Monday, April 12, 2010

A last hurrah in Londinium

For Kae's last weekend here, we decided to spend it in London – a day or so beforehand. Thank goodness for you can book a bunch of stuff there, and with hotels, you can get a great deal; the catch is you won't know exactly where you're staying until you pay.

It worked better than we could've imagined, giving us a great discount at this really posh hotel, The Grange St. Paul's, in the shadow of the beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral. I mean, I don't think we'll ever stay at a place like that in London again: you get your own plush slippers and robe, every room has this amazing spa bathroom, the smoked salmon in their continental breakfast just melts in your mouth, there's a great pool, etc. Suffice to say that our expectations were exceeded by a country mile.

Inside the Twinings shop
We were hungry when we got in, so we stopped at this gourmet burger restaurant – Gourmet Burger Kitchen – around the corner. They didn't have the selection of The Works, but it was in the same vein. It's amazing how many languages you hear in London, when you don't have loud American geeks behind you joking about poorly formed SQL queries, that is. We had to laugh. I had a tasty boar burger with a real ale from the same farm – Laverstoke Park Farm. Tea and Kae had some frosty milkshakes to go with their burgers.

Somerset House
Then it was time for some shopping. We spent some time in the oldest shop in London, the Twinings tea shop in the shadow of the impressive Courts of Justice, before making our way to Covent Garden; they have some really talented buskers performing there. Actually, before we got there, in one of those incredible coincidences, we ran into a Canadian we'd met on the tube in from Paddington earlier that day: we just standing there, admiring all that is Somerset House – with kids playing in the water, just like that scene in Last Chance Harvey – when we heard this, “Hey! I know you guys!” It's such a small world sometimes.

The girls' ultimate destination was Bravissimo near Oxford Circus, so I left them near the distinctive spire of All Souls Church in search of a pub. Before long, I'd found the Argyll Arms, and had a pint of the Landlord in one hand and William Gibson's Neuromancer in the other – Heaven for me, in other words.

At Ping Pong
Later, we met up and headed back to the hotel for a swim. Well, it turned into a nap for me, but the girls enjoyed the pool. Then it was out in search of Chinese dumplings at Ping Pong on Bread Street. Everything about the place, right down to their slogan – "little steamed parcels of deliciousness" – was so Tea (and Kae :-) ). And they were true to that delicious statement, from the martinis to the dozen or so selections we ordered.

Camden markets was on the docket for Saturday. The tube filled up as we got closer to our stop; initially, I'd thought the tattooed and pierced travellers were the ones heading there – I'd watched a few videos on the markets the night before – but, as we exited like a tide of people flowing out of the station, I realized that the Camden markets has something for everyone. Yes, there are plenty of places to get tattoos and T-shirts of the most irreverent variety, but there are also pottery shops, shops selling beautiful old luggage, guys wandering around with live kangaroos in their shirts, Hare Krishnas beside kids with pink spiked mohawks, and food.

Oh, the food. At times you felt like you were running a gauntlet – an aromatic, mouth-watering one – with Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Indian (the list goes on) food vendors lining the lanes, holding out free samples. You could eat a meal's worth of samples easily, and I'm sure some of the people we saw were doing just that. We had a snack of something called a 'chipstix', where they cut and cooked a potato to yumminess right in front of you, on a stick, followed by Mexican for Tea and me, and Chinese for Kae.

Tea with a 'chipstix'
Next was some shopping – we picked up a fantastic old cribbage board, an old collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, and a bunch of comic books from Mega City Comics, nestled right in the middle of the markets – and people watching. We saw this guy who was the spitting image of Duckie – I'm sure he wasn't even born when that movie came out, but he must've seen it, he was that spot on. Then it was down the road for a pint at The Monarch. They had chairs set up on the stage, so we sat where there was no doubt live music later that night.

At YO! Sushi
Finally, it was back to the hotel for a swim – I joined the girls this time – followed by some YO! Sushi before bed. It was our first time there, and I have to say, as tired as I was, it was all really exciting: it's part game, part extra in some futuristic movie, and all tasty.

Sunday meant that it was time to say goodbye to Kae – we preferred au revoir – so we hired a car (at a flat rate that ended up saving us money – to say nothing of our backs) to take us to Heathrow, saw Kae off, and took the bus home from there. We all agreed it was a fantastic weekend. London's amazing for that: I think you could go there 52 weekends in a row and never retrace your steps or do the same thing twice.

No comments:

Post a Comment