Folger Shakespeare Library London Board meeting

I am on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Folger decided to have its June board meeting in London this year. The Board meeting itself was held at the British Library and quite productive. (Or, rather, getting to know the other Board members and the senior staff better was extremely productive. Hopefully, the staff, for whom this board meeting was orders of magnitude more work than normal board meetings, thought so, too.)

At any rate, we got to see not only the British Library, which had an exhibit not only on Shakespeare (duh!) but also had a punk exhibit, where there was the only document signed by all the Sex Pistols (kicking out one of the original band members and signing on Sid Vicious), but also two plays.

The first one was “Elegy,” which a board member who shall remain anonymous reacted to by saying he would rather cut off a finger than see it again. Someone labeled the play as a thought experiment, which I think is an accurate description. Note that I myself am not fond of thought experiments as plays.

The second play was “Romeo and Juliet” with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio and directed by Kenneth Branagh. It was a fabulous production—set in fascist Italy and superbly acted. As I get older, however, this play becomes less a romantic and tragic love story and more about the idiocy that results from an overabundance of testosterone. But I digress.

I stayed on an extra day and decided to spend it at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I emerged four and a half hours later. The museum is nominally about the decorative arts, but it really is so much more. It has everything from illuminated manuscripts to Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks (5 of them!) to ceramics from around the world to Islamic art to architectural models. Not surprisingly, the European exhibits are much stronger than the non-European exhibits, but everything is good.

V&A cast room

V&A cast room


V&A medieval room

Add onto that an obligatory trip to Harrod’s to check out the food stalls, and I would call this a very successful visit!

Restaurant review: Le Gavroche (London)

Really, there is no need to review this restaurant in the sense that it has received a 2-star Michelin rating, and therefore, needs no further endorsement. That being said, it’s been fun to look at their menu (that they kindly sent to us after we returned home) and think about what we ordered.

No photos, either. We didn’t want to look completely like uncouth Americans!

For hors d’oeuvres, we had the following:

Coeur d’Artichaut “Lucullus” (artichoke filled with foie gras, truffles and chicken mousse), which was voted the favorite appetizer at the table;

Escalope de Foie Gras Poêlée, Prunelles et Amandes (pan fried duck foie gras with damsons and marcona almonds);

Coquilles St Jacques Rôties, Choux, Rutabaga et Estragon (roast scallops with winter cabbage, swede and tarragon veloute); and

Consommé de Champignons et Salsifis Canard Fumé et Flan de Persil (clear mushroom consommé, roast salsify, smoked duck and parsley flan).

For the main course, we ordered:

Darne de Turbot Rôtie, Carottes, Navets et Radis Beurre Blanc à la Ciboulette (roast “T” bone of wild turbot, carrots, turnips, radish and chive butter sauce);

Filet de Veau Rossini (veal fillet with foie gras and truffle madeira sauce); and

Epaule d’Agneau de Lait Braisée, Olive Pimentées (braised shoulder of Pyrenean lamb with spiced olive crumb, roast potatoes and garlic).

There was no consensus here, but I think the lamb was the best dish.

And, finally, for dessert, we stuffed ourselves with:

L’Assiette du Chef (an assortment of the chef’s favorite desserts); and

Soufflé aux Fruits de la Passion et Glace Ivoire (hot passion fruit soufflé with white chocolate ice cream).

Naturally, there were also petit fours to end the meal with because the restaurant was worried you might not have eaten enough.

Service was efficient and impeccable and friendly (in the British way, not the American way). The food was beyond wonderful!  All in all, the 2-star Michelin rating was well deserved.


Le Gavroche is located at 43 Upper Brook Street in London (

Spring Break 2015 (London & Paris)

Our exchange student from China had never been to Europe, and so we decided to “sacrifice” our spring break and take her to London and Paris.

We started off in London where it was sunny(!) and, if not exactly warm, warmer than in DC. We stayed at the Shangri-la in London, which is located at the Shard and gives you smashing aerial views of London.

daytime view of London from the Shangri-la at the Shard

daytime view of London from the Shangri-la at the Shard

night time view of London from the Shangri-la at the Shard

night time view of London from the Shangri-la at the Shard

We did all of the customary tourist sites (Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Abbey Road, etc.) and a couple off the beaten road (Greenwich, Imperial War Museum). Highlights included a “WhoLock” tour (touring the sites in the Dr. Who series and the BBC Sherlock series) and dinner at Le Gavroche.

no visit to London is complete without a photo with a Beefeater

no visit to London is complete without a photo with a Beefeater or two

Abbey Road!

Abbey Road!

the meridian line at the Greenwich Royal Observatory

the meridian line at the Greenwich Royal Observatory

during the WhoLock tour

during the WhoLock tour

We then took the Chunnel train to Paris. Customary tourist sites included Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. A little more off the beaten path were the Museé de l’Orangeries (with 8 gigantic Monet paintings mounted in 2 rooms especially constructed for them) and Museé Marmottan, which now has become one of my favorite museums with its fabulous collections of medieval illuminated manuscripts and Monets (the Monet paintings were mostly donated by his son, who was trying to limit the amount of estate tax he had to pay).

my favorite view of Notre Dame--from the back with its flying buttresses

my favorite view of Notre Dame–from the back with its flying buttresses

Sainte-Chapelle (the photo does not do justice to the beauty)

Sainte-Chapelle (the photo does not do justice to the beauty of the stained glass windows)

freezing at the top of the Eiffel Tower

freezing at the top of the Eiffel Tower

view from the Shangri-la Paris

view from the Shangri-la Paris

Dining highlights included Guy Savoy and Taillevent. Dining at Guy Savoy with its maître d’, Hubert, is like a show (where the dinner is the show). Dining at Taillevent is like dining at a friend’s house (assuming the friend is one of the top chefs in the world). I like dining at Taillevent better—it’s less showy and more intimate. Naturally, the rest of the family preferred the show. (More on the fabulously decadent meals later.)

We also did our best to relieve any sovereign debt issues the United Kingdom or France may have had.  Whatever their debt amount was, it is something less now.  🙂

The trip back was uneventful, although, of course, we saw three sets of people we knew, either on our flight or at one of the airports. Fortunately, they were all people we like.  🙂

Our exchange student seemed to really enjoy the trip, which was the whole point. And, of course, so did we!