Greetings, devoted blog fans!
That first full day in London was a doozy all right. Nine miles of wandering around is one thing, but contact with the thousands of my fellow tourists is what really did me in – at least one of ‘em gave me a wicked cold virus. I first realized it the next day, on board a train for Stroud, Gloucestershire, where my college roommate Bonnie’s been living for a while.
“A” marks the spot.
Gracious host that she is, Bonnie accommodated my whiny, sniffly self and we spent the first few hours of my visit basically prone on her living room floor, comparing notes on the vagaries of life. But eventually, it was time to go out for dinner. In true minimalist, ecofriendly European fashion, Bonnie and her partner (who alas, was out of town, so I didn’t get to meet him) are car-free by choice, so we walked the “two miles” to the Stroud Brewery. The “two miles” were quite enjoyable, featuring as they did paths through the woods and along old canal towpaths lined with an incredible array of English wildflowers. We went under an aqueduct once or twice – it was a lovely time. Much later, I learned that no wonder our walk was so much fun – it was actually three miles of pleasure. Well, allrighty then.
Fortunately, the individually-baked pizzas and organic pear cider were quite restorative...
(thanks, internet, for the picture!)
...which was handy, given that we had
two three miles walk home. By now lo, I say unto thee, verily, I didst feel like shit: badly swollen throat and brain completely given over to snot production. I gave up on the idea of spending the following morning (Saturday) doing my ten-mile run along Stroud’s scenic byways. Instead, we both slept in and then wandered around downtown Stroud.
Stroud has the small town thing all figured out.
Very few chain stores – there was a Subway, but that’s the only one I noticed.
The Beatles played here twice, in 1962.
There’s so much of this sort of thing it’s easy to take for granted.
Farmer’s Market and associated trinkets. Best part: all the musicians with their guitar cases out for change – their average age was 13, I would guess. Start ‘em young.
There was a lot of FANTASTIC cheese and meats available for nibbling. And purchase.
Who wouldn’t want a beef shin bone pie? Not Bonnie!
And then Bonnie got me off onto the train. And somehow, once I arrived back at Paddington Station, I managed to get myself back to the hotel. I felt like I was about 125 years old. I crashed hard. Kevin was in meetings. I rallied and woke up and made myself presentable, because we had a hot date scheduled.
Rowley’s, Jermyn Street, just off Piccadilly Circus. I’d eaten here once before in 1988 and all I’d remembered was the street name – thanks be to the google, I was able to track it down. All they serve, pretty much, is beef and french fries (“chips”) tho’ they do have a token vegetarian entrée. Those are big smushes of herb butter, sitting on top of sirloin and fillet. It was heavenly. I’m sure they appreciated my frequent nose blowing – I am a class act, what can I say.
We wandered home after dinner through Picadilly, Leicester Square, and the edge of Soho, through thousands of tourists equally intent on enjoying the mellow evening. I’m sure our every move was documented on a security camera – there are probably more security cameras than there are people in England. They are OBSESSED.
This is blurry but evocative, so I’m including it. Just one of many improbably lovely buildings that litter the London landscape.
I was struck by the excellence in signage, which for some unfathomable reason I didn’t think to photograph. Signs explaining detours and construction projects. Kiosks with big walking maps, showing you what’s within a five minute walk of where you’re standing. Or my personal favorite, a small sign affixed to the side of a sex shop, requesting that those loitering outside for a smoke please be mindful of the traffic and also considerate of other pedestrians. So polite! And outside a sex shop! I love it.
And that was it! Our last full day. We left for the States the following day. Most of my brain has evaporated into snot and I’m regrowing it, as you can tell from the excellent quality of this post. Thanks for sticking with me!