20-22 May 2005
I’d never expected to be picked up by a S320 Mercedes Benz from Heathrow. Despite the comfort, I wished I could just shorten the ride as I was already late. When arriving at St Martin’s Lane, it was already past nine. After a quick glimpse of the tiny little hotel room with a 4.5 feet wide ‘double’ bed (we in fact requested a twin room), less than two feet corridor, a 12-inch mini TV, various price lists (offering condoms and anatomicals as well), and no slippers, plus Formica-coated elevators unair-conditioned inside as well as along the corridor, we went straight to the Dominion Theatre ushered by C to Hakkasan. Of course, the dim sum and the sticky rice had soon made us leave the shitty hotel behind.
The next day, we went to the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery for a quick tour, with the former showing Frida Kahlo’s photos. It was a nice choronology of photos portraying her whole life. They speak more than her self-portraits, methinks.
We then walked to the Big Ben past the Downing Street to the South Bank. Finally saw the London Eye. Of course we didn’t go up there both because of money and time. We just wanted to get to the Saatchi Gallery sooner. I was so disappointed to see those paintings with the even more disappointing water-blowing captions (I later learned from C that Mr Satchi is now into painting and that’s why!). But the room half filled with engine oil was really impressive and K said, to my disagreement, that piece alone was worth the nine pounds admission already.
Already very tired, we still walked on our pilgrimmage to Tate Modern. It was such an amazing project to have turned an industrial premises into a gallery. It could never happen in Hong Kong – in terms of space, scale and idea.
I took the untakeable – Tube. The girl sitting on my left was saying that she was like baking in an oven to the other end of the phone; on my right a man was reading a newspaper headlined ‘Thousands People Trapped in Tube Hell’!!!
It was thus like heaven when arriving The Oak – a pub in E’s neighbourhood near Notting Hill. I was so happy to see all my friends together. Had two bottles of champagne before heading to The Ledbury – nice food but poor ventilation (air-unconditioned again!).
On Saturday, we had breakfast together in Lisboa next to the Portabello Market, with E’s take-away choco dips. The second-hand market was heaven to E but hell to C & A. E’s attention to every details reminded me of his guided tour to Camden Market eight years ago. He could always see things out of the ordinary through his eyes.
We then settled for lunch in the backyard of a restaurant (can’t remember the name). Guess whom we ran into – Natalie Portman with her hair newly shaved, with her French boyfriend! Our trip could have been paid for if we took a photo and sold it to the tabloids. That’s London. Stars around.
Prilgrimmage continued to Bespoke Paul Smith and E’s favourite, Bill Amberg. Will definitely go more often to Joyce / LC Warehouse to find treasures from BA. And Dova Market then we went – the four-storeyed Comme des Garcons! It was an entertainment already seeing E and C trying on the bag-cum-pleated skirt. Before E left for his birthday party, we relaxed at Sketch and saw the most extravagant washroom – A said it’s Moulin Rouge!
Dinner was at an The Cinnamon Club, an Indian restaurant frequented mainly by the MPs during breakfast and lunch. C & A chose a very good ‘routing’, before dinner drinks at the bar in the basement looping the Bollywood dance video. After dinner in the library, we went to a quiet corner to have Spanish syrupy sweet wine while C & A were recollecting the bull-fighting they had watched.
On our last day, C & A brought us to their neighbourhood – Marylebone. The Wallace’s Collection was a very good pick. We even went to the Sunday market and had a taste of their life there.
And then came the highlight – long day lunch at Gordan Ramsay’s newest resturant, Maze, that was only opened on the previous Wednesday! Bearing in mind the recommendations of trying 6-8 tapas each person, the four of us chose 17 out of the 20 in the grazing menu. The four-hour gourmet journey was simply fantastic.
The trip was yet all the more memborable as marked by the 30 minutes walk with C filled with tears and laughters.