Tuesday, September 7, 2010

London Images: A Pub Crawl, The Tube and Rugby

3 Sept 2010 London, UK 14:51

As is always the case when we first tumble into Europe on less than 2 hours sleep, we feel insane. The feeling is compounded this time by the frenetic energy that is London and the fact that there are THREE of us this time instead of simply Scott and I trying to keep each other together. Lily wants to go to bed. It is 3 in the afternoon here but her body is telling her that it is 8 a.m. and she has had little to no sleep in the last 24 hours. Clem picked us up at Heathrow and drove us through the streets of London to our hotel. It was a wild 40 minute ride with Lily and I in the back seat, wide eyed and breaking out in nervous laughter from time to time. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out the traffic rules here. Sometimes all the cars would go through the intersection when the light was clearly red and other times they’d stop. The lanes are impossibly narrow and cars merge randomly, almost like they are magnets repelling each other. They come within inches until someone pulls ahead or falls behind and life goes on. When we finally got to the hotel and squeezed ourselves out of the (very tiny) car, Scott and Clem stayed outside to talk and Lily and I went to check in. When Scott and Clem finally joined us, I asked Clem what the deal was with red lights-do you stop at them or what? He looked at me and smiled his sweet smile and said, “Oh that…well you can tell what everyone else is doing…” and he stopped his explanation when I began laughing hysterically.

Lily and I went up to the room to drop our bags and clean up. Clem of the sweet smile is lending us one of his cars for 4 days while we are in London. I told Scott I thought we should decline the offer. I honestly can not see us going anywhere in this traffic, but Scott pshawd me and took Clem to the nearest train station so he could catch a train home. I thought I would never see Scott again and I kept the cell phone beside me in case he called. He took the GPS with him and not 10 minutes later knocked at the hotel room door. The train station was up by Buckingham Palace, maybe 10 blocks away and he made it there and back with the car and his body intact. A miracle.

London is very eco conscious. There is an egg timer in the shower…one of those small hourglass types (although it attaches to the shower wall!) that you turn when you take a shower so you limit yourself to 5 minute showers. Lights turn on and off as you walk through the hallway and lights are halogen or CFL types.
We went to an amazing Farmers Market yesterday in Hackney (East London) called Broadway Market. Ever since I found out we’d be in London, this is the only thing I knew I wanted to do. For almost two years I have been following a blog-http://www.cocoandme.com/  of a young Japanese mom who sells lovely tarts, cakes and other luscious baked goods at Broadway Market and I really wanted to meet her. Tamami's booth was beautiful and the two tarts we ate-one lemon and one raspberry-were so good! The raspberry tart was topped with fresh berries and powdered sugar and was not overly sweet. The pure flavor of the fresh fruit was what came through and as soon as the last bite was consumed, I wished for another.  Her cheesecakes were beautiful and the recipe for them is on her website. 

She was so sweet and kind and seemed surprised that I keep up with her blog and that I sought her out while in London! The remainder of the market was a sight to see! I was happy to see the prices were so reasonable and we shopped with lunch in mind for we knew Jill and Gabe would be waiting for us when we returned to the hotel. We bought a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread and I had a great talk with the baker. We bought long skinny links of hazelnut sausages and spicy sausages, 3-200 gram wedges of cheese-an impossibly creamy Roquefort, a Spanish manchego and one more that I can’t recall the name of; a small container of anchovy stuffed green olives (I wish we’d bought a LARGE container, because these went fast); some marinated artichoke hearts; some beautifully fragrant apples and a vast assortment of baklava. Scott stepped into a shop and picked out a lovely Chilean Malbec wine. I also bought a burlap Broadway Market bag to haul it all in. We were about to leave the Market when someone shouted out that the school next door was holding a market also, so we walked the 20 yards to the gate and wandered through. A band was playing just inside the gate and a woman was cooking an enormous pan of paella just opposite.
 It bubbled and sent off the most amazing smell! We strolled the Market and spoke with folks and stopped at the booth of tee shirts that had really unusual designs. The company, Organik Rocka,(organikrocka.com) made soft bamboo tees and Scott and Lily both bought one. The guys running the booth were enthusiastic and fun and we visited for quite awhile.
As we headed back to the Tube to catch a ride back to the hotel, I thanked Scott and Lily for indulging me. It had been a long, convoluted ride getting to the market and, as the guy who sold us our Tube tickets asked, “Why do you want to go all the way to Hackney to a Market? There are Markets right up the street…” but I wanted to meet a fellow blogger and baker although I didn’t explain that to him- I just thought he wouldn’t understand. But Lily and Scott were quite happy I had dragged them through countless underground and aboveground train changes and walking many city blocks. The people watching was wonderful and we were all amazed by how…individualistic…everyone was/is. This place makes Austin look like a retirement home.
Back at the hotel, we woke up Jill and Gabe and spread out the feast we had accumulated at the Market. It wasn’t long before it was all gone. We decided to go out in search of a pub and, after a few funny delays, made it to the Tube and got off at Angel Station. On the way home from Market earlier in the day, as we stepped off a train, a line of cops funneled us out the door instead of onto another platform. There was a “fire emergency” at that station and they were temporarily shutting it down. As we stood outside looking at the map trying to figure out where to find a new station, a local came up beside us and said, “Follow me…Angel Station is a short 20 minute walk right down that road…”. So Lily and I tagged behind Scott and this gentleman as we speed walked down this really cool part of town. Lily and I both felt that we would have liked to stop and window shop, but this man was on a mission and was dragging us along with him. We got to Angel Station in record time and thanked him, bid him good bye and made our way home. And now we were back on this street with time to walk it leisurely. Jill and Gabe have been in London for over a week and had the local customs down, so we took a side street into a…well, more “interesting” row of shops and, when Jill spied a pub that had a rugby game on the big screen TV, that was where we settled in. A sign in the window said “Under New Management” and it did seem like a work in progress. Old wooden tables with mismatched chairs filled the room. Most were empty as the few (maybe 8) customers were at the bar. Music blared and as we sat down Jill went up to the bar to order for us.

 A young boy, maybe 6 or 7 was holding court in the center of the room dancing to the loud techno/disco music and he was really good. Jill came back to the table with 5 ciders. Now the beer here is pretty low alcohol (maybe 3%?), but cider (which is exactly what you would think-fermented apple cider) is 6-8%. It is VERY tasty, much more so than the beer to me and when you order the proverbial pint, that is what you get-a PINT-meaning half a quart. That’s a lot of cider and it goes down remarkably easy. After 2 pints we were all getting loud and laughing and telling stories. The young boy had left the bar and I was beginning to think WE had become the entertainment for the patrons. When we finally decided to head back to the station, we were a wobbly bunch indeed. We stopped at a street side fruit stand and when Gabe remarked she’d never had a fig, Scott went inside and bought us each one. We continued our walk munching on the huge figs almost as big as our fists.
We made it back to the hotel at about 10:30 and after a snack decided to go a block down the road to another small club. It was closed as we walked by so we went a block further and there were 2 restaurant/bars side by side. One was packed and the other had only a few folks in it so we chose the quieter one. We sat, had a beer and talked for about 45 minutes, visiting with the other patrons. We got directions to a place that made authentic fish and chips and then headed home. We were all less than perky this morning, even after breakfast and multiple cups of coffee at the Portuguese Market on the corner, so it’s been a rather sedate day. Got laundry done, Scott fixed our cell which has not worked since we arrived and, as Jill and Gabe are at a rugby match and we’re supposed to meet later (maybe for fish and chips?), I decided to catch up on the blog while Lily and Scott nap. As I lay in bed this morning listening to the assorted snores around the room, I found it hard to believe we are only 2 days into this vacation. I feel like we’ve been gone weeks!
Caught up with Jill and Gabe at the World Cup Final Rugby Match in Twickingham.  There were about 14,000 people in attendance and it was wild!  People with their faces painted with the British Flag, folks in costume and even a STREAKER during half time!! I actually thought the streaker was a woman until he did a somersault mid field. New Zealand won the World Cup 10-13, but to me, the most amazing thing was the attitude of the English fans.  Nothing ugly, no disparaging remarks and when the New Zealand team took to the field after the match, the Brits stood up and clapped.  It was an amazing show of exceptionally good sportsmanship and made the game that much more fun.

7 Sept 2010  St. Pankras Station  Bound for Paris
We toured Oxford yesterday with a dear man, Nick Alcock. Beautiful buildings, gardens and shops. We climbed 2 sets of spiral staircases to the top of a tower in Oxford. What an incredible view we had of the entire town! Wonderful tile roofs, tall spires and cobbled streets.
Nick then took us to his home and we had dinner with his beautiful red haired wife, Lorraine and 2 of his 3 daughters-Elizabeth, 15 years and Jenny, 19.  The entire family is vegan (the children since birth) and they all are so beautiful with amazing skin (I don't tknow why I was struck by this, but I couldn't stop looking at how beautiful their skin was!). The meal was the best we've had in London and we've eaten well here. We stuffed ourselves (ESPECIALLY SCOTT!) and laughed all through dinner and dessert.  Nick the Dear Hearted, as I have "knighted" him, drove all the way into London with Lily, talking politics and playing Beatles on the CD player, while Scott and I followed in our car (Clem's car) nervously.  It was dark and rainy and driving on the other side of the road was completely unnerving.  I didn't stop clenching my teeth until I was back in bed.
Lily is bugging me to check her mail, so I will end now until later today.  Lots more pics to post...our London hotel had no WiFi so I was kinda' stuck...

1 comment:

Tamami from Coco&Me said...

Hello Diane!!!!! Wowwww, thank you for writing about me on your blog! What a lovely picture! I downloaded it to keep!
And thank you for visiting the market - I think it's so amazing that I got to meet you! Seems like you had a wonderful time in UK!