Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Walking around London

"Just lock the door and drop the keys through the mail slot when you leave" was my cousin's reply when I informed him of my 6AM departure to downtown London.

The best light for taking photos is dawn or dust, plain and simple. Having witnessed too many sunrises from the apartment I decided it was time to set out and have a look how London wakes up.
The sunrise over Trafalgar Square.
Getting out at Waterloo station I glanced around for Jason Borne then crossed over the Thames, in search of a cup of coffee. I had heard good reviews about Monmouth Coffee House, a small shop which opened near Covent Gardens in 1978 and started roasting coffee beans (from single farms, estates, and cooperatives) using old fashion direct-flame machines.
I found a seat on the bench, having arrived 10 minutes before the shop opened, only to watch as a flood of eager caffeine addicts rushed to form an informal line minutes before 8AM.
The door swung open and i found myself in a line with regulars who knew the routine. "You getting take-away?" a Brit dressed in biking spandex asked me. Not knowing my options and thinking that was the only option I quickly answered yes, the dumb look on my face reminded me of Mr. Bean.

The bikers passed and took a seat at the back of the tiny shop. Realizing I could/should do the same, I headed for the back and took a seat with a couple from Torino. Turns out space is limited so a "communal seating" notice is posted on the wall next to each hard wood table. The tables, located right back in the heart of the action gave the feeling like you were not only the customer but also an all-star barista. The tapping of extinguished espresso grounds, the explosions of steam from the machines, the pressurized white foam, all this caffeinated chaos taking place next to the tables.
Not pretending to be a connoisseur of coffee, I would like to say my cappuccino was mighty pure, leaving a pleasant fair-trade after-taste in my mouth.
The Italian couple was replaced by a sweet lady who had the look, sound and gentleness of an older Mrs. Doubtfire. Looking up from her newspaper from time to time, she would pass a question, "Have you ever been to a bull fight?" as she showed me a picture in the paper of a bull in a ring with its horns on fire. "I hope they (Spaniards) stop this activity, it's just so cruel."

I left Monmouth Coffee House and headed across town to the Churchill War Rooms Museum. This underground bunker gives a fascinating look into where Winston and his team pounded out strategies against Hitler's Germany.
The War Rooms provide a detailed look into those dark days when England's fearless leader declared "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"
After a long but enjoyable visit to the War Rooms I found myself at the Grenadier, a tiny pub tucked back in a neighborhood at the south end of Hyde Park. This place has a great historic feel to it and feels like a little oasis away in the loud, busy streets of London. But you better hurry, the lease is up in 2015...

Once used as military outpost a couple centuries ago, this pub is said to be one of the most haunted places in London- after finishing a pint on an empty stomach I swear I saw Churchill in the corner feasting on Beef Wellington, his favorite meal.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

This reminds us of our trip, minus the camera. What you convey without saying is that you probably walked at least 3 miles in and aroud London. Now off to France.

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