We arrived in London on Saturday and are here until Friday. I was really looking forward to our time here so I could do some of the basics like have a haircut, get my legs waxed and go to a shopping mall where English is the accepted language. Don’t get me wrong I have loved our other destinations but with my poor foreign language skills I am sometimes unsure what I will end up with.
We came over on the Eurostar from Paris and armed ourselves with an Oyster Card for the London Underground. I love the Underground – it is cool being able to navigate your way around a city underground and pop up at your destination. We feel a bit like Meer Cats!
We were quite shattered on Tuesday after our big day at the tennis so all we wanted to do was meander around the city. First stop, Harrods – Steve loves the place. He heads straight to the technology floor and checks out the latest TV’s etc. I head for the food area and look at all the treats that I wouldn’t dream of buying – being a tight arse accountant I need to get value for money otherwise I can’t enjoy it!
We then had a wander through Hyde Park down the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial walk – such a cool green belt to have in the centre of the city. Next stop Oxford Terrace where things are a little more affordable than Harrods.
On Wednesday I went down to Whitstable which according to my good friend Kim is the centre of the universe. Kim’s Mum Gloria lives there so I popped down to visit her and have a spot of lunch. Whitstable is in Kent and it takes 1.5 hours by train from London Victoria Station. It was a very pleasant trip and Gloria was there to meet me at the station.
We walked back to her place via the High Street and spent the next few hours chatting away and admiring her new lounge which she has just had re decorated. I took a few photos for Kim so I could email them to her in outback Australia. It was then back on the train to London.
In my absence, Steve had been charged with finding a laundromat and getting the laundry done. He succeeded on this front and befriended the Polish girl running the laundromat along the way – she is probably booked to visit NZ next year knowing Mr Tourism.
He then proceeded to transform our hotel room into a Chinese laundry. I got back about 5.30pm and he is pacing around the room shifting this shirt to here and those undies to there and then putting that top on the lamp shade and then turning it on to generate heat. All the while he is going on about how hard he has worked sorting it all out and walking to the laundromat with the heavy bags and then walking back with even heavier bags while I swanned around. Please note this is the first time he has had to sort the washing on this trip.
We met a lovely couple from London when we were in Portugal – Denise and Gary. They were sitting next to us in a restaurant with their son Nick and Steve struck up a conversation which started with the All Blacks. It then turned to more serious matters like golf as Nick was a golf pro and Gary was golf mad. Anyway we met up with Denise and Gary for dinner in London at Skylon Grill. It is in the Royal Festival Hall and overlooks the Thames. It was a lovely night – it was great to catch up with them and help plan there trip to NZ in January 2015.
Today we went to Old Spitalfields Market to visit a friend, Glen from Brighton who has a furniture shop there – One Deko check out http://www.onedeko.co,uk. He has some very cool Italian and Italianesque (Glen’s word) furniture. We went for a coffee and caught up on all the news.
Old Spitalfields Market is a covered market in Spitalfields, London. There has been a market on the site for over 350 years. It is situated in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, just outside of the City of London.
There has been a market on the site since 1638 when King Charles gave a licence for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold on Spittle Fields, which was then a rural area on the eastern outskirts of London. After the rights to a market had seemingly lapsed during the time of the Commonwealth, the market was re-founded in 1682 by King Charles II in order to feed the burgeoning population of a new suburb of London.
Market buildings were sited on the rectangular patch of open ground which retained the name Spittle Fields: demarcated by Crispin Street to the west, Lamb Street to the north, Red Lion Street (later subsumed into Commercial Street) to the east and Paternoster Row (later known as Brushfield Street) to the south. The existing buildings were built in 1887 to service a wholesale market, owned by the City of London Corporation.
The wholesale fruit and vegetable market moved to New Spitalfields Market, Leyton, in 1991 and the original site became known as Old Spitalfields Market.
Steve wanted to check out the markets while I wanted to check out the surrounding streets which included Brick Lane. Brick Lane is the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and is known to some as Banglatown. It is famous for its many curry houses.
Winding through fields, the street was formerly called Whitechapel Lane. It derives its current name from brick and tile manufacture started in the 15th century, which used the local brick earth deposits. By the 17th century, the street was being developed from the south as a result of expanding population.
Brewing came to Brick Lane before 1680, with water drawn from deep wells. One brewer was Joseph Truman, first recorded in 1683. His family, particularly Benjamin Truman, went on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane.
Brick Lane in 1999 was the target of a bomb, detonated as an act of intolerance against the races of people living and working in the area. The same bomber also detonated bombs at Brixton and Soho.
The surrounding streets were also made famous by Jack the Ripper.
We had agreed to meet at 1pm and at 1.10pm Steve turned up red faced and dripping with sweat – I thought what the hell has he been doing! Turns out he had come across some guys playing table tennis. He asked them if he could play but they said “no bat, no play” – he then used his persuasive charm and they gave in. In return they got their asses whipped! They were very impressed with his table tennis prowess and wanted to keep playing and getting tips. They then invited him back tomorrow as their best player will be there then. Unfortunately we will be on route to Venice.
Next stop London Bridge and a cruise on the Thames. It is a good way to see some of the famous landmarks in London like the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster, Tower Bridge and the like.
We then met up with an old colleague from our Kiwi Dairies days – Luke Goodwin. He had suggested meeting at The Dove which was along the river and not far from where we were staying. The site where The Dove is has been a public house since the 17th century and has been patronised by some well known figures over the years. It also hold the Guinness world record for the smallest bar room in the world.
We had a great catch up and meal with Luke.