A Day in London Town

St Martins in the Fields

So there I was, your travelling single gourmet, standing on Richmond Station at midday yesterday on my way into central London, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t even considered writing a post for the blog. I was heading into one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world and, even if it was only a 16-minute journey on the fast train to Waterloo, surely I had to write something about it. I may not have had my trusty digital camera with me, but the not-so-good camera on my iPhone would do.

London is my home (see The Single Gourmet Traveller), yet, as with all things familiar, it’s easy to lose focus and not notice what’s around you. It’s often after I’ve been on holiday in another city that I come back to London and really see it again; really see what a beautiful city it is. Yesterday was a perfect autumn day to see it at its best. The was sun shining, the sky blue, as I headed out of Waterloo station towards the South Bank to cross the fabulous Hungerford Bridge walkways, properly known as the Golden Jubilee Bridges, which opened in 2002. These beautiful structures have – rightly – won many awards.

However, before I went too far, the Single Gourmet needed lunch. With an early evening supper planned for later, I didn’t want much so headed into one of my favourite haunts in that part of London, Le Pain Quotidien, where I enjoyed a large bowl of freshly made tomato & basil soup with some of their delicious bread. I sat at the large communal table and considered that I could only be in a big, exciting city for all the buzz and the cosmopolitan crowd of diners surrounding me.

Next stop, The Italian Bookshop in Cecil Court, which is a pretty pedestrian road that runs between St Martin’s Lane and Charing Cross Road. I walked over Hungerford Bridge, past the beautiful St Martin’s in the Fields, situated at the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square and then up St Martin’s Lane past the Coliseum, home to English National Opera.

Having bought yet another Italian text book for my latest attempt to conquer the Italian language in preparation for my holiday to Venice next spring, I cut through New Row to Covent Garden. New Row is a lovely narrow road full of interesting cafes and food shops, bookshops and even a Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy. I made a short – almost mandatory – stop at the new Apple store and then headed up towards Neal Street and on to the British Museum.

I love the Bloomsbury area. Maybe it’s all that literary history but the architecture is beautiful too; leafy Georgian roads and squares and despite its central location, something a little more slow and sophisticated than the nearby Oxford Street area. Here I was meeting a friend to go to the new Grayson Perry exhibition: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen. I’m only just starting to ‘get’ Perry and after seeing a Culture Show special about this exhibition knew I had to see it – and I loved it. It’s completely fabulous. As is the British Museum itself – the internal central Great Court is a stunning piece of architecture and worth a visit all on its own. We had to pay to go into the Perry show, but you can go into the museum and wander round many of its galleries for free.

After sharing a piece of chocolate brownie and enjoying a cup of tea and chat, I then started retracing my steps back towards Waterloo where I was to meet another friend to see The Veil at the National Theatre. I’m happy walking miles in London rather than negotiating the busy Tube or getting on buses. Crossing Waterloo Bridge again it was dark by now but I had to stop and look around me – the magnificent Palace of Westminster and London Eye lit up to my right and the Oxo Tower and St Paul’s to my left – and the National Theatre itself, of course.

I hadn’t eaten in the Terrace Cafe at the National for ages. It’s a rather soulless place these days, I think; almost like they’ve set up some tables and chairs on a deserted stairway. However, we did enjoy a good plate of mixed tapas and glass of wine for a very reasonable price and there was all the convenience of just going down the stairs to the Lyttleton Theatre.

The play itself was a bit of a disappointment; fortunately we were in the bargain £12 seats at the front. While from a historical perspective it provided a good portrait of the plight of the Irish in the 1820s and the suppressed personalities of the English landowners, even with its supernatural theme of distraught ghosts and possession, it failed to ignite into something stirring and engaging.

Heading home late, I felt that my full day, enjoying some of the best London has to offer had been almost like a little holiday and reminded me that I don’t have to travel far for a great city experience.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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