Friday, 26 September 2008

Mimi Goes To Covent Garden

I have a lovely friend at work, and very occasionally, we go on an adventure to London together. Yesterday was one of those days, and I knew from the moment I woke up that it would be lovely. As I was looking out of the bedroom window, breathing in the morning air, a squirrel ran across the garden, and started digging. Later, as I finished a phone call, the caller, rather than saying 'have a nice day' told me 'a lovely day lays ahead'.

Every time I go out with Julia, we always start by wondering what on earth we will find to talk about all day, and end the day wishing we had longer to finish our chat. As soon as we got to Covent Garden, we found a cafe with outside seating, and sat drinking black coffee and watching the people around us. Bliss.

Revived, we set off to find the Cath Kidston shop. Even with the aid of a map with the destination marked on it, it was really hard to find. It didn't help that we set off the wrong way along the road to begin with, but even when we were on the right track, it was slightly elusive. It isn't actually at Covent Garden, but along the road, across a road, round a corner, and in almost a back alley. Just as we thought surely we must have gone wrong, we saw a shop painted the most delightful duck egg blue, and suddenly, we were there!

The shop had a limited range on display as they were having a refit, but even so, the bliss, the loveliness of seeing the catalogue come to life around me. It was so good to be able to pick things up, touch and feel, and really see the things. They were displayed beautifully; there was a dresser, and a kitchen table all covered with things, and a little cot made up with the baby range, and a wonderful pick-and-mix style display that held all the little things. I came away with a roll of wrapping paper (such lovely quality that I thought I had picked up two sheets together), two flowery dusters, a packet of polka dot tissues each for me, my friend, and my Mum, and lastly a flowery book bag. At the counter where you pay, there is a display of vintage jewellery and cups and saucers. Oh, I could have spent an awful lot of time and money in that shop!

We breezed through Paperchase, and wandered through Covent Garden. As I had been hoping, there was live music, provided first by a string quartet, and then by an opera singer. With the music still ringing in our ears, we went on to Carluccio's where we ended up having lunch. The Italian waiter flattered us outrageously, calling us 'girls' every two moments, and the food was heavenly. I had a salad of smoked chicken breast, potatoes, green beans and roast peppers in a balsamic dressing. I ordered tiramisu for dessert, and Julia had lemon tart; we each ate half and then swapped plates! Downstairs, in the delicatessen area, I chose a strawberry tart for Carl, which they put in a cunning little box so that it would not get crushed before I could get it home.

From there we flitted first into Penhaligons, where I sampled Violetta, and then into L'Occitane where Ju sampled Eau D'Amber which was really heavenly. Then we meandered in and out of a few of the stalls selling Pashminas and the like, before wandering over to Trafalgar Square, where we sat with tea watching the fountains and the crowds before popping into The National Gallery.

Really, the place took my breath away. I have been before, but not for a long time, and I had forgotten how magnificent the place is. The building is special enough in itself, the doors are heavy and whisper slightly as you push them open, and the light is just amazing. But there, hanging on the wall, with nothing but a reverential distance between you and them are such wonderful works of art. It seemed almost sacrilege to spend so little time there, to be honest, but at the same time it was good to breeze through, and feel certain that I will have to go back for a longer look before long.

It is such an odd sensation, after years of seeing prints of Sunflowers by Van Gogh, or Monet's Waterlillies, to suddenly be seeing the originals themselves. The colours in the works by Constable took me by surprise, and I feel so priviliged to know that I can go and look at them any time I want. They are just there, there is no entrance fee to the gallery. Of course, you have to pay to get to London, and I know that I am fortunate to live so close, but just knowing they are there, waiting for me is the most amazing gift. I fear I am gushing a lot in this post, but really, it is quite overwhelming.

We don't have any art in our living room. Instead, we have a wedding picture printed onto canvas, and framed pictures from our parents' and grandparents' weddings, a variety of snaps of the two of us, and then there are my little seasonal displays dotted about the room. Although I would happily argue that my writing desk is a work of art, there is no art hanging up, and I feel like I don't need it just at the moment, because I have my own private gallery in London, just waiting for me to go back and explore some more.

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