Wednesday, July 02, 2008

June 25, 2008: London

Cindy was spending her first full day in London with Emily at Imperial College, so I was on my own sightseeing again. I’d hatched a vague plan to spend the day wandering around the Thames, from the Tower Bridge down to Battersea Park, with numerous stops in between. For some reason Cindy and I had failed to visit the Tower of London last time we were in London, so I was wowed by the mighty bridge and the ancient fortress.

A quick stroll along the Thames path and across London Bridge had me wandering past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and into the Tate Modern, with its imposing turbine hall. Like Brisbane’s Powerhouse on steroids.

After spending a couple of hours going through the excellent Street and Studio exhibition and sitting for a few quiet minutes in the stunning Rothko room, it was back out into the crowds and across the Millennium Bridge towards St Paul’s.

The entry fee and queues discouraged me from actually going into the cathedral, instead wandering on towards my planned lunch venue. The Time Out vegetarian guide to London had intrigued me with its promise of vegetarian Japanese food at Saki. I started to wonder when I realised that the restaurant was located directly across from London’s meat markets, but it wasn’t until I sat down with the menu that I realised that ‘vegetarian’ actually meant ‘at least one vegetarian dish on the menu’. And that the food wasn’t cheap: 15 pounds by the time I’d had a beer and a set lunch. Still, the set lunch was pretty good: miso soup, udon noodles, assorted vego sushi pieces and some tempura. It was all fresh and tasty, but I left slightly disappointed having had high expectations of a menu filled with vegetarian Japanese delights.

A quick stroll along Fleet Street and through the old inns of court near Chancery Lane – all London barristers have to have their offices in these court, which are run on arcane 14th century traditions. Still, they have lovely gardens.

I continued down along the bank of the Thames past some of the ministry building and to the ridiculous splendour of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.

Then it was time for a break from the crowds and a rest on a park bench in St James’ Park, filled with more exotic waterfowl. London really does have a rich array of wonderful parks dotted amongst all the crowds and old buildings.

A bit more walking (I was really starting to run out of steam by the late afternoon) took me around through Chelsea towards Battersea Park and past the imposing (and derelict) Battersea Powerstation.

A quiet sit in the park and a brief flurry of enthusiastic bird-watching (which meant I could go back home bragging about the great tits I’d seen) and I was completely spent. After some confusing public transport wrangling it was back to Em and Sam’s place and then off to the local Eritrean and Italian restaurant Red Sea for dinner. We opted for the vegetarian special, which the menu suggested served 2 or 3. Perhaps because there were no other customers around, we ended up with enough food to feed a small army – a huge injera platter, artfully decorated with four different stews (the lemony-spinach one and the lentilly orange one were the clear stand outs) and a side salad. Throw in a seemingly endless supply of little personal injera rolls for dipping and the four of us were alarmingly full well before we’d got through it all. Our waiter briefly chastened us for leaving too much salad, before relenting and serving us up some traditional Eritrean coffee, which was at least 30% sugar. So good. We settled back with our coffees and watched the second half of the Turkey v Germany Euro semi-final with the restaurant owners, all of us cheering on the gutsy Turks. Despite their last-minute defeat, we left the restaurant happy, full and exhausted – all of us falling straight into our beds when we got back home.

Photo credit to Sam and his snazzy camera phone.


  1. I'm sure you guys know about this place already but you have to visit Borough Market, it's foodie heaven. Only open Fridays and Saturdays but Fridays are best because it's a little less insanely busy.

    Oh and I think this place is still open, one of my fav spots in London, the Bonnington Cafe, a community-run cafe that was serving a three-course veg meal for £8 when I was living in London (BYO). It has a lovely garden for when the sun is out and a kind of eccentric vibe.

  2. You have seen so much in so little time - but London has so much to see - makes me wish to be there. One of my favourite places was Westminster Abbey which when I first visited london was free and seems an outrage that isn't any more (I think St Paul's might have been free too).

    One of my favourite places was cranks at covent garden which apparently has shut but there were also some good eateries in Neal's Yard which is off the road from covent garden going towards holburn and bloomsbury (it is too many years since I was last there to be less vague) (Oh, by looking at the date - I guess you have left London by now)

  3. Lisa, we hit the Borough Market last Friday morning! It was fantastic. I haven't heard of the Bonnington Cafe before and really regret that we missed it, it looks like excellent value in a city of high food prices (up against the Aussie dollar, anyway).

    Yes, Johanna, we're now in York but it was lovely reading your stories anyway! I have your Edinburgh notes printed out and tucked away for later this week. :-)

  4. The photos look great. I wish I was there.

    Where's the photos of the tits. I don't see any tits. I wanna see some tits. Hahahaha. Oh we're so childish.

    I hope to read more about your holiday. I'm so envious.

  5. They make the best injera and Ethiopian dishes in Footscray at a place called 'Cafe Lalibella'. Servings are huge and average price is $10.

  6. Thanks, Thanh! The, uh, tits are too small to photograph. ;-)

    Hi, ...FWMTS! In Melbourne I've previously had injera at Nyala in Fitzroy and the Horn in Collingwood. Cafe Lalibella looks great and I'm keen to try it as well. :-)