Thursday, April 5, 2007

London in the sunshine - really!

So, India was a fascinating place, and I promise to post more about it shortly. But first I thought I'd write a bit about the time I spent in London, crammed full as it was of food and drink.

We landed late on Thursday, after a seven-hour flight from Mumbai. (Did you know that they spray the cabin with anti-mosquito stuff when you take off from India? Serious stuff. Really brought the reason for the malaria pills - and the accompanying freaky dreams - home.)

By the time we navigated the Piccadilly line to the Green Park tube stop and hauled our suitcases out to the hotel, it was too late to get a bite anywhere civilized, so we hit the Burger King in Piccadilly Circus (I had a Whopper), where we dropped about ₤5 each (that's ten buckaroos, folks). And so began the fast and furious depletion of my funds.

The next morning, I rose early and ventured out across Green Park toward Buckingham Palace. I spent the morning walking eastward, ultimately spending an hour and a half on a guided tour of Westminster Abbey (which was wicked cool - I highly recommend it - you get to see things you can't see on your own). I then walked on to St. Paul's and across the Millennium bridge, ending at the Tate Modern, where I promptly queued up to slide down this:

After a stroll through the Tate (and a visit to its fabulous gift shop), I made my way toward Borough Market, stopping for a sandwich and a rest along the way. I grabbed a chicken and bacon sandwich at EAT, which is PrĂȘt-A-Manger taken to a whole new level. Their philosophy is all about good, wholesome, delicious food at affordable prices. I was a bit sad at first that I gave into gnawing hunger before I reached the market, but it was worth it.

Next up, Borough Market. This was my first European outdoor market, and I found it all a bit overwhelming. My hunger sated, I mostly wandered here and there, admiring the displays of game, sweets (Turkish delight, an automatic reminder of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe), and produce. The market sprawls under the London Bridge and the train overpasses, meandering through several glass-topped arches and between stone pillars. It bustles, even at 2:00 on a Friday afternoon.

I grabbed a pint of Guinness in a nearby pub, then headed back to the hotel to change for tea at The Dorchester. Upon my arrival in the lobby, I was so distracted by the plush decor that I didn't notice Johnny Depp walking right past me until a rather uncouth American (go us!) said, rather loudly, "Hey, that's Johnny Depp!" Thoroughly prepared, at that point, for a mediocre, celebrity-spot tea, I approached the host stand.

My travel companions had ditched me for tea and dinner, so I explained that I was on my own, and was escorted to a lovely couch about halfway to the back of the restaurant (The Promenade, ahem). Pink champagne in hand, I proceeded to gorge myself on scones with clotted cream and jam, and finger sandwiches, one of them containing the only egg salad I have ever enjoyed. Bravo! The staff were gracious and lovely, and though there were a fair number of obnoxious tourist types about (jeans and trainers in abundance), civility mostly won the day.

I walked back to the hotel full to the brim and wondering how I would ever make it to my 9:00 PM reservation at Fergus Henderson's famed St. John restaurant in Clerkenwell.

Oh, don't worry - I managed.

Stay tuned.

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