Oh my. It seems my last post, waxing poetic on my newly ignited love affair with a town called Edinburgh, may have disgruntled its competing rival London. Jokes like, “It’s a city on a rock with a bunch of skirt-wearing angry people” made me realize that the long held history of one-upmanship between these two towns is alive and well. But who am I to squelch healthy competition, especially when it’s to my advantage, as my recent weekend visit saw London going into operation uber charm. And charmed I was. This is my first time here during late November and the neighborhoods were in full on Dickensian festiveness, from the twinkle of holiday lights to the warmth of mulled wine huts. But perhaps romance is in the constant discovery, the novel, and new. Like a good book, you want it to continually reveal more with every read. And this visit showed me parts of itself I had never seen. The hidden stacks of the British Library, the remote village of Greenwich, the tucked away pubs among the theater district. The layers and layers of London kept unfolding in a way that makes one wonder if she will ever be completely known. Samuel Johnson knew that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” My recent romantic tryst has me fully invigorated, teetering on a full-blown commitment and giving new meaning to the proverbial “L” word.
Friday night winter evening walk along the Riverbank. Beautiful and serene. “This melancholy London – I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.” -William Butler Yeats
From Westminster Bridge I continued to walk along the south bank past the Tate Modern…
….past the Globe….
… to the Borough Market – a foodie’s mecca. Similar to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
Every local food vendor you could imagine, from Atlantic fish…
to country fruit wines.
Open since 1755, this place has a rich history. To check out more: http://boroughmarket.org.uk
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
Saturday morning stunning (and crisp!) run through St. James and Green Parks.
“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” ― John Donne
My run has a few minor sites along the way. Just a changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness–that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.” ― Jane Austen, Persuasion
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” ― William Blake
I absolutely was entranced by the British Library and spent most of my Saturday there. It’s the second largest library in the world and houses every single item produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Astonishing.
Outside is the bronze sculpture titled “Newton” inspired by William Blake’s print.
The building was only constructed in 1973, but is incredibly functional at protecting 14 million books, some of which date back to 2000 bc.
The center of this massive open structure is a 6 story wall of rare texts. I’m intrigued by this photo of all these students looking at their computers with their backs to the books.
Anyone can take out a book, but you need 2 forms of I.D. and can often wait up to 5 days to get the text you’ve requested. This waiting room had more than one student having a freak out.
Not only did they have an amazing Georgian Exhibit, but also a Children’s Literature exhibit. Jackpot for my Oxford course! Unfortunately, there were no pics allowed, so to find out more, check out http://www.bl.uk
This giant atlas (bound in leather and clasps) dated back to the 1500s. By far, the most jaw dropping room was the rare books room. Original Shakespeare folios, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the Magna Carta. I stayed in here forever.
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Art of a different kind. Sunday, my local tour guide, Aubrey, boated us up the Thames to the British Music Museum.
The museum is housed in this bubble of a building, the Dome.
Beatles mania. How does a tiny island the size of California produce some of the world’s best music?
John Lennon’s spectacles! “Music is everybody’s business. It’s only the publishers who think people own it” ― John Lennon
Interactive room. Aubrey earnestly learns how to play the guitar left handed a la Paul McCartney as I smash mine into pieces a la Pete Townsend.
“Music makes one feel so romantic – at least it always gets on one’s nerves – which is the same thing nowadays.” ― Oscar Wilde
Lyrics to Cold Play’s Yellow scratched on a piece of paper like all good writing should be.
Lyrics to New Order’s Blue Monday. “How does it feel/ To treat me like you do/ When you’ve laid laid your hands upon me/ And told me who you are.” You can’t get that tune out of your head now, can you?
Homage to my obsession with 80’s Alternative… The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Artic Monkeys, The Smiths….heaven.
Right. Art of a 3rd kind – food. Lunch at The Narrow, a Gordon Ramsey pub that serves up a proper Sunday Roast with requisite Yorkshire pudding. This plate was cleaned. And yes, that’s a London Pride accompaniment.
And South African Syrah called simply Porcupine. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” -Virginia Woolf
A nostalgic and entertaining ride back to the town center on a Double Decker Heritage Bus. There’s only a few of these puppies left and we got to ride in the top front – best seats in the house.
Speaking of seats in the house – a little theater (and I mean 40 seat little). Lewis Schafer, stand up comedian, is an American in London and riffs off of both cultures’ quirks and idiosyncrasies. Rather appropriate for my experiences here trying to understand the Brits.
Post offensive fun calls for an American/English truths at the Lamb and Flag, a pub old enough to have poured ales for all my favorite writers.
Including Dickens, Dryden, Wilde, Pesano…
It’s even located on Dryden Street. So old they still don’t have lights.
And of course, all good things end at the Lowlander in Covent Garden.
Cheers to an incredible showing, London. I’ll be back for another rendez-vous – “London, thou art the flower of cities all! Gemme of all joy, jasper of jocunditie.” -William Dunbar.