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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 5
Europe 2003
Paris, London, Provence


David and Carol 2003 
Day 12
We slept surprisingly well through the night. The autumn air was cool, so we kept the windows open. Being on the sixth floor, there was no street noise, and we are on the back side of the hotel anyway. The weather in Europe has been unusually mild, and today's weather is expected to be warm and sunny, although "normal" weather for this time of year should be on the cold and wet side. We aren't complaining.
English breakfast at the hotel consisted of figs, fresh yogurt, melon, pineapple, cheeses, breads, jams, several varieties of sausages, bacons and hams, juices, coffee, potatoes, peppers and several items that were delicious and different but we have no idea what they were.
Took the Tube from South Kensington (closest stop to the hotel) to Covent Garden; in the 1600s this was the most popular marketplace in all of England. Of course today it has been rebuilt and is a tourist haven, but we enjoy it. We arrived early and caught a fabulous classical quartet - very accomplished young musicians. On this trip thus far, the best music has been provided on the street for free. I snapped some photos of one particular admirer whose face struck me as interesting. He was lost in the music of Pachelbel and Mozart in the morning sun.
Lively quartet at Covent Garden
A music lover at Covent Garden
Covent Garden is home to Lush, which we have written about in previous journals - one of the most incredible examples of marketing we've even seen. We wish they would come to the States.
As the market stalls opened and the square began to fill with magicians, cappuccino vendors and hoards of tourists, we decided to amble through the nearby streets.
We walked towards Trafalgar Square and stopped at the National Portrait Gallery where we saw marvelous paintings and drawings of Sir Thomas Moore, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Sir Walter Raleigh, Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex (who I think may well have been the "real" Shakespeare,) Henry Prince of Wales, Oliver Cromwell, Charles I, who was executed in 1649, Samuel Pepys, who wrote much about what life was like in 17th century London, John Milton, John Dryden, Charles II, Samuel Butler, Sir Isaac Newton, John Locke, George Washington, Captain James Cooke, George III, who suffered from porphyria and lost the colonies, James Watt, Edmond Halley, Joseph Priestly, Sarah Siddons, perhaps the greatest Shakespeaean actress ever, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Oliver Goldsmith, George Frederic Handel and John Wesley. Downstairs were many photographs of modern celebrities by the famous British photographer Terry O'Neill. On the first floor were several paintings and photographs of the Royal Family.
Statue at the National Portrait Gallery
The London museums are free of charge. I could have spent all day in the Portrait Gallery, but there is so much to see and do in this town, and we only have four more days. Although Carol was exhausted from the Portrait Gallery, I made her promise me that we would visit the Tate, just around the corner before we leave London.
Every time we leave London I get so homesick for it when we arrive back home that I get on the Internet and find the webcams placed at locations like Leicester Square. After the Portrait Gallery, we walked into Trafalger Square for a few minutes and then walked two short blocks to Leicester Square to grab a bit to eat. I hunted all over for the webcams with every intention of jumping into the pictures for 15 seconds of fame and glory, but they are well-camouflaged. It is said that the average visitor to London is surreptitiously photographed at least 300 times.
Self-portrait outside the National Portrait Gallery
At Trafalgar Square we noticed an obvious drop in the number of ubiquitous pigeons. We also noticed a man with a hawk on his arm. Then we came upon an "anti-bloodsport" protest - apparently the city, since our last visit, has decided to reduce the bird population in the great square, and a fellow with a hawk unleashes his predator and lets it tear a pigeon to pieces. Being animal lovers, that definitely got our feathers up.
St. Martin in the Fields
We had a bite to eat at Leicester Square, great place for people watching.
Charlie Chaplin looks over Leicester Square
Next stop was the National Gallery - free, containing huge collections of works of art seen in books and private collections. The experience of seeing them close up is difficult to articulate. We saw works by Hans Holbein, Corregio, Titian, Tintoretto, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Ghirlandaio, Monet, Gaugin, Spencer, Goya, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Renoir, Pissarro, Seurat, Manet, Rousseau, Delacroix, David, Caumier, Constable, Reynolds, Raeburn, Stubbs, Joseph Wright, Turner, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Toulouse-Latrec and Degas. My personal favorites were the Hogarths and the Turners. Hogarth was a self-taught artist who captures real-life London in moralistic and satiric scenes, and Turner's works focus on seascapes, landscapes and mythology.
The museums knocked us out on many levels. Our senses were reeling but our feet were weary. So we walked across Trafalgar Square, past ancient St. Martin-in-the-Fields, up Charing Cross Road to the Leicester Square underground station and took the Tube to South Kensington. We walked the remaining four blocks to the hotel to rest before meeting our friend Aida for Indian food this evening. Along the way we met a wonderful older chap with a friendly Yorkie named James. I regret not snapping photos of these two soul-mates...
Aida could not make dinner, which was a shame because it was out-of-this-world. Zaika is an Indian restaurant on High Street Kensington specializing in "lighter" Indian fare. We decided to try the "tasting menu," and it was a great choice. We started off with seared scallops that were incredible, and three chutneys that I could have had for the entire dinner. Each course was accompanied by a perfectly matched wine. Originally the waiter had presented us with small glasses of lemon water with saffron - this was a wonderful, cool, refreshing taste new to us. First, two light, sparkling Italian wines, then a French white wine with a duck roll and duck salad, the flavors of which were, for lack of a better description, vibrant, unlike any duck I've ever tasted. We tried to guess the spices. I thought I detected a hint of anise but Carol could not verify it. Next came a delicate sea bass with potatoes and sliced apples and a perfectly matched South African sparkling rose wine. The sea bass was incredible. We sopped up everything on our plates with the delicious onion nan (bread.) Next course was wild mushroom rice with tomato ice cream - perfect combination, although it sounds extremely odd, and the Spanish white wine accompaniment was superb - this was Carol's favorite course. This was perhaps the most exquisite, delicate and perfectly "designed" and orchestrated dinner I have enjoyed in quite a long while. The service was impeccable, and we cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough. It certainly gets the David and Carol 5-star rating. The presentation of each course was so gorgeous I wanted to take photos before we applied our silverware but, as Carol said, I wasn't "posh" enough. The maitre d' kept watching me writing in our journal and must have thought I was Rick Steves, because he kept coming tour table and explaining the history and methods of the manufacture of each wine. He had personally selected each wine to accompany each course, and we toasted to his skill, which he appreciated. Dinner cost 100 dollars US per person, and was well worth every pence. Carol had found this place on the Internet - leave it to her. A perfect marriage of food and wine, wonderfully relaxed ambiance, and incredible service and attention to detail. The next course - yes, there was more yet to come - was a tender chicken in curry with noodles, and a red French wine - a marriage made in heaven. The wine was from the south of France, near where we stayed a few days ago. The sommelier spent a few more moments with us, describing in detail its finer points. For dessert we were presented with a coconut sherbert, strawberry sherbert and orange sherbert, accompanied by a sort of cookie with anise seeds embedded. The chef, Vineet Bhatia, poked his head out the kitchen door, and I took the opportunity to thank him for a such a wonderful feast for the senses. He very graciously bowed and expressed his appreciation. A very memorable experience in a restaurant that we will return to in our future travels to the ancient and grand city of London.
 Excellent Indian fare at Zaika
We have made plans to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford tomorrow, and we must be ready by 8:30 to be picked up, so we took our time strolling along the south edge of Hyde Park to Queensgate Road, then south to our hotel and to bed. Another magnificent day on Our Magnificent Journey.

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