March 2nd, 2014


London and Ireland Trip, September 26: Ladurée, Shakespeare's Globe

On our last full day in England, we decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus tour that we had meant to take on the day we arrived. Perhaps we hadn’t planned well enough, but things just didn’t gel that well this day; it took us longer than we expected to get to the tour, longer than expected for the tour to begin, and longer than expected to get from place to place on the bus.

We did get off at Buckingham Palace, but there was a long line and we were running late. We did not tour the palace, but only visited the gift shop.
Buckingham Palace Gates

After that, we decided to try another attempt to find a lovely tea. Since Fortnum & Mason had been such a disappointment, for this try we went to Harrod’s.

Harrod’s actually looked really nifty inside - I wish we had had more time to spend there.
Harrod's Harrod's

A Harrod’s staff member recommended Ladurée, a French tearoom in a back corner of Harrod’s. (I do not know what the difference is between an English tearoom and a French tearoom.) It was an outstanding experience, and everything we had hoped a luxurious English tea would be.

Ladurée offered a selection of 17 different teas, which is much more variety than I am really qualified to handle. So we went with my usual fallback, which is to choose the specialty of the house: Thé Mélange Spécial Ladurée, "Delicate composition of black teas from China and Sri Lanka and rose petals, with aromas of orange, bergamot, blackcurrant, vanilla, cinnamon and caramel”.
Most of those subtleties were lost on me, but the tea was really excellent.
(We were asked not to take pictures in Ladurée, and I almost complied. But I did take surreptitious pictures of the things at our table.)
Tea at Ladurée

I didn’t take notes on what we chose for food with our tea, but I’m able to reconstruct our selection: the menu is online, and because the menu involved a choice of two items out of four in each of three categories, we ordered two teas with one of everything. From top to bottom, we had these:
Finger sandwiches: smoked salmon; ham; cheese; and vegetables. I dimly remember that one of these was especially good, but I can’t recall which.
Viennoiseries: plain croissant; chocolate pistachio croissant; chocolate croissant; and sugar brioche. These were all really light and delicate and so good.
Pastries: the pastries were so special that they deserve to be broken out into a special list:
Ispahan: I had never heard of ispahan before. The menu description is “Smooth rose flavoured macaron biscuit, rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees”. It was very intensely rose flavored, and simply exquisite.
Tarte passion framboises: I don’t know French, but I could figure out what this one was. This was probably my personal favorite: the flavors were incredibly intense.
Elysées: "Success cocoa biscuit, crispy praline, thin crispy chocolate from Madagascar leaves, smooth chocolate cream, zabaglione chocolate mousse, chocolate and cocoa biscuit moistened cocoa syrup"
Plaisir sucré: "Hazelnut meringue sandwich cake with crushed Piedmont hazelnuts, crusty praline, thin milk chocolate leaves, Chantilly cream and milk chocolate filling”
There were too many flavors of macarons for us to sample them all, but they were so so good.
Tea at Ladurée

Tea at Ladurée was so wonderful that we couldn’t help but linger to enjoy everything. We then planned to take the tour bus over to Shakespeare’s Globe, but the tour bus was slow and it didn’t come very close to the Globe; we had to get out at St. Paul’s Cathedral and walk across the Thames. We ended up being too late to see the exhibition at the Globe that we had prepaid to see. (The exhibition tickets were good for a month; we gave them to the proprietor of our inn with the hope that he could find someone else who would use them.)
St. Paul's Cathedral St. Paul's Cathedral

Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre that William Shakespeare performed in for much of his career. (With accommodations: electric lights, flush toilets, modern fire safety codes. But it has the only thatched roof built in London since the Great Fire of 1666.)
Shakespeare's Globe

We chose to watch our play in the manner of Elizabethan gentry: we paid for seats instead of standing in the center with the groundlings. I even splurged to rent cushions for the benches, and I rented a blanket after realizing it was a chill evening.
Shakespeare's Globe Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe

We saw Macbeth. (Lori’s dream had been to attend a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because she had played Titania in college, but the performance schedule dictated Macbeth.) It was a really excellent performance, both as a historical recreation and as a modern staging. I’ve sometimes had trouble following all the action of Macbeth as it flips from scene to scene, but this production made things very clear to me.
Historicities I did not know about: It began with the whole cast drumming together, and it ended with the whole cast joining in a final dance.

Lori says:
The three witches were especially noteworthy: they started dressed as apparent villagers, but stripped down to undergarments in their first scene, and then progressed to seem even more wild and otherworldly later in the play. I think they might have been dancers as well as actresses - they used a lot of weird postures and movements. The only “witch makeup” they used was a powdery white makeup that was applied onstage at one point.

Billy Boyd (who was in the “Lord of the Rings” movies) played Banquo, and he was excellent. It made us smile that they worked in a chance for him to sing, and he really was scary as his own ghost. Another interesting note: the only “ghost” additions to his appearance were stage blood, and maybe a paler base makeup. He provided the scary vibe with his facial expressions and movements. All of the actors and actresses were excellent, Boyd stood out to us because, well, we did recognize his name.

The stagecraft was notable in its simplicity. The stage was lit with standard electric lighting, but there were no special lighting effects. They didn’t go out between scenes, and all this helped preserve the historical feel of the play. There were some striking effects, my favorite was at the end of Act I, when Macbeth becomes king. Unseen to most of the audience, the three witches climbed posts in the theater and scattered red rose petals on the stage. They managed to be both celebratory petals for the king, but against the simple, stark white walls of the set, they also resembled drops of blood. Well played, Globe Theater, well played.

I have to say, I expected the play at the Globe to be good, but it really was a notch above most theater I’ve seen in several ways, while keeping to a simplistic aesthetic. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more…and it is the first time I’ve truly enjoyed “Macbeth.”

We were very hungry after the show, because our tea had been our only food since breakfast. Proximity led us to eat at the Swan at the Globe. My roast pork and Lori’s roast chicken were both delicious.
Dinner at the Swan Dinner at the Swan