Friday, August 01, 2014
Before we went to the Glastonbury Festival last month, we spent a few days in London. I hadn't been in a very long time, and I have to say, it's come a looong way since my first visit in 1984. For starters - the food is edible, they put ice in drinks, and the beer is cold. I was pretty much all set - except for the unfortunate fact that everything costs about twice as much there as anywhere else. If anything, I was actually a little disappointed that it doesn't feel very different from the U.S. anymore. Even their sirens make the same wailing sound as ours now. It just doesn't seem right.
We biked a lot while we were in London. We were pleased to find that we could check out the Barclay's Bikes (locally known as Boris Bikes) using a regular credit card - no chip and pin required. For two pounds per twenty four hour period, we could go pretty much anywhere our little legs could carry us. On our first day in town, we grabbed bikes from the station right in front of our Air BnB flat in Notting Hill, and cruised all the way down to Borough Market - on the south side of the river - for lunch. It was about a 45 minute ride through Knightsbridge and Westminster to the Thames, and then over to the South Bank. We cruised past Buckingham Palace just before the changing of the guard - I felt just like this little guy. Crossing the Thames right by Big Ben and the London Eye was pretty exciting too. We never bought the (very expensive) Oyster transit cards. Instead, for 2 pounds per person per day, we got our transportation, and our exercise too. It worked out well.
After lunch at Borough Market (more on that later - saving the best for last) we went on a bike tour with Tally Ho Cycle Tours, one of a few companies offering cycling tours of London. I looked at other options, but just couldn't resist the vintage Pashley bikes at Tally Ho. I wound up with a pretty pink one.
We took the "Old City" tour, which took us along the South Bank to Borough Market again, then across the Tower Bridge (a little hair raising) to the original City of London - which lies within the confines of the wall around the original Roman city of Londinium. We rode through the financial district, ringing our bells at the drunk bankers out for a round on a Friday afternoon after work, and stopped at the one of the oldest continuously operating pubs in London for a pint - pausing to marvel at the gallows used to hang pirates in the 1700's. We also stopped by one of the few pieces of the wall still standing - tucked away in a hidden spot in the business district - where we took the photo above. Our guide, Niall, is an architecture scholar, so he provided a lot of historical background and interesting details about the sites and buildings, which added another level of interest to the whole thing.
If you are a food lover, and you find yourself in London, you absolutely must go to Borough Market. That's what I heard over and over again, and it's absolutely true. The market has been around forever, and in recent years it's become a phenomenally popular destination for eating as well as shopping. There are hundreds of stalls in and around the historic Victorian building selling everything from produce and cheeses to sandwiches and drinks. It's not inexpensive, but you can eat very well - it's probably best to bring friends and share a few things, because you'll want to try a lot.
We sampled the chorizo sandwich, pictured above, which was good but not amaaahhhzziing - I had heard some raves about it. It tasted exactly as it looks - a firm chorizo sausage on a roll with arugula, soft roasted peppers and aioli.
The other thing I had heard a lot about was the toasted cheese sandwich. It was one of the first things we walked past and we weren't ready to make a selection yet so we missed it, but I'm sure it's popular for a reason. (With the description on the front of the stall there, how could you go wrong?)
After sharing the chorizo sandwich with James (and letting him eat most of it) I got in line for some roast pork at Roast. Roast is actually a fancy restaurant that overlooks the market, serving upscale versions of traditional British food - along the lines of the Sunday roast with yorkshire pud, etc. The market stall serves a takeway version of that cuisine - hog roast and roast beef sandwiches, scotch eggs, etc.I didn't need anymore bread after the chorizo sandwich, so I sweet-talked the girl into putting my chopped pork and cracklin in a box with some arugula, horseradish sauce and applesauce. It was heavenly. There was also another hog roast stall outside that had the actual pig going.
We walked around all over the market in between and after these repasts, and when I saw these doughnuts, I immediately knew what I was having for dessert. There was a bit too much cream inside (but it looks so pretty spilling out, doesn't it?) I was able to squeeze some out (and all over my hand) to obtain the right custard to pastry ratio. Heavenly.
Interspersed with the stalls selling prepared foods are wine shops, olive bars, cheese shops, produce stalls, the list goes on and on...
Around the edges of the market are a few restaurants and wine bars. We sat down for a glass of wine at a wine bar looking onto the market, but the restaurants and bars outside spill onto the sidewalk making for a lively scene too. It would be a fun place to head for a casual dinner.
We wandered over to the Neal's Yard Dairy cheese shop after the market to check out the shop and sample some English cheeses. It's not just a shop, they make the cheese there too - there was water on the shop floor from them washing the rinds. If you like English cheddar and sharp cheeses, this is your place. Some of the wheels they produce there are just absolutely massive.They also had a dairy case selling butter and cream, etc.
All in all it was a perfect way to kick off our trip - some great food, lots of vigorous exercise to burn it off and some fabulous sights. We had almost as much fun on our trip in London as we did in Glastonbury. Almost. :) I'll be back with more next week - and who knows, maybe I'll even throw in a local post too, just to mix it up!
Posted by Alice Q. Foodie on Friday, August 01, 2014