16 June 2010

a nightingale sang

... in Berkeley Square. No, we didn't actually hear the nightingale. But we stayed a few blocks from the square and walked by it (or through it) every day on the way to the tube station. Every time we did, this song started to play in my head, and it was always the Manhattan Transfer version.

We were in London only for the weekend, and didn't try to do too much. We played tourists -- I'd never been there before -- and rode the open-deck sightseeing bus with live commentary. I'll tell you; we've done that in Paris, and I don't care how cheesy you might think they are, those bus tours are WONDERFUL and definitely worth the price.

One of the things I really appreciated in London was the food. I think the notion that the food in England is boring is an old stereotype. We found a huge variety of food from all different cultures.

I also liked how food was available at all times of the day there.

In France, restaurants don't start serving food until noon and stop taking orders around 1:30 p.m. That's a really narrow window there. Then they close after lunch service and don't reopen for dinner until 7:00 p.m., some not until 8:00 p.m. If you're starving at 11:00 a.m. or get hungry around 4:00 p.m., you're out of luck unless you can find a bakery or a conveience store. It can be really hard when you're travelling and you can't predict your schedule for the day.

In London, I could eat decent food when I was hungry. What a concept!

That's not all. I was able to get "real" breakfast there, which isn't really available in France unless you cook it yourself (or perhaps you stay at a very expensive hotel with restaurants serving international guests, but I've never stayed at a place like that so I wouldn't know). I'm talking about scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, hash brown potatoes -- good, substantial, start-your-day-with-fuel-for-the-body food. Not a dainty croissant, not some pieces of bread with strawberry jam. I can't eat sweet stuff in the morning. I need salty food, and I got it! What a concept!

All of these things, combined with the fact that I was able to understand the menu and order my food in a language I spoke, made me very, very happy.

The trip wasn't all about food, however.

I liked the architecture in London. The handsome brick buildings witn simple sash windows reminded me of Nothern East Coast, U.S., particularly Old Town Alexandria, a place with great memories. I do realize it's actually the other way around and the colonial buildings in Alexandria were copied from England, but I am an "American expat" and that's my frame of reference.

I loved the front porches and painted doors with knockers on the ground floor level, and windows adorned with flower boxes. We don't see these things in Lyon because there are no townhouses here; just apartment buildings.

In case you're wondering, I didn't do any shopping. Really! I figured there wasn't enough time. But I did go to the Antrhopologie store on Regent Street while M and E were looking at the wonderful toys at Hamleys, as it was only a few stores down the street. Alas, it was closed for inventory and was to open at 2:00 p.m. that day. We had to be at Heathrow AT 2:00 p.m. for our return flight to Lyon. Darn, darn, darn.

I guess I have to go back soon. The flight is only an hour and twenty minutes, so why not?

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