Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More National Gallery, A Jo Malone Facial and a Mayfair Walk

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I had a lovely day to remember. Despite the fact that the sun was nowhere in sight, it was mild enough to make walking pleasurable and I stashed a variety of experiences into my day. I haven't yet gotten over jetlag and I did awake at 3. 30 am once again, tossed until 4, 30 am, then spent an hour in bed finishing up The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I have to admit that I find the book sorely disappointing and simply cannot understand why it received the Booker Prize. Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies was far more impressive in its sweep, its historical perspectives and its literary achievements, I think.

I lost internet connectivity this morning, so decided to make myself some breakfast before I had a shower and left at 9. 45 am for the National Gallery where I hoped to cover the six rooms that comprise works from the 16th centuries. The huge canvasses by Paolo Veronese and Titian were quite marvelous indeed and The Four Elements by the Belgian artist Joachim Beuckelaer featuring Earth, Air, Fire and Water were a revelation. Since I got there early in the morning, I found the galleries quite deserted--a fact that made my contemplation of them much more enjoyable.

Then, I took a bus to Brooke Street just off Old Bond Street where I had a 12 noon appointment for a Facial Workshop at Jo Malone. I was really looking forward to this session as I do love Jo Malone products very much and it is always interesting to discover her new lines and fragrances. I was offered a choice of champagne or tea and, of course, no marks for guessing that I chose the former.

As I settled down to my one hour session that included a complimentary facial and a hand massage, Ranjeeta, one of the Sales Associates introduced herself to me. Together with Caroline, her beautiful black colleague, I felt thoroughly pampered. It was no surprise to me that "Jo's" Avocado Cleanser and Rosemary and Mint Toner would feel divine. I am quite familiar with her fragrance line, of course, my own favorites being Grapefruit, Pomegranate Noir and Orange Blossom. However, when Ranjeeta slathered my face with a luxurious White Nectarine and Honey Mask and gave me a relaxing massage, it felt quite blissful indeed.

While the mask did a deep nourishing job, she worked on my hands, massaging them with the exfoliating Vitamin E Scrub that contains sugar crystals and salts and almond oil and then treating them to the Vitamin E Gel for which Jo Malone is famous. When she was done, she sprayed a combination of Pomegranate Noir and Orange Blossom colognes all over my hands and then returned to my face.

When the mask was wiped off, she slathered on a small amount of the magical Vitamin E serum and a goodly amount of the Jojoba Cream and mixing them together, she applied them lovingly to the contours of my face. I have to say that my skin glowed and felt like a million quid!!! So heavenly! I noticed then that all the tiny black scabs that had formed after my face was cauterized in Bombay to remove a collection of minuscule skin tags and warts on it have entirely disappeared. After the beating it took during the cauterization, this was really the best time to pamper my complexion and nourish it and hopefully the little red spots that have clustered around my face in their wake will disappear completely with time. I am glad I had the courage to go ahead with the cauterization process in Bombay and I am glad that I chanced to come upon this promotion at the Jo Malone salon--indeed it could not have come at a more opportune time for the cauterization and the pollution in Bombay have done a number on my skin and it is time to get it back on the road towards healing. As if all this were not enough, I was presented with a small bag containing a sample of the Vitamin E gel and the newest fragrance, Sweet Lime and Cedar, in a small purse spray. As the treatments were being carried out on my face, I sipped my chilled champagne and felt as if I could not have asked for a more delightful treat.

Then, I browsed in a few stores in the swanky Mayfair area. Everything is the stores is heavily discounted and were I someone who enjoyed shopping, I guess I could have had a field day. As it is, I prefer to window shop. When a bus came along, I hopped into it as far as Marble Arch from where I intended to launch on another one of my self-guided walking tours. I am resuming them a long time after becoming diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, so I chose a rather easy one based on the heart of the Oxford Street area.

The walk is entitled "Hangings and Hoaxes" and when it left the bustle of Marble Arch behind--interestingly, the site was once known as Tyburn Street and was the venue of grizzly public hangings that attracted countless spectators--it took me into the quietest mews. I passed by the blue plaques that proclaimed the sites of former homes of famous authors--Wilkie Collins, author of The Moonstone and The Woman in White, the first detective crime fiction ever produced; T. S. Eliot; and American patriot Benedict Arnold. Passing by a couple of hotels in the vicinity, I learned about Victorian murders and subsequent hangings. There were a couple of interesting stories associated with parliamentary conspiracies as in the Cato Conspiracy and a hoax associated with Lady Tichborne's family. I particularly enjoyed visiting a pub called The Windsor Castle on Crawford Place which was filled to the ceiling (quite literally) with royal commemorative memorabilia such as plates and mugs and bowls and busts that were piled in the windows and on the walls and in specially constructed niches on the ceiling. Indeed every inch of space inside is taken by this amazing collection and I was very glad that I asked the bartender's permission to browse through the rooms and marvel at their treasures.

Then, quite by happenstance, I found myself on Portman Square passing right by the premises of Habibsons Bank, in which our family friend Bande Hasan is the CEO. On impulse, I decided to pop in and, if he were free to see me, to say Hello to him. As it turned out, he had just finished his lunch and insisted I have a cup of coffee and some biscuits before I set out once again on my tourist route. We caught up on the happenings of the past few weeks and I was particularly intrigued by his accounts of the many shoots he has undertaken. As someone who has recently taken to shooting, he talked about his success with stalking and shooting pheasants, partridges and pigeons and about the feasting that is a part of this very English tradition. After exchanging pleasantries for a good twenty minutes, I was on my way again arriving on Edgeware Road, at the end of the walk.

I hopped into buses that took me slowly back home. Indeed it was excruciatingly slow along Oxford Street and I couldn't for the life of me see why the bus crawled the way it did as there wasn't the sort of frenzied crowds that were in evidence prior to Christmas. By the time I arrived home, darkness was falling over the city (the sun now sets at about 4. 30 pm) and I was relieved to discover that I did recover internet connectivity and was able to retrieve my email. A couple of hours spent with my PC gave my feet a much-needed rest before I decided to do a bit of cooking--a Sausage and Feta Cheese Frittata and a Stir-Fry with Mixed Vegetables.

Then, it was time to eat my dinner while watching some innane commentary by the "Fashion Police" on th red carpets outfits worn at the Golden Globe Awards. By the time they were half way through it, I was nodding off on the couch.

It was that darn jetlag playing up again!

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