Our last two days in London were, well, brilliant! We saw the sixth Harry Potter movie at the same cinema, then met Kip and her husband for another nice picnic at St. James Park. After that, for DH the family beatlemaniac, we went to Abbey Road and re-enacted the famous album cover. It is a funny scene there as a small crowd tries to do this. The road has some traffic, and England has strict laws about stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk, so motorists and tourists try to be patient with one another as they get a little annoyed in attempting to do what they came there to do- pay homage to the Beatles or simply drive somewhere without hitting anyone. We waited with the rest and went out there when we could. It took us a few tries but I think we got a decent shot in the end!
Nearby is the famous recording studio and a small shop with some interesting memorabilia of the musicians and others (like Prince Albert of the famed speech) who recorded there. That is the actual studio below; the white wall behind us is full of Beatles-related graffiti.
We also walked around the corner to what may or may not be a current or former residence of Paul McCartney. DH had some questionable information from his brother, a fellow Beatles fan. The house looked quiet and we didn’t knock on the door, but maybe we were close to a living pop culture icon that day. We had an amazing dinner with M and S that night- home cooked Indian food. I cannot say enough to describe how lovely it was to spend time with this well-traveled, interesting and genuinely nice couple. The Indian food was so good- they have access to a great farmer’s market and also to authentic spices thanks to England’s large Indian population-and the conversation even better. They go to India regularly and have many stories from adventures there. When their kids were growing up, they spent summers in the US at various national parks. They went to Iceland a couple of years ago and we loved hearing about their experiences driving around that country. It is inspiring to consider where our own next trips will be, both with the kids and later on after they are grown.
Our last day we went to the Shoreditch neighborhood Ziferblat cafe for quite a while. This cafe is based on a concept that started in Russia in which patrons pay for time rather than items there. One can use the wifi and board games, eat snacks and make coffee, tea, and smoothies while paying hourly rather than paying for each thing separately. It was very affordable for us and the kids loved the dress-ups.
I went out with a walking tour book from M and S that included some sites from 1880’s Jack the Ripper. From Aldgate station, I walked a circuitous route to Liverpool station. First I went to St. Botolph’s Church, right next to Aldgate station and which existed in the 1880’s on an island where prostitution was allowed at the time. The present day church showed no sign of an island or prostitution and was very pleasant. There were volunteer guides eager to show me their church. This sword stand was something I hadn’t seen before:
It turns out that St. Botolph is the patron saint of travelers, a fitting saint for me to visit. The surrounding area had been extensively updated over the past century and bore little resemblance to the late 19th century descriptions I have read. In fact, demolition and reconstruction we’re going on around me as I walked around. There were, however, some old places with plaques that added to my guide book in telling the history of the area. Two examples are Artillary Passage (below) and a Victorian building that had been a care home for women called “Providence Row Night Refuge and Home and Convent”. Catching a glimpse of old London was rewarding, since you have to look for it and it always has some interesting stories behind it.
I went back to Shoreditch and the family, still happily ensconced at Ziferblat. After some more hanging out there, we headed to the British Museum. It was a grand building with a bright covered courtyard (below). We saw the magnificent Rosetta Stone which was the key to decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is really a magnificent place but sadly we didn’t see much more before closing time.
That same afternoon, Cleverly and I had afternoon tea. Apparently I have had it confused all along with ‘cream tea’, which is tea and scones with jam and clotted cream. Afternoon tea includes this but also features sandwiches, fruit, cakes, and other food you can’t possibly eat in one sitting. We did what we could. Here’s part of the spread: