Five nights in London

Five nights in London

Never to turn down a micro holiday, Felix and I are just back from a short trip to London with matching colds and a bunch of memories.

We were drawn to the British capital to visit a friend working as a paramedic in the general area, and timed the trip to coincide with his parents’ (also family friends) reunion with him.

We flew over after work on Wednesday, and got home this morning. Four days total.

Day one was spent on a walking tour of the Thames with Jill Finch, a local volunteer city guide with impressive knowledge and enthusiasm.

The Black Friar, a rare Art Nouveau hotel.

Beautiful courtyard within the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.

Jill telling us about liveries and worshipful societies.

Flowers in the WSOA courtyard.

Plants on a wall.

“Friends of Friendless Churches”.

The decorative window about this door and others like it harks back to the days before house numbers, and was a way to discern one home from another, often used on party invitations.

The remarkable St Paul’s Cathedral.

And the adjacent Millennium Bridge, known for being slightly bent and not built in time for the millennium.

A dolphin? Apparently. Inspired by similar designs from Rome.

On the North bank of the Thames, the Queenhithe Dock is the only remaining Anglo Saxon dock anywhere. A popular spot for combing the sand for old artifacts, a mosaic incorporating both history and pieces of pottery found in the area has been created.

30 metres long, the mosaic is beautifully constructed and very interesting.

Grebe – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Queenie herself – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Plague rats – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Boats – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Heron – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Money – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Smelt – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Olives – Queenhithe Mosaic.

Vikings I think – Queenhithe Mosaic.

More fish – Queenhithe Mosaic.

After the tour, we ended the day with lunch in the Borough Markets, though not before checking out an incredible mushroom stall on the way.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I can’t resist a good mushy photo or twenty, so feast your eyes.

Mushrooms.

More mushrooms.

Pink mushrooms.

It’s not even that I particularly like to eat them.

Seaweedy fungus stuff.

I do like them but I really just think they’re amazing.

So many colours!

There was also some other food.

Tomatoes.

Felix and I headed out on the (admittedly not entirely ‘happening’) town for a couple of pints, and then we called it a night.

The next day was spent in Cambridge, the world famous university town known for its array of small but impressive bridges, high incidence of Nobel Prize winners, and ‘friendly’ rivalry with Oxford.

After a brief mixup at London’s various train stations (read: I neglected to read which one we were meant to be at) and a bit of a missed train, we made the pretty, hourish excursion to the college town.

Popular activities in Cambridge include visiting the Wren library to view various historical manuscripts made by Cambridge scholars and take in the beautiful room (check!), punting on the River Cam (we looked at the punters at least), walking tours of the colleges, chapels, and streets (also check) but NOT eating picnics or sitting down on grass or benches.

While there are a couple of places you won’t get yelled at for taking photos/leaning your bike/sitting down/breathing, Cambridge is a decidedly stifling town for those of us not privileged enough to be an actual student/professor.

All that being said, it was pretty, and had some stuff commissioned by King Henry the 8th (known to some as that king who beheaded all his wives).

A pretty green area on which picnicing is expressly forbidden.

Lots of cyclists on narrow streets in Cambridge.

Nice buildings.

The very religious and also beautiful windows of the Kings College Chapel.

The perhaps even more ceiling of the same chapel.

Our lovely tour guide, Mary, and a couple of American tourists.

Lavender against a Cambridge backdrop.

The river Cam.

A photo I took through a window in the Wren library. I got told off for this one, but whatever.

On our way home through the undergrounds. Efficient but smelly and noisy.

Day three of our journey took us to the Bricklane Markets (very nice on a Saturday when they’re not enormously overcrowded), the Camden Markets (very crowded and filled with 95% junk) and then to afternoon tea at the Lanesborough.

Art at the Brick Lane Markets.

A shop cat in Brick Lane.

Deborah and Oscar shouted us one of the most extravagant and indulgent ‘meals’ of our lives, with champagne, finger-sandwiches, strawberry mousse, real English tea, and more desserts than I could ever hope to eat in one sitting.

Having wanted to experience England’s high tea for a few years, it was a tick off the bucket list, and just as lavish as I had hoped.

Lanesborough.

Pastries in all their buttery glory.

A couple of fancy folk.

Desserty entres.

Felix and I, pretending to fit in.

Deb and Gareth.

All of us, from left to right: Gareth, Deb, Felix, yours truly, Oscar.

After hours of chatting and indulging in expensive and tasty delights, we set off to a secret cocktail bar, staffed by Kelsey, an old school friend from back home, for a few whiskey cocktails in a dimly lit, smoky room decorated to imitate an old speakeasy, and accessible only through a fake bookcase in the back of a less secret whiskey bar.

A few cocktails and Swedish schnapps later, we gracefully emerged from the basement bar elegantly and without difficulty at all.

Not being the type of crowd to throw in the towel too early, we sampled a few other establishments on the long walk home, and somehow ended up in line for two McDonalds cheeseburgers and a slightly shaky grasp of the grammar required to order them. For those older relatives reading from home, I’m exaggerating, I promise.

A well-deserved – or at least greatly-needed – sleep later, we were up and at it again for our last day in London.

Some savvy googling led us to one of Shoreditch’s most popular brunch locales: Dishoom.

A Bombay restaurant in the style of the old post-colonial Irani cafes, the food, chai, decor, vibe and staff were all top notch.

Dishoom.

Dishoom opium joke.

Gareth pulling his best Dishoom face.

We decided (foolishly, perhaps) to visit the crazy and incredibly crowded flower markets nearby, and were almost swallowed forever in the crowd of bloom-enthusiasts.

Purple pineapples.

Giant sunflowers.

Man with flowers instead of head.

Girl with cactus as well as head.

Angry man with sunflowers.

Flowers.

We drank delicious hot chocolate from Dark Sugars chocolaterie.

Girl making said hot chocolates.

Results.

And then said goodbye to Deb and Oscar, who are probably almost home in Australia after a five week trip around Europe.

Felix and I flew Ryanair because, no matter how many shoddy experiences we have with them and their far-away airports, they remain the cheapest flights in Europe by FAR. This meant that I was required to print my boarding pass before going to the airport, or incur a $50 fee on arrival.

Cue the mad search for an internet cafe on a Sunday afternoon, and a rather convivial discussion of plane ticket prices between England and Sweden with the internet cafe man.

Naturally, we walked ten minutes in the wrong direction, as we are wont to do, and caught a bus back to where we were meant to be going.

We napped, ate pizza, and fell asleep to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an old favourite of mine, and a decidedly English filmographic experience.

We cruelly awoke Gareth at 4:30 in the morning to bid him adieu, left him with last night’s dishes (sorry Gareth) and went on our merry way.

And that is what we did in London.

It’s back to work tomorrow – coincidentally also the day I turn 25.