London – the second weekend

We were lucky enough to have two weekends in London and we packed the second one as full as we could. On Friday night, Abi, Laurens, Sue & I went to London’s Chinatown for a relatively early dinner at Joy King Lau. We ordered about 10 different dishes all of which were yummy and managed to finish all of them. After dinner we had reservations at the Comedy Store for an evening of stand up. They had seven comedians, an MC, the other four shown on the poster and then two more who did short sets of about 10 minutes each. They were all very good and we had a great time. After the show, Sue and I grabbed a cab back to the AirBnB driven by a very funny and talkative cab driver name Josie. 

Saturday, Sue and I went on a nice little stroll from Hackney to Highgate (circa 4 miles). Our destination, was, of course, Highgate Cemetery. We stopped on the way at the Lord Palmerston pub for a real British pub lunch. Sue had fish and chips and a cider while I had a Caesar salad (ok, not really British pub lunch, but I was still full from dinner the night before) and a pint of beer. We sat outside in the sunshine (yes really, there was sunshine) and watched the world go by. 

After lunch we headed for the cemetery to play our favorite game – Dead Person Bingo. The cemetery has two sections, East and West. We started with the west section and found Michael Faraday, Alexander Litvinenko and George Michael (real name Georgios Panayioto). Unfortunately we missed Beryl Bainbridge and Bob Hoskins, but oh well, you can’t see them all. In the East section we found Karl Marx (really impossible to miss), Malcolm McLaren and Douglas Adams (Don’t Panic!). All in all a very successful dead person’s bingo day.

We left the Highgate via the overground trains (which Sue has dubbed the overtube) on our way to meet up with Abi & Laurens to celebrate Laurens’ birthday. We met them and a bunch of their friends at a canalside bar called Crate Brewery. A good time was had by all. When the sun started to go down, Sue & I decided to have Indian food for dinner at Bengal Village on Brick Lane. The food was delicious a great end to a really enjoyable day.

Sunday, Sue and I walked down to Borough Market just to see what was there. Broadway Market, which we visited last weekend, was all prepared and ready to eat food, Borough Market had a much greater mix of prepared and grocery foods. The walk there took us past a few of the buildings that worked in when I lived in London, back during the 1980s, which made me a bit nostalgic. After walking through the market we decided to have lunch at the Anchor Pub, which has been open since 1615. I used to work around the corner from it, and when I lived in London, I would often go there for lunch. After a nice lunch, we had some time to kill until me were meeting Abi & Laurens, so we continued down the south side of the Thames to Tate Modern Museum. We wandered around looking at the installations for about an hour, and to be truthful, I just don’t get it. I think I am going to give up on modern art museums, I just don’t understand why the pieces that they are showing are good art. Some are interesting to look at, but what makes them great art? After being thoroughly bewildered by the Tate, we walked back to meet Abi and Laurens for a drink and then headed back to our AirBnB. Back to back 10 mile days, my legs were tired.

Monday was a bank holiday in Great Britain, called August Bank Holiday (pretty clever huh?).  Unfortunately, we had to work, because none of our clients are British. Sue and I did yoga in the morning (as if my legs didn’t hurt enough) and we met Abi & Laurens for dinner our last dinner in the UK at a Jamaican place called Ma Petite Jamaica. The food was good and we had a nice, if a little melancholy time, knowing that this was our last night together for a while.

Steven neglects to mention that Sue went on a 4-mile walk on the Regents Canal to Camden Market. The walk was the goal, not the market. In fact, the market, which is pretty famous, has every type of food you could want and plenty of knickknacks, leather goods, souvenir junk, and jewelry. If you don’t mind crowds, it’s a fun visit. That’s where I found Amy Winehouse. It used to be a haven for punks and goths, but like everywhere else, it just seemed touristy and hipstery.

Just some random photos of London courtesy of Sue:

Tuesday morning, we took the Chunnel to Paris and Wednesday morning we flew back to Chicago.

The Chicago skyline from the window of our plane – the color is due to the tinting on the window:

East London Calling

Here’s Abi pretending to enjoy the company of her belle-mère and probably actually enjoying her dad.

London sort of snuck up on us. We didn’t do much planning because the plan was really just to spend time with Steven’s daughter and (harshly) judge her partner. Since we didn’t really consider London as a place, we were a bit at loose ends.

We’ve noticed a pattern in which it takes us about a week to settle in. We’re only here for 10 days, so it’s a bit awkward. It’s not a vacation, but there’s a lot of eating out involved. Luckily, the heat wave broke and it’s only rained once.

We’re staying near her in East London, where I’ve never really been before. If you love hipsters, this is the place for you. Expensive coffee, fancy baked goods, “elevated” cuisine, a street food market — this area has it all. I’m not going to deny that we have had some delicious food or that I didn’t enjoy Broadway Market. During the week it’s a fruit and veg market, mostly, but on Saturdays it’s full of food stalls with almost any kind of food you might fancy. Of course, merchants are also selling stuff, but since we live by the 23 kilo rule, we don’t much look at stuff (except for Frida Kahlo socks and a book of cocktails inspired by feminist women (no, it’s not redundant — there are feminist men out there).

Broadway Market was our introduction to Abi’s neighborhood and it was jammed. After all, it was one of the few days in London when you needed neither a jacket nor an umbrella. Adding to the enjoyment, we walked along Regents Canal (below) to get there. Steven and I have taken several walks along the canal, which is just a few blocks from our AirBnB. The canal runs 8.6 miles, but we haven’t walked the entire length, yet. It is lovely, if overrun by bicyclists who are about as polite as American cyclists, which is to say about 20 percent announce their presence before they overtake you.

The most traditional activity we have participated in (besides beer and cider) has been eating a Sunday roast at the Hunter S. pub. Luckily, they have caved to vegetarian pressure and have a delicious nut roast. I can’t attest to the quality of the huge slabs of meat, but apparently they were yummy (I can. They were delicious). The place is funny because the bathrooms are decorated with pictures I can’t show in a family blog (at least not in the prudish US), but if you ask me nicely, I will send you a couple.

The food tour continued at Dishoom, a small chain of “elevated” (I warned you) Indian cuisine. I had stumbled upon the Covent Garden branch when I was here with Jake four years ago. It was delicious then and the Shoreditch edition was delicious again.

One caveat about hipsterville: Be prepared to wait. No one moves quickly and no one eats at home (and she hasn’t mentioned the twenty minute wait for coffee on Sunday at the Dusty Knuckle).

Off the food tour, onto the walking tour

Steven is busy keeping me in the lifestyle to which I would like to become accustomed and I had some time, so I signed up for a tour of Brick Lane through Unseen Tours. All their tour guide have been affected by homelessness and they offer a unique view of different parts of London. I chose the Brick Lane tour because it was close and I didn’t really know anything about East London.

Pete has been leading tours for eight years, but had been homeless in East London. A sheltered housing program helped get him back on his feet and he now has his own flat. He showed us around Brick Lane, telling stories about the street art and immigration history of the area along with discussing homelessness, government programs, and the obstacles to getting and keeping people off the streets.

BTW: Although Jack the Ripper struck here, Pete explained that he finds it disrespectful to sensationalize violence against women, especially because it’s on the uptick again. You go Pete!

The images below are all from the tour.

Brick Lane is now predominantly Bengali, but the French, Irish, and Ashkenazi Jews have all populated the area, hence the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid (mosque) dating from 1743 that was once a temple that was once a Protestant church and the Christ Church Primary School, which sports a star of David.

The Banksy

The tour ended with a somewhat underwhelming Banksy. A pink Triumph GT6 sits atop a wall that was once part of an Overground bridge. It’s encased in yellowed Plexiglas and where once there sat a ghost driver, nothing remains. If you still want to see it, you can find it at the Truman Brewery. Pete said that the bridge construction company took possession of the car and wall when they demolished the old bridge and when they realized what they had, they sold it for £1 million. I don’t recall how he said that it ended up back on the street, but I can ask him.

The street art below is from a retaining wall and building just off Brick Lane.