London’s an awful impressive city. I met a drunk fella once on another visit who said he was one of the Irish emigrants who helped build it… and him only 19. But a lot of Irish hands did go in to building London all the same. I spent a weekend in London recently with the girlfriend, Shona’s her name. We weren’t there to sightsee, but in London, you end up doing that just by leaving your hotel. It’s nice to go to a place where you’ve been the tourist before, it gets rid of a panic and fear of missing out. We were attending a wedding in a place called Foster Lane and that being my surname it was fate that I’d come back to London someday to a place called Foster Lane. Is there a Foster Lane / Road / Avenue / Hamlet in The Caribbean, does anyone know? We’ll begin the travel arrangements pronto.
We arrived on a Friday night, after a short hour in the sky, not late but not early either. The hotel where we’d lay our heads was immediately under St. Paul’s Cathedral. It being close to 22.30 at night we found the only open restaurant… Milano’s, or ‘Pizza Express’ as it goes by on that side of the water. We ate Pizza in the stare of the giant cathedral, that I believe remained untouched by World War Two bombs, and held the wedding of Charles and Diana.
On the Saturday morning I was tasked with doing a reccy mission on the location for our nuptual watching and found myself after a while on Millennium Bridge on a quiet, believe it or not, Saturday morning in the city of London. Tower Bridge appeared like a happy surprise in the morning dew, commanding, impressive and powerful with a small boat speeding along underneath it. It’s definitely worth rising early in the morning in London before the hordes come out of their homes / hostels / hotels. Because, not long after that it becomes a very, very busy place all together.
Well we’re all dressed up and somewhere to go to… in London City on a Saturday. Aye, it does feel quite cool. As explained we were at a wedding, the reception took place in Shakespeare’s Globe, which we reached by black cab in the early afternoon as London bustled like it would for the rest of the day that was to come. As a fan of the theatre, I found being in the vicinity of the Globe, and at a function in it quite amazing. Next time there’ll be a tour of the Globe surely. Fantastic stuff. Sure we might even squeeze into the small seats and watch a MacBeth or somat.
It was a day time wedding, so we visited the Eastern World in the evening in the shape of Brick Lane. A place called Ghandi’s, the lads inside were anything but. We walked in on a reccomendation from a friend of a friend and would be joined by said friend (keeping up?) and therefore forgot to argue with the promo man at the door. All down Brick Lane we were greeted with “You want something to eat?” No bother, that was part of the fun, you’d find one to go in to… argue a deal or a price and either accept the deal they offered “just for you” of course or move along. But with hunger in the belly, and a chill on the face we approached Ghandi’s…. “Hi guys, you want something to eat?” “Yep.” and in we walk. The easiest sale of the night. As a result there was no deal offered for us, but they tried to get a deal out and away from us for themselves instead, so there was an argument over that until we eventually only ended up paying for the food and drink we actually consumed.
After the bill was left paid to the penny and not more we found an English pub around the corner called the Pride of Spitalfields. There was a nice typical English pub character about it and there was the resident cat sleeping soundly behind a group and their pints interrupting his own slumbers for a stretch. It felt for a while we were out of the hustle and bustle of London City and instead we were anywhere else in the country. They pumped something called London Pride out of the beer tap / pump and in to my glass… a few times. When in London…
Sunday morning brought us to a French café, (We’ll go to an English one when we visit Paris) outside of St. Paul’s and red telephone boxes. I ate an English breakfast and discovered they’ve simply stolen the Irish breakfast and passed it off as their own… Leopards and changing spots I suppose. I joke, I joke… I’ve a weird humour.
Afterwards, as new owners of Oyster Cards, we tubed to Notting Hill, there was no Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant, but that was fine. There was a family being left home by their driver though, big deal? There was a market to visit and Crepes to be had. We went down the markets and were struck by old timey rugby balls – ones with laces in them. Shona was very kind to buy one as a gift. The shop keeper we met had lived in Rathmines, got mugged in Temple Bar and still spoke about Dublin with a great fondness. So that was kind of him.
It was with great dissapointment in ourselves that as two fans of Channel 4’s First Dates we only remembered to look in to the location of the restaurant they use for the programme while on our way back to Stansted Airport on board the Stansted Express. A good three minutes we were staying from it, and them open on Sunday for lunch. We’d passed the road that brings you to it several times…. so look it, we’ll just leave that there.
London is truly in my heart, it is such an impressive city. An interesting one as it’s a city on such a large scale but quite homely aspects to it as well. There’s the magnificent and the grimy. I’m sure there’s several sides not yet half explored. I’ve seen the royalty and the history, the theatrical, sporting and social. I’m sure that’s only half a surface scratched. As Big Ben says “it’s time,” you only get to see this city half a heartbeat at a time.