Friday, October 19, 2018

NEW YORK AND ENGLAND, OCTOBER 2018


Mon. Oct. 1 Thanks to accumulated miles, we enjoyed the pleasure of a business class flight, and arrived in NYC in time for dinner and an evening walk around town...




Tues. Oct. 2 We had heard recently from our friend David Ligare about his show at Hirschl and Adler, so we made this the first stop for our one day in New York...


... and from there walked up Madison to the Met Breuer to see "Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection"--a great exhibition of paintings and drawings by these masters from the early 20th, many of them bracingly erotic! Unfortunately I did not take pictures...


We enjoyed a good lunch in the outdoor dining area at the Met Breuer...


(croquettes!)
... and walked over to Fifth Avenue for the walk south back to our hotel...



Our prime reason for stopping in New York on our way to visit family in England was to attend the VIP opening of the Charles White retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Here we are, getting all dressed up for the occasion! Can't remember the last time I wore a suit!



I wrote about the opening event, in The Buddha Diaries, along with my memories of Charlie and the two years I spent in research of his life and work on a Rockefeller Fellowship back in the late 1970s/early 80s, so there's not need to repeat myself here. I need only note that it was a momentous event, and one that we felt privileged to attend...





Wed. Oct. 3 With only the morning to spend in New York before our flight to the UK, we walked from our hotel down to the Morgan Library--a favorite haunt, because we love the small scale of this cultural mecca. It happened they had an exhibition of 19th century Romantic paintings of water, with just a handful of small works to look at...

(this is the entire exhibition!)


Which meant that the viewer was invited to really pay attention. A pause for lunch in the atrium at the Morgan--always a pleasant experience--before heading back to our hotel in time to meet the car we had reserved to take us out to JFK. Through the window on our Virgin Atlantic flight, Ellie snapped this last, chance image of the New York skyline...


Thurs. Oct. 4 We arrived at Heathrow early, at 6:30 in the morning, having slept no more than a couple of hours during the flight. I had thought our hotel, The Bloomsbury, would be close to the Russell Square station on the Piccadilly line, a straight shot from Heathrow; but it turned out to be closer to Tottenham Court, quite a ways away, so we had to take a taxi on to the hotel. Left our bags with the concierge and, somewhat dazed and weary, made our way up Tottenham Court Road to Regency Park, where the London Frieze art fair had opened just the day before. My AICA international art critics card came in handy to get us past the (expensive and well guarded!) entry, with the help of a friendly dealer who "recognized" us and insisted we were clients of her gallery...

Frieze is absolutely huge--several football fields worth of art, and bigger than any other fair I have attended. Travel-weary as we were, we managed to make our way through most of it before heading out, thankfully, into the lovely gardens of Regency Park...







... where we found an extensive sculpture exhibition installed in connection with the fair...

(my hat)





Again, I must apologize for having taken no notes, but we enjoyed both the gardens and the sculpture. Making our way back to the hotel (and still on foot!) we stopped for a good dinner at a Middle East restaurant just off Tottenham Court Road, and thence walked back to the hotel for a well deserved, if rather early night.

Fri. Oct. 5 We spent the morning at the British Museum...


... just around the corner from The Bloomsbury. Here's Ellie, on the staircase that surrounds the (still relatively) new Norman Foster library addition.


Enjoyed coffee on a first floor atrium with a view of ancient Greek bronze...


... and meandered through the medieval galleries...




... to the amazing clocks and watches...



... before heading out to take a taxi to St. Pancras station for a train to Harpenden where our son Matthew...

(the very full beard is temporary, we hear, for a theatrical role)

... lives with Diane, his wife, and family. Joe and Georgia, twins...


... now 16, are our younger grandchildren. That evening, Matthew ordered out for a good English meal of fish and chips and "mushy" peas.

Sat. Oct. 6 A cold day! Casting about for a destination for the day, we landed at the de Havilland museum of mostly World War II aircraft. We had fun dressing up in the RAF helmets and bomber jackets, but left in fairly short order because everyone was so cold...



... and stopped for a family pub lunch...


... on the way back to Harpenden.

Sunday, Oct. 7 Matthew drove us all to Waddesdon Manor, the mansion designed by the French architect Hippolyte Destailleur for the Rothschild family in the 19th century...

(one of two wine-bottle monuments greeting visitors at the end of the stately driveway)

Talk about luxury living!






We toured the house and ventured out into the lovely gardens...



... where we found these two exotic topiaries...



on the way to an elaborate aviary...


At the stables, we came upon a fascinating exhibition of objects created by a 3D printing process by the artist Michael Eden...



... based on classical porcelain and ceramic objects in the Rothschild collection. Leaving Waddesdon...



... we made our way back to Harpenden and went out that evening for a fine Indian dinner at a local Indian restaurant.


Mon. Oct. 8 After a couple of lovely days with the family in Harpenden, we boarded the train on Monday morning, changing at Luton for the ride to Nottingham to meet our older granddaughter, Alice, just now starting her second year at Nottingham University. Here we are with her on the delightful university campus...




We stopped at one of the college cafeterias for lunch al fresco...


... then walked on through the campus...



... and took a (very fancy!) tram...



...  for a short ride to visit the house that Alice shares with a handful of roommates. We sat in her room for a while, and were delighted to hear how happy she is at university, where her major field of study is... philosophy! It's pleasing to me to have a granddaughter interested in such things. From her digs, we took another tram to downtown Nottingham for a walk through some lovely streets...



... up to the castle...



Fond memories of tales of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham! Obviously we're not the only ones. Below the castle walls we found a number of bronze statues to the Merry Men...

(here's Ellie with Friar Tuck)


... and of course Robin Hood himself, aiming his arrow for all eternity into the Sheriff's dining hall. On a different note, we were not a little amused by this picture of Mortimer’s Hole(!)--one of a series of hidden tunnels buried somewhere below the castle.


It made us think, with some discomfort, of all the colonoscopies we've had to endure! In downtown Nottingham, we discovered this cat cafe...



... where customers come, it seems, for the solace of feline company. Not a bad idea, in these troubled times. Now here are Alice and Ellie in the main square...


... in front of the town hall...


They found a beautifully designed art nouveau department store to explore... 


... whilst I enjoyed the opportunity for a catnap on a nearby bench. And finally we stopped at a midtown hangout for dinner--I indulged in bangers and mash--before heading back to our comfortable hotel on the university campus. 

Tues. Oct. 9  We called a taxi to take us to the railway station, where I had arranged for a car rental. Rather dreading the drive on unfamiliar streets in a stick shift car, I succumbed to an upgrade from the compact I had requested to a luxurious Mercedes with automatic shift and a satellite navigation system. Which certainly eased the drive north from the city to the Peak National Park in Derbyshire, where we planned to spend a couple of days in the English countryside. We arrived mid-afternoon at the Cavendish Hotel in the village of Baslow, where we found ourselves assigned a comfortable room with a truly lovely view...



... of the hotel and the surrounding sheep fields...


With plenty of time before evening, we set out on a long walk through the pastures...

(Ellie, windswept...)


... and alongside a gently flowing river...


... then through manicured parkland...











... and arriving eventually at Chatsworth House...


... here, still in the distance. Ellie is taking a well-earned rest!



The House was closed, so we started on the long walk back, and were happy to indulge in pre-dinner drinks in the elegant lounge...


 An excellent dinner followed, in the dining room...





 After seeing so many innocent sheep, we felt a bit guilty ordering our rump of lamb roast--but it did taste good!


And so to bed.

Wed. Oct 10. A misty morning...




... with the sheep still sensibly asleep...


A sumptuous English breakfast, bacon, sausages, eggs and toast. (We passed on the baked beans, tomatoes, and fried mushrooms...)



A lovely drive up to Hathersage through the Derbyshire countryside, following direction to the trailhead for a long, steep hike uphill...





... watching rock climbers scale the cliffs that rose abruptly from the landscape.


We were relieved to have been able to climb the whole way to the top, with a view way down below to where we had parked the car.



(both of us, windswept!)


The return, downhill climb proved easier than we had feared, and we returned to the car for the drive through the beautiful Hope Valley to Bradwell. We had been told how beautiful this little town was, and perhaps so--but it was also a dreadful tourist trap, with impassable streets and crowded shops filled with absurd trinket. We passed on the famous Bakewell pies--or tarts, or cakes, whatever--and stopped for a ham-and cheese at one of the many pubs...


Glad to leave Bradwell behind us, we drove back, closer to home, to Chatsworth House--the one we had found closed the day before.


Here we spent the afternoon in this "stately home" of our old pals, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It was a pleasant surprise to find a collection of contemporary ceramics hidden in amongst the art treasures accumulated by the family over the centuries...








The little wooly sheep (like the one above) were dispersed throughout, with games and challenges for children. A nice touch. We were pleased also to come across these elegant porcelain pieces...



... by Edmund de Waal, an artist whose delightful book, The Hare With Amber Eyes, I reviewed several years ago on The Buddha Diaries. More contemporary art in the courtyard...


... and at the top of the grand stairway...




Ellie and I particularly liked these ceramic works by an Australian artist, Pippin Drysdale...



... and were surprised to stumble on this sculptural work by Damian Hirst, "St. Bartholomew: Exquisite Pain" which depicts the martyred saint holding up his extremely detailed flayed skin for somewhat painful inspection:


And of course we needed a picture of this painting, which reminded us of our Jake:


After our tour of this amazing "house", we enjoyed a walk in the vast gardens, pausing particularly to enjoy the 17th c (?) cascade...



... and the gorgeous Romantic "rockery"...






... where we stumbled on this standing figure by Anthony Gormley:


Ellie, of course, could not resist a hug...


I loved this pool surrounded by strange, tilting shapes of greenery (yew?), almost human in their presence, though slightly greater than human scale:


And our tour would not have been complete without a spectacular fountain...


A final view of the house...


... and I could not resist a butt shot for my six-year old grandson, who delights in butt shots.


It was a pleasure to return to our lovely hotel for a last evening of extremely civilized drinks and dinner...





Thurs. Oct 11 In the morning, I felt more than a little sad as I took these last shots of the English countryside from our hotel room. The view was so different each time I looked out the window...



But leave we must. It was a difficult drive back to Nottingham. The "SatNav" proved tricky to operate and we managed to get lost several times along the way. Nottingham itself, particularly, was a nightmare. Still, we made it to the railway station, returned the car intact, and in time to board the train to London. (Here, as elsewhere, there were young men more than ready to help with heavy suitcases. So nice to get the help!)

Back in London we took a taxi back to the Bloomsbury, where we were happy to have been given a larger room this time. And thence, with some time to spare, we took the tube train to St. Pauls and walked across river...



... to the Tate Modern to see the current exhibition...







... of mostly Anni Albers textiles and sketches in watercolor and gouache, but also including some of her contemporaries. Then walked back along Thames embankment...


as night fell, with magnificent views of St. Paul's Cathedral and the City of London.






Back on the north side of the river, we walked on up to the Covent Garden area, where we were lucky to find a fine French bistro with a table for us just as it started to rain; and returned to the tube for a quick ride back to our hotel.

Fri. Oct 12 No time for anything today but a car to Heathrow in time for our Virgin Atlantic flight to JFK, whence we took a car to a new venture in NYC hostelry, the Lombardy Hotel. The concierge pointed us to a market/restaurant for a late dinner, but we discovered a place across the street for a simple bowl of soup. Just the ticket.

Sat. Oct 13 We followed a familiar path up Madison (with the usual stops for window-shopping!) all the way to the Guggenheim. I had read a while ago about "the first abstract artist", the long-ignored Hilma af Klint...


... and we had planned our trip with two art shows as bookends--the af Klint and, at MoMA, the Charles White retrospective. To be brief, we were not disappointed by the amazing, expansive exhibition of an artist whose name we had not even heard before. I include, below, a sampling of her work. The scale of some of these paintings is indicated by the presence, in my iPhone snapshots, of some of the huge crowds of fellow visitors. Bear in mind that many of them were made in the first years of the 20th century, way before Malevich, Kandinsky, et al. Bear in mind, too, that they were dictated to the artist by her spirit guide...

















Please find out more online about this pioneering artist. It's not my purpose here to act the art historian or the art critic.

Coincidentally, perhaps--or perhaps not--there happened to be an exhibition of Malevich, el Lissitzky, Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde just a couple of blocks up 5th Avenue at the Jewish Museum, so we had the opportunity to remind ourselves of the historical context for af Klint's work...







(Forgive the lack of attribution--I did not take notes). Altogether, a fascinating and inspiring constellation of early 20th century artists. After which, we enjoyed a refreshing walk back down Madison Avenue to our hotel, with a glimpse of two wagging Cavalier rear ends...


... whose owner was delighted to swap enthusiastic Cavalier tales.  A little later, we made one last sortie for the day to meet with our nephew, Danny, and his wife Rachel for dinner at 8 ½ on 57th Street:


Returning to the Lombardy, we felt we had earned a good night's rest.

Sun. Oct 14 On the last day of our trip, we took a slow walk up through Central Park...






... to the Met to see the current enormous Delacroix exhibition. Too much to take in on a single visit. A few of the hundreds of paintings and drawings caught my eye...








(love those marginal doodles!)

(detail)

(a couple of these late paintings seemed to me to predict the more recent plein air painters)

We were disappointed to discover that the former full-service dining room for lunch had been converted into a cafeteria, but were grateful for a brief respite and a shared sandwich. We made a strange, convoluted path back through the museum...


... discovering, amongst other things, a wonderful display of musical instruments from all periods of history...




Leaving the Met, we took a leisurely walk back down 5th Avenue until we found it blocked off on all sides for a parade that seemed to be a celebration of Mexican (or Latin?) culture. Moved over to Park, and got back to our hotel in time for a brief rest before heading out for the dinner of our trip at a neighborhood Italian restaurant.

Mon. Oct 15 We packed our bags for the last time--this trip has involved no less than 16 packings and unpackings!--and took a car out to catch our flight to Los Angeles from the Newark airport. A last view of New York City from the NJ Turnpike...


We were happy to be back in business class, which made it a lot easier to tolerate a very bumpy flight home--the most consistently turbulent flight I can remember. Glad, then, to be home and to find our Jake excited to see us after his two week vacation with his best friend Remi (Jake is the brown and white one...)