place would have been extremely loud and annoying had it been clear full.
It was quite cold outside after we walked back to the hotel, and the room was chilly, so it was a good excuse to go to bed.