Last Saturday in London

As I mentioned at the tail end of my last post, I was sick with a cold most of the second week in London. Basically, I went to work, then came back to the apartment to eat and crash. I did go out to Piccadilly Circus / Leicester Square after work one night, but paid for it the next day.

Meanwhile, my pictures of Portsmouth and Greenwich sat on my hard drive; I couldn’t work up the gumption to edit and post them.

I will say that the UK version of Sudafed actually worked to a certain extent; I’ve definitely felt worse, but I was still pretty drippy up through Thursday night. It was actually kind of weird — I went to bed feeling miserable, and woke up from a dream of a little girl offering me a present, and I knew I was past the worst of the cold. Friday I was still feeling kind of jury-rigged, but the worst of the drippiness had stopped, which left the question: what to do about Saturday?  I had one day free before my flight back.

I asked my co-workers. Cécile recommended Borough Market near London Bridge. A couple of people recommended the Imperial War Museum. I wanted to end up in Piccadilly Circus for dinner; I’d liked the Angus Steakhouse there. So that was the plan.

I ended up taking the bus over to London Bridge station, due to construction; it seemed like I took the bus more this time around, which was all to the good, as its easier to sightsee from the bus than it is from the subway. I crossed the street to head to the Market, and noticed a beautiful old Gothic church tucked right into the heart of a busy London neighborhood. I’d stumbled onto Southwark Cathedral. It looked promising, so I went inside.

Southwark has been around since the 1200s, first as a priory, then as a parish church, and was only designated a cathedral in 1905, when it became the seat of the Southwark diocese. The current nave dates back to the late 1800’s when it was restored.

The church and grounds are a small oasis in the middle of London. Overhead trains roar overhead right next door — the routing of the trains nearby is a compromise; originally, the church was to have been torn down to make way for the railway. There are chapels inside commemorating both John Harvard, founder of Harvard University, and William Shakespeare, whose brother was a member of the parish.

After a leisurely tour of the cathedral, I went back next door to the Borough Market. It’s a big open air food market. They had more kinds of food there than I could possibly imagine. They had strawberries. They had vegetables. They had fruit. They had venison. They had diver-harvested scallops. They had all sorts of cuts of meat.  We joke that all conversations with my brother-in-law Paul always wind up at food; he would have been in hog heaven.

Whole, Roast Hog

Whole, Roast Hog

After I finished up at the market, I wandered around a bit, and headed over to the Thames, which was close by. There, I saw a replica of the Golden Hind, Sir Francis Drake’s ship. Like the other ships, it was in drydock.

By this point, it was early afternoon, and I wanted to see the Imperial War Museum. My iPhone recommended a route with several transfers along the way; I didn’t feel comfortable with that, especially since the phone’s battery was draining rapidly (I’ve discovered that Slack is a battery hog if you allow it to use cellular data). I had a pretty good idea how to get there from Westminster, since I’d considered going there last fall, so that’s what I did: I took the train to Westminster, crossed over the bridge, then walked along the South Bank to Lambeth and the Museum. It was a pretty long walk, but the weather was nice, and the scenery along the South Bank was pleasant.

You could probably easily spend the better part of a day at the Imperial War Museum. As it was, I only had a couple of hours: I got there about 2:30 and wanted to be in Piccadilly Square around 5, a little before the dinner rush. So I looked around the bottom floor of the atrium, and then walked through their exhibit about World War I. I hadn’t really appreciated just what a hopeless meat grinder of a war it was. The exhibit explained the causes of the war, and then takes the visitor through the various stages of the war.

I did get to Piccadilly Circus for dinner at the Angus Steakhouse. I know it’s kind of a tourist trap, and I know it’s basically American cuisine, but I was a tourist, and I am American, and I was really in the mood for a steak. Plus, they have a strawberry sundae that is to die for.

After supper, I walked back through Piccadilly, down the street and into the Green Park. From the park, I wound up at Buckingham Palace, where arrangements were being made for a 10 K road race the next day. After taking a bunch of pictures of the gardens, the statuary, and all the gold leaf, I walked back to Victoria and took the Underground back to the apartment, and packed my gear for the flight home the next morning.