Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

colours of london.

Never do I drink as much tea as I do when I’m in London. Surely it must be the best here, so why would I drink anything else. And tea with hob nobs (Thank you, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!) is now one of my favourite things. I only allow myself to indulge when I’m actually in London. Cause you know, when in Rome…

Often when I travel, I like to buy one special little thing to take home to remind me of the experience I had. From Paris I brought back a small box of macarons from Ladurée; in Amsterdam I picked up a shirt (that I knew wouldn’t fit me) from one of the happiest and longest fleamarkets I have ever seen; from Weimar I have a scarf with a pattern similar to the walls of the Rococo Hall in the unforgettable Library there, and so on. So, in London, I wanted to buy one, perfectly fine, tea cup.

As I walk down Portobello Road, which runs the length of Notting Hill, admiring the pastels and whites, bold blues and yellows, I see a shop overflowing with porcelain. I pop my head into the very crowded-with-cups store and am greeted by a tall, dark and handsome. Long and slim with shoulder-length, wavy Clooney-grey hair, he flashes me a smile as I say hi in return, and quickly turn to face the wall ‘o cups. My search for the perfect cup doesn’t take long; it was sitting there waiting for me like a faithful dog who knew I’d come. 

Since I didn’t want to leave the store just yet, I looked around a bit more. As I did, I overheard tall, dark, handsome talking to a scruffy neighbour. They were discussing the bothersome noise caused by the renovations that the two lead actors from Slumdog Millionaire were doing on the new house they just bought up the street. Hmmm, there seem to be a few reasons why Notting Hill wouldn’t be the worst place to live. P.S. He was filling in for his mama, who has owned this porcelain shop for over fifty years. So sweet.

What once was a bustling fruit and vegetable market, Covent Garden is now a slick hang-out for cool urbanites and, of course, tourists. Once upon a time the ground that this former market sits on was farmed by Westminster Abbey and known as the ‘Garden of the Abbey and Convent’.

High-end boutiques, high-end buskers, along with artisans and tea shops, now make their home among the former veggie and fruit stalls. But the market rules still hang on the wall: No purloining of fruit or throwing of root vegetables. Even if you don’t like the music.

Keep calm and eat pie. Ahh pie. Bangers and mash. Bubble and squeak. Spotted Dick. Singing hinnies. Angels on horseback. I love British food. The first time I traveled through the U.K. in 1999 I spent a lot of time eating in pubs in large and small towns; the food was always hearty and good, with a great name. More than anything, I love the atmosphere in the British pubs. Like their food, the pubs are warm with good cheer; hearty with dense wooden textures; rich in colours of coffee, chocolate and mud; and they have the greatest names.

I experienced colours of London that I wasn't necessarily expecting to see as I was shopping. Happily finding a selection (a selection!) of tall stores, I popped in and out of the cool boutiques off of Oxford Street. In one particular store, I made my way through the narrow showrooms, hopefully scanning racks and looking for the shoe section. As I headed down a steep stairway and turned the corner, I almost bumped straight into a group of three wom…well, men. They were dressed casually; long skirts, decent jewellery, kitten-heel pumps. But, that I could look them all in the eye was a bigger giveaway. I never see gaggles of women my height, except when the brave crash a men’s basketball team (what fun!). Since one of the banes of my existence is that often people mistake me for a man (arrrgggh), let me just say I was less than impressed that men were shopping in ‘my’ tall store. After spending a few moments looking at the shoe selection and overhearing their remarks about how well this fits, but not this, and how does it look? I noticed that one of them had the same exact boots as I do! I realized that being here will do nothing for my self-image and so I left. But at least in London everyone has a selection…silver linings!

In every meaning of the word ‘circus’ except without the animals, Piccadilly Circus is noise, excitement, all shapes and sizes of people, familiar and strange smells, souvenirs, and theatre; pure entertainment. Almost two hundred years old, the Circus (‘circle’ in Latin) has become a must-see place to experience when you’re visiting London. Go at night…it is beauty (with noise).

And, of course the Thames. Colours of grey in water and often in sky, the river path cuts through London like a writhe snake. Legends and folklore play on its banks and bridges, making a riverboat tour a great afternoon outing. Did you know that women completed the Waterloo Bridge during WWII, deciding not to wait for the men to return? A river is the lifeblood of a city; the Thames is one of the most impressive.

Now if only I had some hobnobs...I need to christen my new cup.


1 comment

  1. Beautiful Sammeltasse! I was stressing that there was no photo of it and what satisfaction when I found it at the end of my enjoyable read :) I'm glad I get to see the world through you. BTW, I don't think something counts as a memento of a place if you eat it up (ie: macaroons from Paris..) ha ha


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