Three weeks was not long enough. We are not tired of London and we are certainly not tired of life. This city has been called a modern Babylon, a populous and smoky city where no one is ever healthy, a place for love and scandal, the epitome of our times, going beyond any boundary or convention. Illimitable infinite London. And to us for the last three weeks, home. As this is our last day in Londontown, what better way to capture the spirit of this city than to relive three of our favorite experiences.
One of our favorites places for breakfast is The Wolseley in Piccadilly. Situated in the old showroom for Wolseley Motors, which later went bankrupt and the building purchased by Barclays Bank, The Wolseley today is a restaurant in a gorgeous art deco setting, sort of a Parisian brasserie meets Viennese coffeehouse, serving breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner. Yes, it can be a bit touristy; yes, there are celebrity sightings; and, yes, the FT-reading pinstripe brigade can create a bottleneck during rush hours. But I have not had a better cup of cafe creme or soft-boiled egg in all of London. The soft-boiled egg brings back great memories for me of my grandmother in Australia who used to make it for me when we stayed over at her place as children However, said egg presents a bit of a quandary as I don’t know how best to eat it. When Steve and I went with our friends George and Valerie to The Wolseley for breakfast, Valerie and I both ordered the soft-boiled egg with toast soldiers. I know there is a trick to opening the egg , but neither of us know what it is. Do you use both the knife and the spoon to open it, as they both came with the meal? Is the knife simply for spreading the egg on the toast or is that what the spoon is for? Does the knife come into play at all? (Seriously if anyone knows the trick to this please let me know. I will not rest until the secret is revealed to me.) My clumsy method is to crack the top with the spoon and then pick off the little bits of the shell. Evidence of shell detritus is in the picture above. I swear some of the servers behind the bar were snickering (help me next time, dammit!)
The pubs. Ahh, the pubs. I have said before that my favorites pubs in London are The Harp, The Jerusalem Tavern, Ye Olde Mitre, The Market Porter and The Wenlock Arms. What these boozers have in common are high-quality real ale (and often ciders and perrys), friendly, knowledgeable bartenders and comfortable surroundings (perhaps with the exception of The Market Porter – I have yet to find an available chair there.) Added to this illustrious list is The Pride of Spitalfields, a pub that I am proud to say became our local. While The Pride is small and doesn’t have a wide array of real ales (it did have Crouch Vale’s Brewer’s Gold, which was quite hoppy but with that delicious honeycombed English malt, Sharp’s Doom Bar, Fuller’s London Pride and ESB, all in good nick,) it does have witty and charming regulars, plays music (which is often unusual in pubs, as are TVs) from The Cure to Ce Lo Green and has comfy red plush banquettes dotting the dingy carpet. Plus what other place has a disco ball at the ready?! Located on a small street off Brick Lane, The Pride attracted a motley crowd the handful of times that we were there – blue-collar, suits and what I heard termed as the “Kajagoogoo lot.” Honest to god, it was a flashback to those bad 80s New Wave hair days. We did close down the pub twice with our New York and London friends. I can’t say that this endeared us to the regulars but I can safely say that we will be remembered.
Lastly, the Royal Wedding. I hesitated to write about this since there has been an oversaturation of pictures and analyses of this event. But it was a big one, and we were here for it. Rather than focus on Kate’s dress, Pippa’s figure, Will’s uniform, Harry’s scruffy hair, the carriage, the car, the spectacle, I prefer to focus on the commonplace and universally appreciated aspect of this extraordinary event: the bottom line. How did this city make a quid on Kate and Wills? What were the creative ways businesses parlayed the wedding of the century into a profit? Well, we saw special ales with cheeky names brewed for the occasion (see pic above), a tanning salon imploring us to “Tan Like the Royals” (they were pretty pasty last I checked), even soaps bearing the name of William and his English Rose. Restaurants and pubs asked us to “Watch the wedding here” whereas other suggested we “Come here for the after party!” We watched. And then we partied. And then we went home to watch all the highlights again.
London will always be here for us and we will be back with her again soon. But now it’s off to York – the original York, the one that renders that city across the pond “New York.”