Most important news of the day: finally made it to Pretty Ballerinas on my way back to my hotel from a meeting. Of course I bought a pair of lovely ballet kitten heels (can't believe I covered up the heel in my photo). Very comfy with a flex sole, which is pretty much mandatory for me. The shop is about 6 ft. x 6 ft...tiny. There were two employees and myself inside, and we were stepping all over each other. Still, it was adorable.
One of the shop keepers said she's Lithuanian and we got to talking about family meal traditions. I told her Phil and I switch off every year from my family's Catholic Italian Christmas Eve dinner (seven fish...including spaghetti with squid sauce) and Phil's Catholic Polish Valea celebration (pirogi and dumplings)...really, we can't go wrong here with our food choices. However, Phil's grandmother makes borsch, a traditional (and disgusting) Polish soup with vinegar and sour cream and mushrooms. It makes the whole house smell. When I mentioned it, the Lithuanian girl instantly knew what I was talking about and wrinkled her nose. She also said pink is my color when she took my picture with my new shoes (I knew I liked her).
Other important news of the day: I actually had dinner with a live (and fun!), human being and was not stood up. More on that in a bit...
So, woke up bright and early and headed to my first meeting at 9 a.m. with a legal publication for my law firm client. The office building is located on Carter Lane, and the editor told me it used to be the main road in London. It's actually closed to traffic now and can't be more than eight feet across. (See photo.)
Had another meeting at 10 a.m. with a different legal pub and ended up walking in front of St. Paul's to get there, so now I have a better photo...even a double decker in the background! The reporter I met with was very sweet and we had a good time chatting. She's the first person I've met who's ambiguous about the U.S. election. She said her boyfriend is consumed with politics, so she tends to tune it out. To each her own.
Walked back to my hotel (stopped at Pretty Ballerinas as I mentioned) to do some work and later on was able to catch Phil before he left for work. It was nice to talk with him, but it made me really miss him, and it sunk in that it will be four more days before I come home. I'm sure Paris will do her best to distract me, and I will oblige.
Grabbed a smoothie and a snack at the Bond Street station (a couple minutes walk from my hotel...love my location), and headed to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square for a lunch break. I visited in 2001 and had fond memories, so I was glad I was able to get back.
I'm infatuated with Impressionist paintings, and they have a nice collection here. I know Monet has been ridiculously commercialized, but I saw the real deal when I went to his former home in Giverny, France, seven years ago and it further locked me in as a lifetime fan. I love the pastel colors and the hazy brush strokes. The paintings feel optimistic and dreamlike to me. Also, I think it's fascinating to be in the presence of the original subject that was painted, as with his water lilies garden and Japanese bridge at Giverny. I had forgotten that his London landscapes of Parliament were at the National Gallery, and it had the same effect.
Also, I love it when a collection has art represented over the artist's lifetime. For example, I'm getting better at being able to tell when Monet's and Picasso's paintings were completed based on the brush strokes and abstractness of the paintings (although I definitely have an amateur appreciation). It's fun to review the transgression of an artist's work and consider his influences.
One of my favorite paintings (because it brings back fond memories of my art history classes) is The Arnolfini Portrait by Van Eyck. I seriously bought a convex mirror for my living room because I loved it so much (there's one in the painting). It also was cool to see Caravaggio's The Supper at Emmaus, which I was taught is an incredible depiction of an artist's ability to contrast light and darkness with depth. Perhaps you don't care. Too bad. Knowledge is power, baby.
By the way, if there is a such thing as having a former life, I'm convinced that I previously was some kind of artisan who moonlighted as a ballerina. I also probably was Asian, as I'm infatuated with that culture (one of my favorite domestic museums is the Freer Gallery in D.C., which has an awesome Asian art collection). Somehow all of this talent got lost in translation because as much as I'd like to be, I am neither an accomplished dancer or artist. Actually, I suck a little at both. I think if I could do anything besides PR, I would be a stained glass artisan. I'm sure this sounds crazy, but give me some room. My brain is feeling fried from all of the over-stimulation (and free radicals from waffle dogs).
Did a bit of work from the comfort of one of the cozy leather chaises in one of the galleries. Some people like to work from Starbucks, I'll take a gallery. Then headed to BBC headquarters, which was a really cool experience. BBC has 25,000 employees around the world, 2,000 journalists and 250 bureaus. Crazy. And, it also has seven radio stations and four 24-hour news networks. The news rooms were huge, and it was fun to get a tour. I didn't even ask about taking a photo since I about got frisked by security while getting cleared to go in. Oh, heard today that the reason there are no trash cans in public areas is because the government views them as easy targets for terrorists to detonate bombs. Good reason, albeit inconvenient.
From BBC, headed to King's Road for a little shopping and dinner with Becky, a friend of a girlfriend at work, Kellie. Becky and Kellie went to school together, and Becky just moved from Chicago to London with her husband for his job. They've been in the U.K. for one month as of today.
Found a super huge Zara (per Becky) and couldn't resist going in (I'm addicted!). I bought a white shirt with ruched cap sleeves. I seriously have a weakness for ruched clothing (read on). Nice for work. Then, spotted Jigsaw, a retailer my friend Kim said she likes when she heads overseas. Bought a china blue long-sleeved ruched top (told you). I've been so happy that china blue has been a hot color the past few seasons. I love it!
Walked further down King's Road and saw some awesome gray ruched boots (did I not say this is a problem?) They were marked down 50 percent, but still expensive, so thank goodness they didn't fit because they were the last pair. So cute though! And, a flex sole with a fun heel. (I think Phil called them in advance to make sure they hid my size.)
Becky had sent me very detailed directions to our restaurant, Chutney Mary, which serves delish Indian (another favorite of mine). After walking for 15 minutes, I started to panic that I had been cursed to eat dinner alone every night in London because I thought I was lost. Then saw the street I was looking for (whew!). I was so glad to meet Becky since we had been e-mailing back and forth and I was starving. We started with wonderful breaded rock shrimp with a lime chutney...so good and perfectly spiced with a great trace of lime. Then we shared a couple entrees -- buttered chicken and chicken tikka marsala -- with basmati rice and chili cheese naan. Yum!
I had a great time with Becky. We talked quite a bit of politics (she's a MSNBC news junkie and has a Slingshot that lets her watch it on her computer). She was sweet enough to walk me to the nearest Tube station, and I headed home. Organized all my acquired paraphernalia from the journalists I met with and boxed it up for FedEx (my colleagues make fun of me for shipping magazines and paperwork to myself from myself, but added up, that stack gets heavy...no way I'm lugging it all to Paris). Packed up most of my stuff, checked e-mail and here I am.
I'm beat and headed to bed. Tomorrow: Paris via the Eurostar Chunnel train! Wish me luck. I'm having visions of feeling completely bewildered at Gare du Nord.Bonne nuit!