Like Paris, London is always a good idea. The city is home to around as many people as there are in the whole of Austria, and visiting felt like the urban equivalent of forest bathing. English spoken EVERYWHERE! Look Right! Diversity! Shops open on Sunday! Great Indian Food! Free Museums!*
Our West Kensington flat was a known-ish commodity, the flat of a friend of a friend who was away on work travel. And a lovely flat it was. Calm colors from floor to 12-foot ceiling; and a fully stocked kitchen! It was under a 5 minute walk from the West Kensington Tube station; our bedroom was thusly blessed with the romantic click-clack of the train in the early morning, but since Tony and I are morning people this was a non-issue. Anna Grace’s bedroom faced the street and was quiet; just the space a studious senior needed.
A Co-Op grocery and a Tesco Express were steps away, so on the first arrival evening we plated a heap big salad to counter all of the Fish ‘n Chips (and Guinness) we’d consumed in Ireland. The following morning began early, for Anna Grace was heading to ASL to study for the day; friends had arranged a study room for her in the library. The forecast rain had disappeared, leaving the two of us with an entire day with little prospect of having to pop open the brelly. To Greenwich we headed.
The Cutty Sark, the last tea clipper ship before the era of steam propulsion sits in the Greenwich harbor.
Our inner STEM nerds were thrilled with the Royal Observatory. The annoying tour groupers who insisted on 35 selfie takes each at the Prime Meridian, not so much.
The Royal Astronomer Flamsteed’s star tracking journals. While he was in the northern hemisphere watching the stars, Edmund Haley was in the southern hemisphere doing the same. Their work created to the development of the Prime Meridian.
Flamsteed’s wife and scientific partner, developed a board game to inspire women to study astronomy.
This telescope was used to confirm Nicolas Copernicus’ theory of heliocentrism. Pretty cool.
We tried, but failed to find the meridian line in the garden below the museum and observatory; though perhaps we did not try so hard because we were hungry. The Greenwich Market food trucks did not speak to us, so back into London proper we went.
The “First Store in the World.” Longitude 00.00.4W
A detour in the story. Whilst rummaging through Jack’s wardrobe a couple of weeks ago (don’t ask) I came across a plastic baggie filled with Pounds and Pence. The tally came to €82 equivalent. Woohoo! Except, not. All of the notes and coins were from his school trips to London for sports and otherwise and were now outdated, as I discovered when I attempted to purchase some items at the Greenwich gift shop.
The gift shop clerk suggested we exchange our outdated notes at the Bank of England. Good idea!, we thought. Back on the DLR to the London Bridge Tube station we hopped. Except, “something” happened to my Oyster Card and ￡10was sucked from my balance when I tapped the machine. Once at the London Bridge station I sought the assistance from an almost-too-friendly-and-helpful station agent who expeditiously resolved the matter.
By this time we were both too hungry to care about exchanging our outdated currency (Dr. Google had informed Tony we could mail our notes to Britain and they will in turn transfer the exchange to our account. Good enough for us.) But where to eat at peak lunch time? If your London geography knowledge is tip-top, you’ll note that Borough Market is but steps away. Of course, finding a place to eat would be easy at lunchtime in a fiendishly popular market. (insert sarcasm)
But the luck of the Irish was with us! On a fingers-crossed lark we walked into Bedales, and were ushered to the table of a no-show reservation. On the top level, overlooking the market! We ordered the shared charcuterie/cheese platter and a couple of Lagers. The cheeses ranged from mellow Wensleydale a la Wallace and Grommit to some spicy forms. The charcuterie included duck breast and chicken liver mousse. Just delicious.
The sun (!) shining brilliantly after lunch, we walked a bit of the market to ooh and ogle over luxuries like the ￡102/kg Morels. The fresh seafood caught our attention for dinner, but we decided against both the detour back to the flat with said sea catch and perhaps leaving the sea aroma in the flat so graciously offered by the friend of a friend.
Obviously some people have been touching the saucissons.
Mushroom Boxes. If only you could smell the earthy aroma like we did.
From here we decided to stroll along the Bankside path to the Tate Modern, about a kilometer or so. A pleasant enough walk, though one I might avoid during peak tourist season for when I envision shoulder-bumping to be peak.
A “meh” view of London from the Bankside path. Could be any number of large cities.
*Ugh, the Tate Modern. The either sadistic or directionally-challenged curator who played hide-and-seek with the art of interest (for me that would be Kandinsky) needs to be fired. Honestly, I would rather have paid an entrance fee and be provided with a gallery map than to have spent time wandering about in search of art that I wanted to look at, rather than wandering through weird stuff (except for the surprise of a Calder mobile) and frustrating ourselves. After an hour we declared the end game and thought to scurry to The Museum of Water and Steam, but discovered we would not make it before closing. In the face of this double disappointment we sought comfort in two cones of gelato and some people-watching.
Anna Grace messaged to confirm the evening outing with ASL friends to see Avengers: Endgame. Tony looked sad that he could not join them; and then became very Dad-like when she mentioned that not only would a (male) friend escort her to the flat afterward, but, said BOY offered to take her sightseeing in the morning. And, “Could BOY join us for lunch tomorrow?”
A Rotisserie chicken and Potatoes Dauphinois from the Tesco (plus more salad) was the dinner, along with a lovely New Zealand white. I instructed Tony to figure out how we could watch The Sopranos (we really are behind on television viewing) while dinner was warming, mostly to keep his mind off Anna Grace BOY. Over dinner with Tony x2 I fessed up that I had known of the existence of BOY for a couple of months. He and Anna Grace met four years ago in honor orchestra; and both had successfully auditioned every year since. BOY is attending university in the U.S. in the fall to major in a STEM field. Tony was calmed. (BOY escorted Anna Grace home before curfew, in case you wondered.)
Now it is Meet-the-BOY day, blustery and wet. Anna Grace remained in the flat to study while we went happily to The Museum of Water and Steam. So much fun at the most important sight of water pumping! No, I am not being sarcastic. It is way fun for us to learn about processes and things we all now take for granted, and we soaked ourselves (pun intended) with the museum until it was time to head across Londontown to Gunpowder at Spitalfields.
We are partial to Indian and similarly-influenced foods; Anna Grace’s nanny was Bangladeshi and weaned her on Biryanis and gloriously silky, spicy curries. I don’t recall how I came across Gunpowder but was glad I had. The casual setting—dishes are small and arrive when they are prepared—made it a laid-back-grill-the-BOY kind of lunch. The menu is small so it is possible to sample everything, though we did not. The rasam ke bomb, a “shot” of a potato pani puri set atop a spicy tamarind and mustard “chaser” was a tastebud-tingler to begin.
From there the okra fries; the “doughnut” of venison wrapped in fried vermicelli; the Chettinand pulled duck; crispy pork ribs; Saag Paneer and Kerala pepper beef arrived at our table and we eagerly divided the dishes between us. BOY survived Tony’s gentle grilling; whether he survived the curries is another matter, though.
Bidding farewell to the youth, who were heading to Greenwich (Anna Grace wants to focus on astrophysics at Trinity, so we encouraged her to take in the observatory), we took a chance on the now only cloudy skies for a long wander through Hampstead and its Heath. My, oh, my. There are some might fancy homes in this part, though the presence of the American “Gap Kids;” the Spanish “Zara Home;” and the French “Paul” had us scratching our heads at the conformity of globalization.
The Heath was restorative. Green and fragrant and breezy, we clocked almost 8km before realizing we were tired.
Thank goodness the Wells Tavern had a table for us so we could regroup over a couple of pints.
We paused at the bookstore so I could swoon over so many English-language books (even in the ex-pat ‘hood in Vienna, the best we get is a table of “popular” books (depending on your political leaning) and a couple of shelves mostly filled with classics and murder mysteries.) I picked up 3kg weight in books to savor at home. Just a lovely, lovely afternoon.
Anna Grace messaged to ask if she could enjoy dinner at BOY’s house, adding that she would return well before curfew. Tony rolled his eyes. At the Victoria Station M&S we cobbled together a salad supper (and another New Zealand white) to enjoy with Tony Soprano.
(BOY escorted Anna Grace home before curfew.)