Tag Archives: england

Camden Lock market, Regents Park, 27 bus to Hammersmith – London

Today, met old friends in London at Camden Town contemporary apartment with fantastic views of Primrose Hill and Hampstead, in one direction, and downtown London in another, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the BT Tower (which looks like something out of the Jetsons).

We stopped before lunch briefly in Camden market which was hopping on Sunday midday, full of people browsing in stalls filled with t-shirts, jewelry, jean jackets, junk…not as nice stuff as at Spitalfields but a much livelier, edgier scene. We picked up some delicious treats, fondly remembered from our trip to Lisbon years ago: Pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry, dusted with cinnamon.

After an incredible lunch (how lucky to have friends who are such good cooks and generous hosts..last night another friend treated us to an elaborate dinner at her house in Mortlake) we took a walk through Regents Park as the sun was going down (early…at 4:30) and then took the 27 bus to Hammersmith, so I could do one thing always on my London list: ride in the front seat of a double decker bus. It never gets old! Thanks to our London pals for being such good sports in coming with and indulging me.

With old friends in Regents Park
Camden market
On the top of the bus!

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Neal’s Yard Cheese and Ole & Steen/Covent Garden; The Lost Goddess on Store street/Bloomsbury and Lucian Freud show at the National Gallery – London

There are certain touchstones for me in London and Covent Garden is one, even though it has changed a lot since I first roamed around it over 4 decades ago. Neal’s Yard used to have a hippie bakery that served whole-wheat pastries and tea on the top floor overlooking the yard. That’s long gone and there’s a more posh feel but Neal’s Yard Cheese is still there so I got a wedge of Cheshire and a blue from Shropshire.

View from Waterloo Bridge
Old favorite on Greek street in soho

We stopped for coffee at Ole & Steen, a Danish chain of cafes, and a lovely mezze platter and spinach and cheese pie at The Lost Goddess, a Greek restaurant inBloomsbury. It was still drizzly so we went inside to The National Gallery to see a retrospective of Lucian Freud’s work, which had not only obese nudes but early work that seemed also folk art style portraits, flat faces on blank backgrounds.

Early Lucian Freud, 1940s

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The Sun Inn/Barnes and Ted Lasso walking tour/Richmond — London

Ted Lasso Tour

It was a rainy day in London so we stayed close to home, or our temporary home, in Mortlake. Fortunately it was a light rain so we could walk, which we did along the Thames past scullers toiling in the drizzle, to Barnes, another suburb that feels more like a country village with a pretty green and old pubs and a good outdoor market with everything from cherry tomatoes, cakes and cheese to kimchee, beef jerky and sushi.

We took refuge in The Sun Inn, a pub that is kid and dog friendly so there were several of both. It proved a good place to come in from the damp, drink some cider, beer or coffee and nibble on halloumi fries, chips and avocado salad.

From Barnes, Dirck and I took the 419 bus to Richmond where we half heartedly joined the shoppers on George Street but more enthusiastically walked down the narrow shop-lined lanes leading to pretty Richmond Green and the grand orange brick Richmond theater. As befits the area that has become a film location for one of the most popular US TV shows, we soon chanced upon a “Ted Lasso Walking Tour,” a young woman holding a sign on a pole, guiding two tourists to see the sights.

Rainy day in Barnes

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Spitalfields Market, Gordon’s Wine Bar, Peckham, brick brewery, the tapas Room – “Evan day” in London

We chanced upon Spitalfields Market during a visit to the nearby Great Diary Project, a remarkable effort to “rescue” ordinary peoples diaries, housed inside The Bishopsgate Institute. The market has lots of stalls with fun clothes, jewelry, crafts and woolens and the street leading to it also has alluring shops.

At Gordon’s with Evan!

A short tube ride from Liverpool Street Station got us to Embankment (a short bit also via the new Elizabeth Line) where we met Evan, a graduate student from Des Moines who we’ve know since he was born. Great to see him and his enthusiasm for London.

After an excellent lunch down in the dark cellar of the venerable Gordon’s Wine Bar (excellent cheese and charcuterie boards, the closest I’ve gotten to a Ploughman’s lunch) we met up with Francine and headed to Peckham, a southeast London neighborhood that is starting to gentrify here and there (Bellenden Road) but still feels like the African and African-Caribbean neighborhood it is.

Brew pubs aren’t as big a thing here as in the US but we did go to a funky one, Brick Brewing, that has outdoor seating and cheap prices. After attending a popup art show with work by a friend of Francine and Russ’s, (made by filling hollowed pumpkins with black tar and dropping them from a rooftop onto a white canvas, creating a black splatter paint pattern with pumpkin pulp…no surprise this was work created during the covid lockdown) we had an excellent bits and bobs (Padron peppers, jamon croquettes, picos blue cheese) at The Tapas Room (which has several other outposts including in Battersea.)

Peckham’s phallic bollards (road barriers) by British artist Anthony Gormley on Bellenden Road
pandemic lockdown-induced Tar and pumpkin pulp splatter art

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National Covid Memorial Wall, Golden Fleece, The Guildhall, Self sacrifice memorial, St. Barthlomew’s, Prufrock Coffee in Leather Lane, Chook Chook- London!!

Lovely to be back in London, especially on a warm sunny November day, no joke. We stopped at the National Covid Memorial Wall, a long stretch of wall along the Thames across from Parliament, with thousands of red painted hearts, many with handwritten notes remembering people who died during the pandemic (about 200,000 in the UK). Sobering.

Where our great friendship began.
National Covid Memorial

We walked along the river on the south bank past the Tate Modern (where the blockbuster Cezanne show is the same show we saw earlier this year in Chicago) , walking over the wobbly bridge into the City of London past St. Paul’s to the third pub we happened upon, the Golden Fleece, which had something approximating traditional pub grub, although not my favorite (ploughman’s) and a good house beer of the same name. The scotch egg that Francine ordered was surprisingly delicious, with a very fresh egg with a soft orange yolk inside a savory mound of sausage and bread.

On to the Guildhall, the seat of government for the City of London which has an interesting free art gallery and amazingly, ruins of a Roman amphitheater (65 AD) in the basement. Who knew? Francine, of course. Nearby, we popped into a little pocket park near St. Botolph church that has a remarkable Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, a wall with tiles honoring people who died trying to “save another,” including 19-year-old railway clerk William Donald of Bayswater who “drowned in the Lea from a dangerous entanglement of weed” on July 16, 1876 and 31-year-old inspector Frederick Alfred Croft “who saved a lunatic woman from suicide at Woolwich Arsenal station but was himself run over by the train” on January 11, 1878. Another Francine find!

St. Bartholomew’s

We dropped in at my favorite London church St. Bartholomew’s, a 12th century Romanesque beauty that still offers Christmas concerts that I remember fondly. (Also featured in movies including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love.)

After wandering past the large colorful wrought iron gates of a Smithfield market, we landed at a trendy coffee bar, Prufrocks, in Leather Lane, where I recall my pal Marion used to shop when the NYTimes bureau was nearby on Shoe Lane.

Dinner tonight was superb Indian food at Chook, Chook, an “Indian Railway Kitchen” in Putney.

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Bonnard show at Tate Modern, Zizzi Italian, Oliveira Brazilian vegan food, Cote for brunch — London

I met another friend of 39 years, Jemima, who came all the way from her home in the northern town of Ludlow to meet up, for the first time in about four years. What a treat! She suggested an exhibit of work by Pierre Bonnard at the Tate Modern, one of my favorite London “it” spots. The exhibit itself turned out to be stunning (Go! Go!)

South Bank was packed with people, many speaking languages other than English, strolling along the Thames on a sunny day with a brisk wind. Such a buzzy place. London seems so vibrant, healthier than ever and yet Brexit looms, creating an odd sense of doom.

We had a good lunch at Zizzi, a chain Italian restaurant with surprisingly good food that, even more surprisingly, arrived at our table very quickly and still tasted good. (We shared pizza and a salad.) We also had a really nice view of the Thames and all the hubbub along the South Bank.

on Saturday night, Francine, Russ and I had highly unusual vegan and veggie Brazilian food at Oliveira in East Sheen. We are now back on Shalstone road where Russ is engrossed in a chess channel on YouTube that he swears by (Power Play Chess, should you be so inclined.)

On my last day in London, Francine, Russ and I had a nice brunch (English breakfast for Francine and I) at Cote restaurant in the pretty Richmond village of Barnes and then were blown by an intense wind along the Thames path, back to Mortlake.

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Return to old London stomping grounds — Parliament, Covent Garden, south Bank, embankment

Francine and I met 39 years ago when we were both working for Labour MPs in The House of Commons. Today we returned for a program marking International Women’s Day, featuring 25 people – most black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women speaking in an elegant Commons meeting room on topics ranging from youth violence to sexual slavery to  increasing minotity women participation in science, business and artificial intelligence. It didn’t escape my notice that all this these attractive, smart and successful South Asian women were sitting in a room decorated with huge old oil paintings of white men. The times are a changing and, as one speaker noted, the art needs to also.

We drank tea and ate finger sandwiches, scones and macaroons afterwards at a reception in the House of Lords, overlooking the balcony and Thames on a rainy afternoon. Francine managed to get us back over to the House of Commons, through back hallways and we sweet-talked the nice guards into letting us join some other tourists inside the H of Commons chamber, which looked even smaller and more compact than I remembered. We walked through the glorious 12th century Westminster Hall, bits of it under repair. (Big Ben is completely shrouded in scaffolding.)

Continuing on our sentimental journey, we walked up Whitehall, past Downing Street and other imposing government buildings to Trafalgar Square and then Covent Garden, where I bought a rain hat (like my friend Una’s, which I borrowed in Dover) from Barbour (quintessential British) and tried on some shoes at one of three Allbirds stores in the world. Then we walked in the dark and drizzle through the crowds and past the shops in Covent Garden to embankment (Gordon’s wine bar, an old favorite, had an overflow crowd) and over the bridge to South Bank and the train from Waterloo back to Mortlake where we had Indian takeaway with Russ. Ahhh London….


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Hampton Court/Kew — London

Marion, Merida and I are bunking in a lovely Airbnb on Sandycombe Road in Kew, a pretty village in the London Borough of Richmond. Our friend Pam, who lives nearby, picked us up in her sweet little Fiat 500 and drove us around Richmond, where we stopped for coffee at the pleasant Richmond Hill Bakery, up the street from a glorious view from on high of Richmond Park (and near Mick Jagger’s house, we were told.)

We Ubered over to Hampton Court, which hasn’t changed much since I last visited with my kids about 14 years ago, except for the experience itself, which combined high-tech (a handy audio tour headset) and low-tech (a staged play in William III’s living quarters featuring the same characters portrayed in the movie “The Favourite,” part of which was filmed there.)4E49B1BC-94B7-4527-9A41-2F2C16416BB6.jpegWe got lost a time or two but it was a treat to be able to wander around on our own. We also had a good quick lunch in a cafe in an old room (baked potato with cheese, greens) and toured some nice gift shops, beyond the spectacularly ornate royal rooms and the great old kitchen rooms. 533C9AE4-E685-448B-A2E8-C5557DC67427.jpegMerida and I also wore borrowed long velvet capes, a nice option (that kept us warm) on a rainy day and made me feel a bit like a Hogwarts student. Undeterred by rain, we wandered around the formal gardens past bizarrely trimmed trees that looked  like hedges on stilts.

6DFB0B30-7913-4A01-B393-E0EE48E7F380.jpegMore memories of London visits with my kids when they were little cropped up when M, M and I  had cream tea at the famous old Kew tea house, Maids of Honour. Fourteen years ago, D and I ended up here with the kids after an attempted walk to Kew Gardens from Francine and Russ’s house in Mortlake ended abruptly, due to a downpour. Thank God for the Maids of Honour, which 14 years ago we stumbled into soaking wet. This time we were also wet but not as wet. The scones were as light and the clotted cream as rich as I remembered.

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A Rainy Relaxing Day in Deal

67905D8E-FF14-418C-AC46-02D2897A8816A rainy day in Deal and we were all happy to lounge around in this lovely house, reading the Sunday papers and drinking tea and catching up. I’ve also learned about some uniquely English television shows that no doubt will end up being copied in the U.S. My favorite is Goggle Box, a reality show about people watching television. I had to laugh. So English. But somehow the people sitting on their couch talking about what they are watching on the Telly are amusing. Although not sure I would be a regular viewer. Also learning to appreciate Steve Coogan’s satirical news show “This time with Alan Partridge.”


Sea view from my room

We did venture out to Sunday lunch at Frog & Scot, run by a Frenchman and Scottish woman, serving food from both countries. My food struck me as English – a nicely cooked chicken breast with mashed potatoes, a thin buttery cream sauce and greens.

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Saturday market, shops on High Street, walks to the pier and two castles — a day in Deal

As promised, this is a charming seaside village with narrow lanes leading to the sea, lined with beautifully tended cottages and terraced homes in pale blue and creamy white, made of old wood and narrow red brick. I can’t get enough of it. The town has enough sophistication to be well above average but also an unaffected, unassuming air. After waking up to my bedroom view of the pale green and blue sea, we walked down the lane a few blocks to the Saturday market, a small one-block gathering of bakers, fruit venders, cheese mongers and bric brac stalls,  often with vintage  goodies from nearby France including heavy linen smocks, berets and tablecloths. We bought some buns from a Swedish woman, some local tangy Kentish blue cheese and smoked cheddar, fruit and veg.

Along High Street we popped into several small boutiques with carefully chosen and often pricey goods including silk kimonos, boiled wool slippers, lovely little cards and French country bread.

In the afternoon, the sun made a welcome appearance and lit up the coastline, the brown, tan and blue pebbles on the beach leading to the sea, the Beach Road lined with terraced houses. We walked along the seafront and down the long plain pier where we could spot white cliffs to the south (although not quite Dover, I was told). There’s a contemporary bistro at the end of the pier that looked promising.

50E4B413-991A-4312-B187-F34D96F21E31.jpegWe walked for 1.5 miles past Deal Castle to Walmer Castle (both built by Henry the 8th in the 16th Century) which looked more like a country home with cannons and a moat. It’s early season so not too many tourists. We passed families with kids braving the beach, older folks with their dogs, even a few jet skiers but it was mostly quiet and peaceful.

Una, our generous host, who discovered this village and whose friends own the house where we are staying, arrived from London, a sight for sore eyes. Russ and I cooked dinner — my pasta puttanesca, Russ’s salad — and we enjoyed a lovely meal.We walked back down to the High Street to hear some live music in a tiny wine shop/bar, Le Pinardier,  a guy playing Irish, Scott and bluegrass banjo and guitar songs, a woman playing the fiddle, to about 15 people in the cozy place run by a young handsome Frenchman. A near perfect day and night. Only wish Dirck could be here but glad to hear he arrived safely in Beijing.

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