Our landlord had highly recommended the Portobello Market for our Saturday morning in London, so we headed to our closest tube station – Stratford – at a reasonable hour. The street signs indicating the sections for antiques, new goods, old goods, and food spoke to the market's long tradition. Upon looking down the choked road that faded to an indistinguishable mass, Stephen exclaimed, “This is a city!”
As with the term 'history', I had to adjust my definition of 'antiques' in very short order. The old, polished tankards and flasks caught my attention immediately, but it was at a book seller's stand that I was most sorely tempted: he had a beautiful edition of Through The Looking-Glass published in 1940. I was able to resist because: 1) I knew our luggage back in the hotel was stuffed as it was, 2) the money problems I've described previously mean that we actually need to hang on to the cash we have for the moment, 3) there were no prices on any of the prominently-displayed books, and, finally, 4) I'm sure Tea and I will be back at some point.
Tea and Stephen found a stand selling hot dogs (amongst other things – it was actually a money changer, oddly enough), and after all the lamenting Stephen had heard about the lack of them over here, he had one in his hand in a shot. Happily, all four of us agreed that it was pretty good, meaning that Tea might not have to rely so heavily on her military friends, and their access to Canadian and American 'exchanges'.
About halfway down Portobello Road we came upon The Duke of Wellington, and decided that some food and a pint would go down well. I got myself a Young's Bitter, Tea had a Pimm's and lemonade – which looked amazing – Nancy had an Americano and Stephen had a lemonade; luckily, the bar was twenty minutes from offering a large menu too. We hadn't been sitting long before the bartender who'd poured our drinks came by with menus and then took our food orders. (She was thoroughly amused by my new Cows T-shirt that Nancy and Stephen brought over for me, and by Stephen's vehemence regarding a dislike of “smushy peas.”) That's the first time we've had our food order taken at the table in a pub over here; maybe they're more used to dealing with tourists in London. Either way, she was fantastic; a lot of fun (at one point, teasing Nancy about the veggies she'd left on her plate and reminding us all of one of my favourite vacation photos of Nancy leaning way back as a waiter attempts to choo-choo some asparagus toward her, determined-parent-style).
Finally, there was this great moment when one of the ladies behind the bar asked an older gentleman where his dog was. Down he went in a crouch, and he hadn't made more than a few quick calls before a Jack Russell terrier (or some similar small breed) came running into the pub and jumped up on his shoulder in one fluid motion. Two seconds after the photo to the right was taken, he stuck his tongue out in comic fashion; I wish I'd been able to catch that one.
We'd agreed to meet two sets of Tea and Nancy's aunts and uncles at the London Eye in the late afternoon, and the gaggle of us convened without too much difficulty. Mick was more than a little skeptical about the whole enterprise -- being afraid of heights -- and Robbie took great pleasure in spouting off various morbid theories behind the missing capsule we all noticed as the line approached the Eye. Once up, we had a spectacular view of Thames, including the oddity of a dining table replete with guests, suspended well above the ground by a crane. Hope no one dropped a fork!
With two feet solidly planted again, it was off to find a pub. At one point, the conversation turned to what woeful tales Mick and Daph would bring to Tea's folks back home of how she was faring, and Tea, ever the good sport, was on the sidewalk in a flash, saying, “Take a picture for evidence of how you found me, passed out drunk!”
We eventually made it to a bit of a posh place close to the Eye for a few pints and a snack, and then it was off to The Wellington at Waterloo: a fantastic mix of sports bar and grandiose pub. I tried Marston's for the first time, and really enjoyed both the Pedigree and the Long Hop. After that, it was back to the two couples' hotel lobby for a nightcap, and, finally, a tube ride home (which I, apparently, fell sound asleep on).