There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Tea and Ballet

The Mall, June 18th,
just after the celebration
of the Trooping of the Colour

You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.  No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;  for there is in London all that life can afford.  
~ Samuel Johnson

You know London is so sprawling and you can sometimes forget 
that anybody else is on a  stage
anywhere else.  ~ Alan Rickman

I first came to Oxford 21 years ago and since then it's felt like Britain's centre to me, placed as it is in the heart of England.  Drive an hour west and you're in the western Cotswolds and nearly to Wales; drive an hour south and you're at the seaside on the south coast; drive an hour north and you're in Shakespeare country; and an hour to the east lies London.

A view of the Chilterns as we travelled to London
on the 18th.  Stuart hasn't grown out of always
wanting to sit at the front of the bus--but you can see why.

I love London in short spurts and Oxford is perfectly placed to travel to London for the day. You can easily travel by train in an hour, into Paddington Station, but Stuart and I prefer to go by bus. After several journeys home from London, packed into the train car like a sardine, we decided travelling by coach was the way for us.  Oxford has two choices of buses running directly to London, the Oxford Tube and the X90. There's WiFi on-board, the seats recline, and the Oxford Tube is a double-decker, so you can enjoy the view as you make your way to London.

This week we made a trip to London to see my favourite ballet Swan Lake, at the Royal Albert Hall.  For this performance, the entire floor of the Hall is used as a stage in the round, so it's a production on a grand scale in classic Busby Berkeley style.  The thought of 100 tutu'd swans floating gracefully in the expanse of the Royal Albert Hall grabbed my fancy immediately.  We bought tickets last January when June 18th seemed a world away, and planned to make a day of it in London.

Both Stuart and I are afternoon tea devotees, so any trip to London involves afternoon tea at one of the grand and elegant hotels.  We hadn't been back to The Savoy Hotel since their 'grande rénovation', so we decided that afternoon tea at The Thames Foyer of the Savoy would be perfect before the ballet.  

After serving breakfast for seven people and making sure the laundry was moving in the right direction, we changed out of our bacon infused jeans and shirts into our finery, caught the Oxford Tube on the High Street, and were off to London. 

We got off at Victoria Station and had enough time to take a leisurely walk past Buckingham Palace, up The Mall, through Trafalgar Square, and up the Strand to the Savoy. It was just long enough to work up an appetite, but short enough to manage in our afternoon-tea-ballet-going-finery (and my not-really-made-for-walking-in-shoes).  

The Savoy is set back off the street, so once you circle through the revolving doors into the foyer, you feel as though you've stepped into another world.  It's elegant and quiet, with an old Hollywood, Art Deco feel, without being garish.  After a long walk through sooty London streets, the first order of business is of course a visit to the powder room.  If you ever want to experience how the other half live (actually it's closer to 1% than 50%, but who's counting), and don't have £12,000 for the Junior Suite, just visit the bathrooms at Harrod's, The Savoy, or The Ritz.  You'll want to move in, or at least stay awhile. There are attendants whose job it is to quietly and discreetly clean and refresh things, along with lotions and potions to pamper with.  There are even elegant and poufy vanities to sit at, that always make me want to sit and powder my nose like Jean Harlow or Greer Garson. Unfortunately I don't even own a beautiful compact for powder, much less wear powder, but one day I think I might buy one, just so I can powder my nose like an elegant movie star.

I lingered in the Ladies Room far longer than I should have, but finally emerged unpowdered yet refreshed. I found Stuart sitting, waiting patiently for me, so I gathered that the men's room wasn't as interesting as the ladies'.  As we were escorted to our table, I tried to channel Greer Garson and float down the long steps that led into the tea room. A pianist was playing old show tunes on the grand piano in the gazebo, and the only other noises were quiet tinkling of teacups and hushed conversations. We took our seats and ordered champagne, since whenever possible Stuart and I start our afternoon tea with champagne. It was whisked to our table immediately, and so with our glasses of bubbly, Afternoon Tea began.

I have to admit that the next two and a half hours are a hazy blur of jam, clotted cream, sandwiches, many cups of tea, glasses of champagne, pastries, and cakes. Everything melted in our mouths and the waiters were constantly whisking things away and replenishing everything, until we couldn't eat one more bite, not even a crumb.  We wished we could have lingered much longer, and it's the kind of place where lingering is encouraged, but we had to make our way back down the Strand, down The Mall, and the entire length of Hyde Park, to get to the Royal Albert Hall--it quickly became clear that we were going to require a taxi to get our heaving bellies there on time.

But we made it on time, and took our seats just three rows back from the stage.  I was enraptured and even Stuart was enthralled. One hundred beautifully elegant swans were the perfect end to a very elegant day, and a day we won't soon forget.  Our Oxford Tube coach rolled down Oxford's High Street about 1am, we got off at Queen Street, walked down past New College, the narrow lane quiet and dim, through the Turf Tavern, eerily empty of students and noise, and then back up Holywell Street and home.  We had to be up in 5 hours to make breakfast, but neither of us cared--I was still caught up in a world of tutus and the pas de beurre.  And, I have no doubt that Stuart was reliving our three hour tea, bite by bite--and dreaming about our next one.

Tempting the senses before 
we even sat down.

The gazebo with a pianist playing showtunes
on a grand piano--and a little fellow
having tea with his Daddy.

Royal Albert Hall just before the performance.

The London Eye from The Mall

View of Big Ben from St. James's Park

Stopping by Buckingham Palace to say hello, 
but Q.E.II was not in residence.  She was at
Windsor while attending Ascot.

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