It's hard to describe this city. It is home to relics of important western history and literature nestled within the bustle of modern life--traffic whizzing by, people piling out of pubs come evening time, shops upon shops lining the streets. In many ways, London was the city that took us the longest to adjust to, whereas we thought it would be Paris, since it was the one place where we didn't know much of the language. But London was a strange mix of old ways--that stiff English reserve as chilly as the gray, damp weather and the Anglophil worship of their colonial and literary past--and cozy Hobbit-ness, with people that like a good pint and a chat, and good curry even more. Once we broke the surface of that off-putting reserve, we had a blast!
The first day we were there, we arrived too late for lunch, and so stopped at a nearby pub for a beer, whiskey, and nuts since that was all they had. After hours on the plane and in the airport, it was delicious! That night we also ate at the absolute best fish and chips at Rock & Sole, a restaurant near the Covent Garden dating back to 1871 and still using locally sourced fish. It also had a rich history, particularly in feeding the homeless during the WWII Blitz.
The next day was devoted to a tour of the English countryside. We saw Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, the idyllic Village of Lacock (the set of many films like Cranford, Emma, and even Harry Potter), and Bath (the old social center and healing waters of the 18th and 19th centuries). While all these sights were wonderful in their own right, the most awe-inspiring was Stonehenge.
It was, however, pretty cool to see a medieval castle--once I got past the cringe-worthy celebration of English colonization, my sword and sorcery nerd came out! The Village of Lacock, too, carried a charm reminiscent of old England and a slower way of life. While so many of London's historical sites like Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden have been taken over by high end shops, it was nice to see what an older version of England looked like in this village. Bath too, while home to many fancy modern shops, carried the echoes of Jane Austen and other writers that featured this gossip hub in their novels. The day was perfectly capped off by dinner at an amazing Indian restaurant, Tayyab, which all our cabbies assured us was the place to go. They were right!
The final day in London was spent touring the city. We saw Shakespeare's Globe Theater, the House of Parliament, the Tower, and Westminster Abbey, and even got to sneak in some time to visit the Sherlock Homes Museum on 221B Baker Street! I honestly can't believe how much we did that day because all those sights were followed up by a visit to Tate Modern and the Freud Museum, along with neighborhood hopping, ribbon shopping, and a trip to the original Twinings tea shop that has been in business since 1706. Safe to say, I got my tea-nerd on!
After all that excitement, we decided to stop off at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub said to have been frequented by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Samuel Johnson (the writer of the first English dictionary and whose house is just around the corner). It was just the fortification we needed to enjoy a spin on the London Eye, which gave us a breathtaking view of the city. Our last proper meal in London, then, was at Simpson's in the Strand, a traditional English restaurant most famous for its roast beef that they cut for you right at the table. It was a luxurious feast of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding (a type of popover), potatoes and cabbage. If it is one thing we learned on this trip, it is that the English like their meat and potatoes--and their beer!
All in all, it was a fantastic trip! Perhaps the moments I enjoyed most were when we got to stroll around different neighborhoods and talk with the locals, both native to England and immigrants, about what London is to them. And like the hobbit that I truly am, I am inspired and awed by my travels, but am now happy to be home and sharing them with you all as I write this post over a pot of Twinings tea in my colorful New Mexican kitchen. Thanks for following!
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