Sunday, November 16, 2008

Goodbye Llew...and a Treat at Carluccio's

November 16, 2008

Hard to believe that Llew's two-week vacation has come to an end. But neither one of us is complaining. We had a fabulous time together and made the most of every minute. Greece was splendid and our days in London were packed with wonderful activity. Llew left for the States this afternoon taking with him many happy memories of our autumn break together...and, not surprisingly, in the midst of our parting, he left his scarf behind in my closet--a small reminder of his presence, therefore, still lingers in my space.

We started our day with the 9 am mass at St. Etheldreda's Parish at Ely Place where, after the service, we visited with our next-door neighbor Barbara Cookson. Llew packed his suitcases over coffee and within a hour, we set out to see the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum since Llew wanted to examine them again after having visited the Parthenon in Athens. Maybe because I was so sorry to see him go away, my mind refused to work and we ended up walking to Fleet Street to catch a bus to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery and it was literally when I was on the steps of the National that it occurred to me that we were in the wrong place. We ought to have been in the British Museum to which we could have walked from my Holborn flat. Talk about the mind shutting down!!! Mine seems to be doing this much too often these days. Or maybe it's just the fact that London has too many museums!!!

So, we walked to the British Museum in a very fine mist--not a drizzle, not a spritz--the teasing sort of spray that reminds you that it is raining! Within ten minutes, we were inside, looking at the sculpture that was taken away by Lord Elgin from the exterior of the Parthenon and brought to England. Somehow, neither one of us was impressed. In fact, we were left colder than the marble from which they were sculpted and I did turn to Llew and say, "Doesn't have much of an impact, does it?" He seemed to agree for he really didn't have a major reaction to the sculpture at all. I guess we'd have preferred by far to have seen the work on the walls of the Parthenon themselves. I did want to take a look at the Karyatid that is supposed to be in the British Museum. This is one of the six female sculptures that is on the Erechtheion, another building on the Acropolis. But it was nowhere in sight and Llew was running late and didn't want to linger--so I decided to seek it out on another occasion. Walking home quickly, we stopped at Sainsburys for a few groceries, before we ate a hasty Indian meal (Chicken Do Piaza, Bombay Aloo and Mushroom Pilaf--our last meal together for a while) and he left at 1 pm in time to make his 4.30 pm flight from Heathrow. He did not even have the time to eat dessert. Instead, he carried Sokolatina (a chocolate mouse pastry from Athens) with him and said he would eat it at leisure later--perhaps while waiting at Heathrow to board his flight!

I had barely turned away from the window from where I had waved goodbye to him, when my next-door neighbor Tim Freeman rang my doorbell to invite me to join him and his wife Barbara for lunch at Carluccio's, the chain of Italian restaurants that is very highly reputed in London. I told him that I had just eaten lunch but would be happy to join them for coffee and dessert. I was so grateful to get away for a bit as I am sure I would have spent a dismal afternoon without Llew.

Instead of which I had such a great time in the superb company of these folks and made the acquaintance of Barbara's niece, Hannah, who was visiting them for the afternoon. Hannah is in the process of buying her first flat near Milton Keynes. She is a lovely bubbly young lady, very smart and supremely poised. A marketing specialist, she works for a company that supplies maintenance personnel to large corporate firms--a company that employs over 20,000 people all over the UK. Spending the afternoon with them really took my mind off Llew's departure and I was able to return home in very good spirits indeed. How very kind and thoughtful of them to have included me in their lunch plans! I feel so deeply grateful.

As for the famous Carluccio's, it truly lived up to its reputation. Tim very cleverly ordered the sort of large appetizer platters that allow for casual 'grazing'. Though I had no real intentions of eating, I found myself drawn towards the salami and the grilled peppers smeared with pesto, the bruschetta and the prawns and the most delicious caponata I have ever eaten. I was even more thrilled to discover that one can purchase portions of it to take home. Except for the fact that my fridge is full of food, I'd have taken home a tub; but it is a treat I will postpone for another day--besides, it is so great to know that Carluccio's is so close to our place that I can nip in there at any time and get myself a tubful!

The best part of our meal, however, was dessert. The three of them ordered the Lemon Tarts (and I can see why because the piece Tim passed me so I could taste a bit was just fantastic). I went for a Sponge Cake soaked in rum, studded with toasted almonds and chocolate shavings. Tim also ordered two glasses of Limoncello, one for him and one for me and boy did that go down smoothly! It took me right back to Naples and Capri where my friend Amy Tobin and I had sampled this sunniest of liqueurs and truly enjoyed it--unbelievably only this past March. Somehow with all the travel I have done this year, Italy already seems years away.

So I guess I will return to routine now as I catch up on my travel writing, my grading of student essays and the transcribing of my interviews. With Llew having returned to Southport, my own holiday has come to a close and it is back to the salt mines for me, come tomorrow!

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