On Friday we became tourists for the day and ventured into London for a evening walking tour... but more of that later. Deciding to make the most of the fact that we had a free day and the weather was fine we headed into town at lunchtime and made our way to the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition of Cezanne Portraits which runs until 11th February.
For the first time since turning sixty I dicovered I qualified for a concession ticket which only meant a £2 saving but it still pleased me more than it probably should have. There have to be some benefits to turning sixty after all!
The exhibition didn't disappoint and it was wonderful to see so many fabulous portraits, some familiar and some never seen before.
Boy in a Red Waistcoat
These are just a couple of my favourites... I just love the use of colour and the brushstrokes and as ever it made me want to take up my paintbrushes, which of course I haven't done since my last painting class almost a month ago!
Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair
Still with a couple of hours to spare we then headed in the direction of Spittlefields and although we hadn't booked we took a chance and went to Ottolenghi. We were in luck and they fitted us in for an early dinner. As ever the service was friendly and the food was amazing. I rarely eat dessert when I'm out as so often I find it disappointing... cloying, synthetic and over sweet. But not at Ottolenghi! Stewart had a passionfruit cheesecake with a spiced pineapple topping which was delicious and I had a less photogenic (hence no photo!) chocolate rum fondant cake which was absolutely sublime. The best dessert ever!
Feeling fully replete we then headed to Aldgate for the start of our tour... and the start of my ripping yarn! Family members have taken on board that we don't really need more "stuff" and also in the spirit of my sixty x sixty project they have been buying us "experiences" rather than things for birthdays etc. One of these was a "Gangster" tour of London, which Stewart's son had bought us because of my Dad's East End gangster connections. Perhaps I should explain... my Dad (in the dark suit) was the youngest of five boys with one little sister. There was talk in the family of one of my uncles hanging out with certain gangs in the East End back in the 1950s but despite looking like they are posing for a mafia mob wedding, my Dad's only real connection with gangsters was that he was in the same regiment and in the army doing his national service at the same time the Kray twins. He certainly had stories to tell about them but no connections!
Neither of us really fancied the Gangster tour of London lead by "Nick the Greek", an actor neither of us had heard of, as it mostly sounded like a film promotional tour for said Nick. Instead we swapped it for a Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel and a Shakespeare tour of the city (to be taken next year).
I guess in my head I imagined walking through deserted dark and foggy cobbled Alleys but of course London isn't like that anymore... it is all slick modern office buildings and streets full of after work revellers. Standing in a modern square in front of a high rise building listening to Friday night sirens and being told this was the spot where victim no. 2 was found wasn't quite so atmospheric as I'd hoped. But nonetheless, our guide Paul was very knowledgeable and entertaining and walked us through what was in the 1880s a very poor run down area of London.
He had plenty of gruesome photos to illustrate his stories and we stood outside some old pubs where the victims had been drinking on the evenings they were killed. And of course we were treated to Paul's theory as to the identy of Jack the Ripper... but I can't disclose that of course! All in all it was an entertaining and fun way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday night.
Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to get my senior railcard before my next trip into London!