Saturday, April 29, 2006

Together in Istanbul

The Artists have Landed! We (all eight of us: Paul, Mary Pat, Sherri, Jane, Mary Claire, Mary Anne, Nancy and Barbara) have just had breakfast together at the Apricot and are heading out to Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque (right outside the window!). Luckily there is a free computer right here in the hotel so may be able to keep this regularly updated.

We are going out now, so more later!

Back to the blog. (Must excuse any atypıcal characters here - keyboards are dıfferent - cannot locate the comma and there are two 'i' letters - one wıth a dot and one wıthout a dot - the one wıthout a dot ıs ın the regular İ spot. Hope that thıs ıs decıferable. Also no spell check - AND thıs keyboard ıs dıfferent from the one at the Aprıcot. I got my memory card downloaded to a couple of CDs -16 YTL wıth delıvery to the restaurant where we were eatıng lunch!- and tryıed to upload some pıctures to the blog - but have not fıgured ıt out yet - the help menu and commands are ınt Turkısh - so a bit too much of a challenge rıght now.We all went into the Blue Mosque and then the Hagia Sofia. Wow. These buildıngs are very close to each other and also quıte quıte close to the Aprıcot Hotel.)

In anycase - plan ıs to do some ART thıs afternoon - and meet back at Aprıcot at 6:30 thıs evenıng - so thıs ıs my chance to update the blog.

Flıght from London to Istanbul was quıte smooth and passed quıckly. The map feature showıng our route was facınatıng - as Parıs then Germany then Eastern Europe and Greece passed by below our plane. The flıght was about 3 and a half hours and very smooth. Unfortunately when we got to the baggage claım Mary Claıre's luggage was mıssıng. Though rather dıstressıng a claım was fıled and the happy endıng ıs that they are delıverıng her suıtcase thıs afternoon to the Aprıcot.

A very quıck rıde from the aırport to Sultanamet happened after mıdnıght and we arrıved to fınd that the Aprıcot was one room short - but had found an alternate for one nıght - Nancy volunteered. A warm welcome from 24 year old Husseın who seemed a bıt dıssapoınted that the 4 ladıes were not so close to hıs age range. We were all ınterrogated as to whether any younger daughters were avaılable - Mary Anne's Claıre mıght meet Husseın's crıterıa - ı.e. young sıngle and female. Regardless of our advanced age Husseın enthusıastıcally trıed (wıth some success) to charm us ın what seems to be a natıonal characterıstıc so far.

Our rooms are basıc but clean and nıce wıth toılets and showers en suıte. My room benefıtted from the 5 a.m. prayer call quıte well - I heard every word but apparently fell back to sleep to awake at my alarm at 7:30 for a shower and then up to the rooftop for breakfast wıth the gang. Breakfast was very nıce - terrıfıc yoghurt (we suspect ıt ıs full fat as part of ıts attractıon) cheeses - breads - omelets (cheese or plaın) made to order - tomatoes - cucumbers - more later.

Then a quıck walk ınto the charmıng neıghborhood up to the Blue Mosque (not more than 5 or 10 mınutes) past only 5 - 10 carpet salesmen.

Everythıng seems more open and aıry that I had expected. Pretty paınted buıldıngs no more than 3 or 4 storıes hıgh. The mınarets of the Mosque and Aya Sofıa can be seen from lots of places. Hoards of people here today (Sunday) wıth lots of Turkısh people as well as lots of vısıtors from Europe and poınts west. Lots of kıds too.

Insıde both buıldıngs are bıg open areas gıvıng a quıte peaceful feelıng despıte the large numbers of people. Beautıful detaıls and decoratıon. I really can't fully descrıbe the areas other than that they seem so fılled wıth lıght and free of excess ornamentatıon that lots of more European publıc buıldıngs seem to be fılled wıth.

(Just lost the rest of thıs message and feel that I must quıt whıle I am ahead. More later.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday in London - Cortauld and Nat. Portrait Gallery Talk

After much hugging and well-wishing at the St. Margaret, Sherri and Jane wheeled their suitcases onto the Tube to get to Heathrow for the flight to Istanbul, and I headed to Somerset House, a very easy walk toward the Thames. After a bit of backtracking I found the Somerset House and was completely blown away after looking into it though the Strand Entrance. I saw a huge inner courtyard lined with impressive white stone buildings. The courtyard had a large flat area of fountains set flat on the ground that spout up to various height over time. That made me think how much my son Alex would have like to see it and figure out how it worked, and also how he would have loved to run through it (which was quite part of the design I think.) Anyway, the weather had gotten nicer and nicer, so a little bite seemed to be in order, and the cafe beckoned. What an excellent idea! I took my sandwich out on the Riverside Terrace, overlooking the Thames and basked in the sunshine. Perfect temperature and setting.

OK, but life is not ALL about eating and relaxing, so back to work, to LOOK at ART! I bought a ticket to see the Hermitage stuff and the Courtault Collection. Sped through the magnificent gold and Greek stuff the Russians had acquired, also coptic textiles from Egypt (who knew?) then to the Cortauld.

Words (almost) fail me regarding the experience of seeing so many famous Impressionist paintings in such a great setting, but I'll try. The setting is POSH, these rooms themselves are quite remarkable. Fancy ceilings and walls with some antique table type things and chairs to give it a little life, then these paintings hung quite nicely around the room. Not too many, each thoughtfully placed and separate from the others. Causes you to just breath a little slower and slow down. No crowds, subdued light coming in from the couryard windows. Some rooms have a central padded bench or seat for longer viewing. Go online and see what they have, its incredible. I took non-flash pictures of many of them, as permitted, but more just to remember that I was there. Only permitted after asking for permission and signing an agreement not to reproduce (I think, I just signed, bad lawyer behaviour).
Saw even more magnificent stuff on the next level, no photographs allowed, but got many art cards from the gift shop and even a book.

(As an aside, wise words from Sherri Brown on buying books while traveling: think of them as bricks, and think about carring them with you on your trip. So my theory is only buy if not available on internet and its REALLY special. Also have to remind self that London is one of most expensive cities in the world and that Turkey may have knockoffs of any little thing, and lots of handcrafted items so JUST WAIT!)

Anyway the Courtault was terrific, I highly recommend it, wish Jane and Sherri could have been there too.

So then I walked toward the National Portrait Gallery to see if I could get in to a talk by Paula Rago, artist of several remarkable portraits in the NPG, but artist of mostly other figurative work. Of particular interest is that she works in pastel! Anyway, the Art Gods were sending luck my way and I got into the talk (£3) after waiting in line with a few others hoping to get in to the sold out talk. I took about 4 pages of notes (in the dark) and was thrilled to hear her. Cannot explain it all, but will later. A BIG Thrill for me, how fortunate to luck into being here and getting to hear her.

So bouyed with that excitement I walked back to the hotel, but saw this internet cafe and decided to update y'all. Quite a big place but nicer than a previous huge internet place Jane, Sherri and I tried our first day. So now, out into the bustling crowd to the St. Margaret for my last sleep here in wonderful London. May correct my sense of direction by looking at the map. Our hotel has been such a perfect location for all these museums. Wonderful service, location and feeling (I told them to look at our Blog! Hello St. Margaret's!). Don't know about what to do tomorrow, maybe the Victoria and Albert or maybe not. Will have to get on the Tube by 1 p.m. I think, so not sure . . .

Perhaps next post from Turkey, whenever an internet cafe is located, might not be as easy as here.


London continued - update on Thursday and the Tates

Hard to think, but Paul and MaryPat are already in Istanbul, Sherri and Jane are probably landing about now, while Nancy is getting ready to board her plane in Seattle. By tomorrow night (11 p.m. Istanbul time) all of us will have arrived in various stages of jet-lag.

Meanwhile, back to the Thursday adventures, the Tates were both wonderful, especially the Tate Modern - from the refreshing, new way to look at spaces point of view. And the superb lunch/tea we had in the restaurant at the top of the Tate Modern put us in a very good mood. We took the lift up to the 7th floor and quite fortunately got a table right on the side of the restaurant, along the floor to ceiling windows that face the Thames and look down at the landscaped and textured waterfront and the city along the other side of the river in the background. No skyscrapers, a real mix of historic buildings and modern.

OK, OK, I know you want to know what we had to eat for lunch: Jane had a red onion tart with a salad of parmesan shavings and rocket (a rather challenging form of lettace), Sherri had a lovely arrangement of mackeral (sorry, can't find the spell check, my collegues at LAA know what a bad speller I am) and I had some steamed greens (dainty bits of broccoli) and a grautin of leeks (cut up lightly cooked leeks with a creamy cheesy thing sort of baked on the top.) Then we followed up with tea and scones, with the inevitable and quite addicting, clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is not clotted at all that we could tell, its like a light, fresh butter, with a touch of sour cream perhaps. Whatever it is, we liked it. We justified this extravagant meal by calling it our dinner, rather than our usual dainty lunch (ha ha!)

So after lunch and actually looking through the collection, such as it was (half of it was being rehung, so we only got half, one half of which was very nicely displayed - abstracts by Rothko, Pollack, and lots of others, the other half was a bit more crowded and didn't seem as striking.) Then to save our feet for more gallery walking we took a genuine London taxi cab to the Tate Britain. Cute little taxi vehicle, pictures were taken, cost was £3 each including a generous tip (the driver had forgotten to turn on his fare machine for half the drive, but we tried to make it up to him.)

Tate Britain was nice, but we didn't have too much time there before it closed. Then out to walk up to St. Martin in the Fields, via St. James Park. Very nice walk, great to excape the cars and traffic and to admire the tulips and flowering trees and cheeky squirrels. Then to the church to pick up our tickets and get in line (can't figure out how to spell "que" for getting in line here)for seats when the doors open. We got in, £8 for seats on the side of the church with obscured view of the strings. Bach works for viola and other assorted pieces in the first half (we declined to purchase the program for £1, so who knows what they were playing.) (I have to say that after a while it all sounded quite similar . . . wish there were some winds playing that would have kept me a bit more involved perhaps!) At 8:30 it was announced that there would be a 20 minute interval, and we decided that we would call it a night, since we had to walk back to hotel and get ready to pack up tomorrow.

Walk back in the brisk air and the bustling street life was great. We walked right through Seven Dials, did not witness any murders or skulduggery however. (My mystery reading made me a bit apprehensive.)

A good nights sleep was had by all.

London Updates - Thursday and Friday

Sherri, Jane and I are all tapping away here at the Camera Shop/Cafe/Internet connection just down the street from the British Museum. It was nice to hear back from our Juneau friends sharing our trip vicariously.

Yesterday we walked our feet off by "doing" the Tate Modern and the Tate British, finishing off at a string concert at St. Martin in the Fields. After our usual wonderful breakfast at St. Margarets we decided to save our walking for the museums, and thus took a bus to St. Paul's Cathedral (Wow), and then a short walk accross the Milleneum Bridge to the Tate Modern. The Millenium Bridge is a pedestrian way that crosses the Thames and goes straight to the entrance of the Tate. The Tate Modern was fantastic, the building itself is a large converted power plant or something and the large scale of spaces is perfectly suited to the modern spirit of the art. Saw a great installation of boxes (maybe I can add a picture later)

For now, will have to finish up, since Jane and Sherri are packed and getting ready for one last shot of Britain before heading out to Heathrow for the flight to Istanbul. Barbara had to pack up just to move rooms in St. Margarets. Jane and Sherri will take the tube at about 2 p.m. Barbara has the Courthalt on her list and plans to wait for a last minute spot at an artist's talk at the National Portrait Gallery this evening. Then tomorrow more strolling and then to meet Nancy at Heathrow for the flight to Istanbul.

I promise to fill in food descriptions etc. but for now must log off and toddle off with the girls.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

London, Wednesday, April 26

The intrepid trio continue to enjoy beautiful Bloomsbury. We awoke quite late this morning, almost missed breakfast! But no, we managed to arrive in time for our poached eggs, grilled tomatoes and hot tea. There was bright blue sky outside and we planned to walk to Covent Garden and points towards the Thames guided by Jane our wonderful navigator and London guide.

Must mention our great dinner last night at Il Cataletto, a tiny jewel of a restaurant just round the corner. We had risotto with pheasant, crispelle with pumpkin and gnocchi with mushroom. You know, just the usual run of the mill fare . . . Very wonderful. Then we sketched in our room, inspired by Michaelangelo. Sherri was told to go to bed after 10 p.m., she was so excited by her new watercolor set, it was hard to stop!

So back to today, we got to Covent Garden via many little streets, none of them parallel to the other but all pretty and charming with great buildings and ornaments. We took a coffee break in the Garden and were seranaded by a string quartet. More sketching. Then, fortified we found ourselves in the vicinity of the National Portrait Gallery. We restricted ourselves to the first floor, which was contemporary portraits (1990 on). Very, very interesting and stimulating to see so many approaches to portraiture. Several large pastels, watercolors as well as oils and acrylics.

Then down to the cafe for a little energy in the form of soup, salad etc, followed with a chaser of scone with clotted cream (a little like soft butter that tends toward sour cream - quite wonderful) and a little individual pot of strawberry jam. Oh, and more tea. Tea involves your own pot of tea, a cup and saucer, a pot of milk and artisan like sugar cubes.

After the lunch we walked toward the Thames, saw the Houses of Parliament by way of the Embankment gardens. Big Ben, Westminster Cathedral (passed on the £10 entry fee and long line) and went to the gift shop instead. Very nice day and lots of views of incredible buildings and tons of security. Bobbies with automatic weapons! On the way back we tried to walk down Downing Street to have our picture taken with Tony or at least the "10", but large metal fences and lots of security prevented us.

We really walked steadily to get back to the hotel environs by 5:30 p.m. so that Barbara and Sherri could call home (8:30 a.m. in Juneau) before Barbara's Alex and Sherri's Ava got off to school. Barbara called from a phone box right outside the British Museum and heard the big news that it was actually decent in Juneau.

Enough for now I think, the chair here at my little internet hangout is less than comfortable, but the connection is fast and its close to the hotel, all plusses! Maybe a pub dinner tonight and sketching the private garden behind St. Margarets . . .

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

London, Day Two

Although technically its day two here, we feel like its our first real day, now that we are out of our sleep deprived state. After a great breakfast served at our hotel, consisting of poached eggs on toast, bacon, grilled tomatoes, tea, juice, prunes, etc. we set out for the British Museum at the crack of 11 a.m. Walking the 2 short blocks was easily accomplished and since entrance is free, we breezed right in. We had noticed that there is an special exhibition of Michaelangelo drawings, so we bought tickets for a 12:50 time for £10. Then went and browzed the Pre-history rooms.

The prehistory stuff was terrific. Lots of British stuff of course but also lots of European things and then quite a bit about the Byzantine era and Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire.

Then the Michaelangelo drawings ( which make you want to quit drawing altogether as well as dedicate yourself to anatomy and life drawing simultaneously.) Wow. A short stop at the special gift shop set up for that show, then lunch at 2:30 in the Court Yard Restaurant. Very nice and fairly expensive but a truely classy place - perfect for the likes of 3 classy lady artists from Juneau. Then more gift shops, postcard writing. We decide to split up so Sherri can nap, and Barbara can find a good internet spot, and Jane can explore. Plus they close the British Museum at 5 so we had to get out!

So tonight, who knows, we have to get our art practice in (Jane and Barbara did a little sketching in the Museum before it closed) but we probably will settle somewhere in one of the many public rooms in our hotel to draw. Dinner may be at a pub, but may not, we'll see. . .

Turkey seems lots closer now. London is full of international and local tourists, but not feeling crowed or hectic. Lots of flowering trees and spring flowers - we hear they are having a rather late spring.

Well, that is all for now!

The London adventures

We are here, and have had a nice long nights sleep at St. Margaret's Hotel in Bloomsbury. After landing at Heathrow and standing in an interminable passport entry line we found the Tube and rode the Picadilly line right into London. Got off at Russell Square and walked to our hotel (less than 10 minutes). After unpacking a little and putting our feet up on the wall (waterfall position from yoga) we forced ourselves to get up again and get out so that we could start resetting our clocks to London time. (Nine hours ahead of Juneau.)

Tea or some other form of caffeine was definitely in order, and was quickly found, along with a few refined carbohydrates of the sugary type. Then more strolling around to find an internet site. Along the way we found the BEST, quaintest arts store.

Here is a description of L Cornelissen & Son
105 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3RY

"Established in 1855, little has changed in this enchanting art supplies shop. Inside, its charming and old-fashioned. Towering shelves sweep up to the ceiling, lined with large glass jars of pigments and pastels.

A favorite in art circles, it stocks a wonderful array of brushes, calligraphy equipments, a specialize range of gold leaf and other decorative effects, oil paints, paper and a small selection of books. They even supply quills to film companies. It’s worth popping in, if just to get a glimpse of the unique interior and to soak up the musty smells and long-standing Victorian atmosphere."

Whoa . . . It is amazing, and close (uh oh!)

Then Sherri, Jane and Barbara decided we better do something art related, so we walked back to Russell Square and claimed a bench and sketched in the beautiful park under increasingly clear skies and setting sun.

Then back to the hotel and got a recommendation for a great Indian restaurant - The Chambelli. VERY nice, linen table cloths, quiet, and to top it all, absolutely terrific food and service. We managed to have a little dinner (sharing all around the lamb curry, lamb & spinach, and lentil soup, and the BEST Naan (flat fried bread fresh off the stove.) Then home to our basement bedroom with garden windows. We all slept from 9 till 2 a.m. then all woke around the same time and then managed to all get back to sleep - till about 8 a.m.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Anticipation . . . .

All over Juneau and Seattle we are each packing, unpacking, writing lists, making new lists, packing, tossing and turning, getting ready for our rendezvous in Istanbul!

This entry is our first and just a test at this point!