Archive for March, 2013

Well, I am back in chilly, snow-covered New Hampshire from my trip to London. I will be back to regular posts beginning tomorrow, with a few London-related posts sprinkled in here and there.

But first, I first want to provide a quick round-up of some of the plays I saw while in London in addition to the two shows I mentioned the other day that I took in at the National Theatre.

Once, a New Musical

onceI was fortunate enough to sneak into a preview of the new musical Once, the hit Broadway show and winner of a bunch of 2012 Tony Awards now making its way to London’s West End.

Once is based on the 2007 Indie film about a Dublin street busker and the young woman he meets. I love the film, best known for the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” and the stage production is a delightful and truly organic theatre experience – I enjoyed it very much.

About Once the new musical: “Based on the much-loved Oscar-winning film, Once is an extraordinary, original and irresistibly joyous celebration of love, friendship and music. When an Irish busker and a young Czech girl meet through a shared love of music, their songwriting sparks a deep connection and a tender, longing romance that neither of them could have expected. Winner of 8 Tony Awards in 2012, including Best New Musical, this unique stage adaptation takes you right to the heart of the action in a rapturous production that dazzles with invention. An old-fashioned love story that dares to be different, Once is brought to life by a supremely talented cast of actor-musicians who unleash all the giddy exhilaration of an Irish ceilidh live on stage. Featuring all of the magical songs from the original film, including the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly”, this is an achingly beautiful, thrillingly inspirational show that strikes a truly unforgettable chord. How often does a musical like this come around…”

Once is currently in previews at London’s Phoenix Theatre and likely to enjoy a lengthy run.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth

macIt is always great to see a Shakespeare play while visiting London, and there is never a shortage of productions from which to choose. This trip I was fortunate enough to catch the slick new production of Macbeth featuring film actor James McAvoy in the title role.

Performed in the round at the intimate performance space of Trafalgar Studios, this Macbeth was high energy and as well-presented as I have ever seen it performed – and I’ve seen a lot of Macbeths.

About Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios: “BAFTA winning and Olivier and Golden Globe nominated actor James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, X-Men) will star in Macbeth, Jamie Lloyd’s (Donmar’s Passion, Broadway’s Cyrano de Bergerac, the Old Vic’s The Duchess of Malfi, Royal Court’s The Pride) inaugural production in a season of work for Trafalgar Transformed. Shakespeare’s darkest tale plays out in a dystopian Scotland brutalised by war. Under a toxic fog, Macbeth begins his tormented struggle for power fuelled by ambition and paranoia.”

Macbeth continues at London’s Trafalgar Studios through April 27 2013.

I also saw a great production of Turn of the Screw at the Almeida Theatre – which has since closed. And the first-ever London production of the 1969 Broadway musical Dear World, starring the incomparable stage star Betty Buckley – which has also closed.

If you are a theatre fan like me, there really is no other place like London for the pure breath of options and I am always sad that I couldn’t see more.

See what else is “on” in London right now in the London Theatre Guide.

The Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End all lit up for the evenings performance of Once, a New Musical:

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cpI have gone on and on in the past about my love of street markets and London’s Portobello Road Market in particular – which is just the best place to be on a Saturday in London.

However, on this trip, I visited a less well-known Antique market area in London’s Islington neighborhood – the antique shops and galleries that surround Camden Passage.

There are some great shopping and looking to be done in Camden Passage with dozens of antique shops and stalls without the crowds of Portobello Road. On Saturdays in Camden Passage the shops are in full swing displaying all manner of decorative antiques. There are several shops specializing in certain items and others that have a little bit of everything.

About Camden Passage: “Camden Passage has grown from the opening of its first antiques shop in the1960s to its present total of 200 dealers. The grouping together of so many traders of all types and levels ensures greatly competitive prices. Take time to explore every Mall, Arcade, shop and market stall and experience a wide variety of specialist antiques outlets. From Islington High Street, Camden Passage becomes a pedestrianised thoroughfare, dating back to the18th century, ending at Islington Green. Every type of antique imaginable can be discovered –come early on Wednesdays and Saturdays to find Camden Passage at its liveliest.”

There are shops with jewelry, clocks, brass, paintings, lighting, vintage clothing and everything else you can imagine. It’s not all antiques though, there is some fine contemporary art and some hip clothing shops in the area.

After a visit to Camden Passage you can explore the many other shops and restaurants in Islington, one of London’s many cool neighborhoods.

Learn more about Camden Passage here.

FF LONDON: The Harris Tweed Collection from The British Belt Company

HAR1The British Belt Company, a producer of fine leather goods, has a wonderful line of products using classic Harris Tweed.

About Harris Tweed: “The origin of Harris Tweed dates back centuries, as the islanders of Harris, Lewis, Uist and Barra, handmade the cloth to use on their crofts or sell at local markets. The crofters today still weave in the traditional way within their cottages before sending the yarns to the mills of Stornoway to produce the final cloth. In 1906 the cloth was granted use of the famous Orb, which certifies its authenticity. In the years since, the timeless woolen fabric has been worn by royalty and landed gentry. The wool used in the Harris Tweed range, provides a glorious celebration of the famous Scottish fabric, and provides a classic British Look.”

I particularly like the Highland Satchel.

See all the great products form the British Belt Company here.

FF LONDON: Roy Lichtenstein at the Tate Modern

LICHLondon is full of museums, and I love visiting as many as I can on each trip – as you may have noticed. One of the city’s most exciting museums is the Tate Modern on the banks of the Thames. The Tate has a wonderful collection of art and hosts some great exhibitions, like the current Lichtenstein: A Retrospective featuring the iconic works of Roy Lichtenstein.

 About Lichtenstein: A Retrospective: “Tate Modern is proud to present a retrospective of one of the great American artists of the twentieth century. Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is the first full-scale retrospective of this important artist in over twenty years. Co-organised by The Art Institute of Chicago and Tate Modern, this momentous show brings together 125 of his most definitive paintings and sculptures and reassesses his enduring legacy. Lichtenstein is renowned for his works based on comic strips and advertising imagery, coloured with his signature hand-painted Benday dots. The exhibition showcases such key paintings as Look Mickey 1961 lent from the National Gallery Art, Washington and his monumental Artist’s Studio series of 1973–4. Other noteworthy highlights include Whaam! 1963 – a signature work in Tate’s collection – and Drowning Girl 1963 on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.”

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective continues at the Tate Modern through May 27.

Visit the Tate Modern online here.

FF LONDON: The quality products of Belstaff

BRAMMy high end tastes are on display again, but I can’t help myself – I love the jackets and other fine goods offered by classic British brand Belstaff.

About Belstaff: “Belstaff is a global luxury lifestyle brand steeped in its unique British heritage and the spirit of adventure. In Belstaff, the fearless explorer and fashion enthusiast alike, can discover an easy yet refined luxury for a modern lifestyle influenced by Belstaff’s rich history and storied archives. Founded in 1924, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire England, with the innovation of the first water resistant wax cotton, Belstaff quickly became embraced by a group relishing the freedom and daring that the fabrics allowed. Over the years, some of the great and the good have worn the brand from historical titans T.E. Lawrence, Amelia Earhart and Che Guevera to more modern names like Ewan McGregor, Jemma Kidd and British trial racer Sammy Miller. Belstaff’s classic belted wax cotton 4-pocket jacket became an instantly recognizable staple for the racing set throughout the 20th century.”

I love Belstaff’s Bramley jacket: “The Bramley jacket blends biker style with classic outerwear detailing. This lightweight diamond shaped quilted jacket with ribbed panels on shoulders has signature hardware at the center zipper closure, zippered pockets, and a stand collar throat buckle. It is filled with a light fiber padding and finished with a water resistant smooth satin to keep the elements at bay.”

Check out all the great products of Belstaff here.

FF LONDON: The Times of London’s Whiskey Club

WHISKLondon loves their newspapers and the grand dame of newspapers here is the Times. There are many things to love about the Times, chief among them is the fact that they have a “Whiskey Club.”

About The Whisky Club from the Times: “The Whisky Club from the Times and The Sunday Times strives to bring you the very best selection of whiskies and spirits possible, whilst providing interesting and informative notes to help you choose the product that best suits your needs. The Times Whisky Club has single malt whisky, blended whisky and grain whisky from across Scotland and its islands – whether it be from the Lowlands, the Highlands, Speyside, Islay or Campbeltown. The Times Whisky Club wants you to choose the whisky that best suits you, so we offer whisky samples in the form of 3cl drams so that you can try before you buy. Finally, if there is anything else we can help you with, please let us know. Make The Whisky Club from the Times and Sunday Times your source of quality whisky and spirits.”

Check out The Whisky Club from the Times of London here.

Check out The Whisky Club’s collection of American Whiskey (Yay! Bourbon!) here.

A couple of my signature bike photos from London – locked up along the Thames:

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ytwcOn my first day in London on this trip I wandered into a bookstore and picked up a copy of Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Sheldon. I have been carrying this book with me the entire time while traveling around. I like having a book (or Kindle) in my bag while touring around so I can pull it out at any time to read while having a casual meal, waiting on queue for an event, or just relaxing.

In addition, as I seem to be in a bit of at Churchill phase (having just recently featured the fine book Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table as a Weekly Read) this new book was the perfect companion for a London holiday.

I have read a few comprehensive biographies of Winston Churchill over the years, and for the most part they can be overwhelming and/or mostly focused on the iconic years of his wartime leadership. In Young Titan, Mr. Sheldon offers a vivid picture of the young Churchill and his life experiences that helped create the legendary figure he became.

About Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Sheldon: “In modern memory, Winston Churchill remains the man with the cigar and the equanimity among the ruins. Few can remember that at the age of 40, he was considered washed up, his best days behind him. In Young Titan, historian Michael Shelden has produced the first biography focused on Churchill’s early career, the years between 1901 and 1915 that both nearly undid him but also forged the character that would later triumph in the Second World War. Between his rise and his fall, Churchill built a modern navy, experimented with radical social reforms, survived various threats on his life, made powerful enemies and a few good friends, annoyed and delighted two British monarchs, became a husband and father, took the measure of the German military machine, authorized executions of notorious murderers, and faced deadly artillery barrages on the Western front. Along the way, he learned how to outwit more experienced rivals, how to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, how to question the assumptions of his upbringing, how to be patient and avoid overconfidence, and how to value loyalty.”

Take away what we all know about Churchill from the Battle of Britain and he is still a compelling historical figure. By focusing on these core early years of his career, this book illuminates – and humanizes – Churchill in ways that makes reconsider him in a new context.

Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Sheldon is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.

The Union Jack flies high over a colorful carrousel on the Southbank of London:

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MandSI love soup! I have been on a soup binge all winter. Now, while in London, I have had soup as a meal just about every day to fight the cool raw English weather. I am big fan of the soups from British retailer Marks & Spencer.

I am a big fan of the food hall and food specialty shops of Marks & Spencer, and have purchased many of my meals from them on my many trips to London over the years.

This year I discovered their soups, especially their Spicy Lentil Soup (which is yummy) and their Tomato Basil Soup, which is makes me pine for the start of autumn when both tomatoes and basil are abundant in my own garden.

The Spicy Lentil Soup has led me to search for a recipe to make a similar soup myself. I have been enjoying many variations of a lentil soup over the past few months, but have not made one that I would classify as “spicy.”

Looking more closely at the M&S soup’s label, the Spicy Lentil Soup is described as a “tomato soup with vegetables and red lentils” – which makes think the key is in the spices. The label suggests that garlic, cumin, coriander, bay leaves, turmeric and most notably “dried red chilies” make it spicy.

I am going to try to make my own spicy lentil soup, which will be a tomato soup base with the lentils and bits of other veggies – onions, carrots, potatoes and peas (also in the M&S soup) – and I will let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime, add the great soups of M&S to the long list of reasons I love visiting London and wish my tiny little New Hampshire mountain village had a grocery store – if not a Marks & Spencer.

Check out Marks & Spencer here (free shipping to North America).

Explore Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall here.

pyjMarking St. Patrick’s Day in London is interesting. There are plenty of Irish people around, and there is a parade and festival in the city. However, it seems in general people here don’t need an annual excuse to go to the pub to throw back a few pints, so it is just another Sunday (he says with a good amount of cheek).

Of course I prefer my Irish beverages in the Whiskey family… but that is for another time.

To celebrate the day in London Lost Cowboy style – check out the well-curated collection of Irish products and Irish-inspired products on the website of South London-based retailer Roullier White.

…like the Irish-made pyjamas (pajamas stateside) collection, including this old-school-cool night shirt.

About the Luxury Brushed Cotton Nightshirts from Roullier White: “Our brushed cotton is a thicker, more robust fabric in a heavier weight, which means it is suited for when the nights start drawing in. For freedom of movement and a comfortable night’s sleep there are few things better than one of these fine pajamas in luxury 100 % cotton for him or her by Irish manufacturer: Somax.”

Visit the Irish Shoppe of Roullier White here.

Check out all the fine products offered by Roullier White here.

One of the iconic lions standing guard at the base of Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square:

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