Monday, November 23, 2015

If you're tired of London, you're tired of life

One thing I've heard from several friends lately is that I'm "always on holiday". This is probably the impression I give on the blog as well, since I tend to only bother with blog and facebook posts when there's something interesting to report. That and I took my summer holidays a bit "out of phase" with everyone else, in early July and mid-September, so people just noticed it more. It's true I love to travel as much as possible though, and these past couple of months have been busy with long weekends.

Way in advance, I came up with the perfect present for Jules's birthday in October, a trip to London. He had mentioned wanting to visit several times, since he'd only been once on a school trip before, and then I came across somewhere the fact that an Escher exhibition was opening up the day before his birthday, so it was fate. Eurostar tickets booked, hotel picked, all that remained was to wait and not spill the beans to him on our surprise destination.

Until, that is, my parents were visiting Brussels in August and suggested that we might want to come over to London at the end of September to celebrate their 45th wedding annversary. 45 years, that is definitely an achievement worth celebrating! So I buttoned my lip and figured that, while I may not have planned to take two trips to London within three weeks in normal circumstances, we would probably still get a lot out of it.

Amazingly, even though all my family and friends that we hung out with in September knew that we were coming back again a few weeks later, no-one said a word. My parents even said a final goodbye, "see you in New Zealand" that was evidently very convincing. I managed to keep Jules in the dark right up until we went through the check-in for the Eurostar. It was quite funny, we had a little time before getting on the train, so I encouraged him to sit and drink his coffee just outside the Eurostar terminal, and right up until the last minute he couldn't make up his mind whether I had brought him to the Eurostar bit as a trick or if we were really going to London again.

Since Jules hadn't really done the big London sights, we tried to pack in several of the big museums, including the British Museum, National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum. As well as the Escher exhibition of course, which was out in the middle of nowhere in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. I would probably describe myself as indifferent to Escher, but it was a really good exhibition. Seeing the original prints up close, you could really see the artistry and skill. It was amazing to see the different techniques he mastered, from using different methods to create the prints (engraving, carving etc.) and the different kinds of optical illusions and artifices he employed. I definitely came away with a greater appreciation of his work.

Egyptian art at the British Museum

Cute medieval hunting scene, seems to be a jolly jape for all involved

Jules and a pharaonic friend

Scary Aztec mask


In Chinatown

People crossing the Millennium Bridge

In front of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square (we had beautiful weather by the way)
A bit windy crossing the Thames
For their anniversary dinner, we went out to a Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant, Lima. I suppose if you're going to try Peruvian cuisine, it makes sense to start with the best! The vibe was quite different from other starred restaurants I've been to, more casual service and even oontsy oontsy background music! It was actually quite nice for a family dinner as opposed to the more formal French fine dining tradition. The menu was quite eclectic, featuring cactus desserts and blue potato chocolate mousse (which I had) amongst other exotic fare. I don't know how representative it is of your average Peruvian cuisine, but it was good!

Guess that lady in the background really didn't want to be in our photo
On our second trip, after the Escher exhibition and saying goodbye to my parents on the Friday night (coincidentally, their flight back to New Zealand was on the Saturday), birthday boy opted to spend his special day in the Natural History Museum. Ye gods, it was crowded. Turns out gigantic strollers are not content to restrict themselves to annoying the crap out of everyone on pavements and buses anymore, but have invaded museums. The whole place basically looked like a daycare centre, but was as crowded as a nightclub. The only part we did was the dinosaurs, because Jules wanted to and I couldn't really say no since it was his birthday. The dinosaur section has a really cool concept - you go up some stairs and along a suspended walkway, so you are eye level with a lot of fossils and some animatronic dinosaurs, and then come back down to the bit with all the proper museumy information about the dinos. However, it was so busy and (as we found out later) the whole line is held up by the giant animatronic T-Rex at the end of it, that we spent a good 20 minutes packed into this walkway shuffling along with no escape. Nightmare.

We walked through Hyde Park from our hotel to the Natural History Museum (full of cute dogs!)

Jules and the T-Rex

Seems this T-Rex had to be put down

Outside the museum
I crowdsourced suggestions for our birthday dinner, and one of my friends suggested we try one of Peter Gordon's restaurants, Kopapa. Peter Gordon is a New Zealand chef, I think mostly known in New Zealand for pioneering a kind of Pacific Rim fusion food, and maybe known in the UK for now running Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Anyway, I thought it was a cool opportunity to have a little taste of home - not that Kiwis are running around eating fusion food all day long. It was the sort of menu where you look at it and feel a bit worried whether or not you're going to like it, but everything was really good.

They had special Rugby World Cup-themed cocktails. Jules betrayed us all by going for South Africa

Delicious terrine with a crispy poached egg (the ball on the left). I didn't know what they meant by it and had forgotten it was on the plate by the time it came, so I was delighted when I cut into it and the yolk came out. It normally annoys me when TV chefs describe food as "playful", but it was accurate for a change 

Main course cod, polenta and pea puree
We had a three-course menu, because I found a special deal for it online, but some of the people around us were having a tapas-style meal, which I would definitely go back for, looked yummy! We're probably Londoned out for the moment, not least because it's bloody expensive, but as Johnson and my blogpost title say, it takes more than two trips in three weeks to see all there is to see in the city.


  1. I love the funny photo captions. xx

  2. I think we may have been in London at the same time! Daughter Sara is living there -- on an historic barge moored near Tower Bridge. She'll be excited to know about the Peruvian restaurant and Kopapa. Happy (belated) birthday to Jules!


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