“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” – Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, v1, ch1
It’s not that I lacked adventures at home in Canada, but this quote grabbed my heart (I’m always a sucker for Jane Austen) so I’m going with it! My life in London has certainly been loaded with adventures, even in October when my criminal record check clearance was dealt with and I was employed by two agencies. But as October included several day and weekend trips out of London, two visits from friends abroad, and a new friend from South Africa, I think it fits.
October began on a Saturday. T and I enjoyed the weekend with a wander through Soho, Piccadilly Square, lunch at an Indonesian place, and the highlight: my first EVER proper afternoon tea, at Soho’s Secret Tea Room (it’s hidden above a pub!). The sandwiches, scone, and dessert were all gluten free and fantastic, but the sandwiches were my favourite. How cucumber and egg can be so impressive, I don’t know. Feeling all trendy and high-tea-ing it up, it was the perfect day to have worn my hand-made green wool cloche hat from Funk Shui on Granville Island! Behind us, you’ll see a hotel. We wandered down that way and found ourselves in a dead end. This city can be so deceiving, with wide streets that lead nowhere and tiny alleys that open up to hidden gems of pubs and history (Wine Office Court is just one example).
In the spirit of getting caught up, here is the CliffsNotes/Highlights version of my October:
- A visit from A! We met at our university orientation in 2004 and she’s been one of my dearest friends ever since. She and her husband had come over for a wedding, and made their way into London for a visit. We enjoyed a girls’ lunch at The Lighterman on Granary Square for tasty gnocchi and flatbread, did some shopping, stopped in at a pub, and later headed into the city to meet up with the guys for dinner at Strada. Full disclosure: Strada is absolutely charging for the view (which was spectacular at night, overlooking the Thames, Tower of London, and Tower Bridge) and most certainly NOT for the food. My risotto was abysmally bland (I’ve had much better at pubs that were serving it as a one off) and T’s pasta was even worse, which is pretty pathetic for an Italian restaurant. Isn’t that supposed to be what they’re best at? But the company was great and the view really was wonderful.
- Going to watch my first Rugby game at Twickenham Stadium. It’s the largest dedicated rugby venue in the world. The first game was played there in 1909 and almost 100 years later they’re as strong as ever. We enjoyed a casual beverage on the train, the MASSIVE, well-behaved crowds as we approached and left the stadium (I’ve never seen such a huge crowd of people, many of whom were drinking, without seeing any problems or hearing any fights. It felt like such a safe crowd to be part of), and the game itself was a lot of fun to watch.
- Canadian Thanksgiving potluck dinner! Hosted by lovely friends in their Peckham flat, T and I made a turkey and gravy alongside our new fave: homemade apple whiskey stuffing. There was also delectable ham made by our hostess, a homemade pumpkin pie, and countless other dishes that were clearly all made with love. What a spread!
- Another weekend in Barrington and Cambridge with my cousins- and this time with T! I was thrilled that he finally got to meet more of my family. Thanks to tickets from two of my cousins, we got to see the stunning gothic King’s College Chapel. Founded by Henry VI, construction began in 1446 and was completed in 1515, with other details such as the stained glass windows added in the 1530s. Check out the link for the history of the chapel, and a virtual tour which does a surprisingly good job of conveying its grandeur. We climbed the tower at Great St. Mary’s Church, but the volunteer failed to properly disclose that the entire views west and north (overlooking the many colleges, and the purpose of going up there) were completely blocked by scaffolding and barriers. At least we got the exercise? 😉 The gorgeous fall weather provided a stunning backdrops for photos, lots of photos, like these (and lots of quality time with my family).
- A visit from a Canadian friend of T’s. A musician, K stayed with us for a week and inspired our trip to The Blues Kitchen in Camden. The menu is all barbecue and comfort… We ordered a bit of everything and shared it all- my absolute favourite way to experience a new restaurant. We tried: cajun popcorn squid; a barbecue combo with beef brisket and ribs; wings; southern fried buttermilk chicken (my worst allergies but I had to take one bite!); a bacon cheeseburger with coleslaw; mac n’ cheese; and spicy cornbread with honey butter. You know, a little feast for 3 😉
- Solo adventuring in the city. I used the half term break to relax, but also to explore. I walked around Covent Garden, found The Lamb and Flag, a pub where Charles Dickens used to hang out and write, and sat in an 18th century wooden booth in the corner of the pub. Yes, this is where my Literature degree/ History loving friends will be very jealous, and I can’t even be sorry! It was so cool! That evening, T and I met up and had poutine and caesars at the Maple Leaf. It’s a total stereotype of Canadians but its the only place in London we’ve found that has clamato juice and makes caesars, so it’ll do. 🙂 I took myself on a bus ride through the city, and wandered the smaller and oft overlooked church that sits Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. It’s St Margaret’s Church, which was rebuilt in 1482 and reconsecrated in 1523, and is still essentially the same despite restorations in the last 3 centuries. It is quaint and peaceful, and is also where Olaudah Equiano (African slave, writer, and part of the Sons of Africa group in London who worked to abolish slavery) was baptized. Have I mentioned that I love London? The history here astounds me on a daily basis, as do the physical connections to authors and stories that I have loved for years.
- Brunch with a new friend at Canada Water. In the summer, we chatted with two women from South Africa and R and I exchanged numbers. Between going back to Canada in September, her losing my number, and me taking ages to get a UK phone number, it took a while to connect. But when we did, we had brunch at a lovely cafe in our neighbourhood (we even live in the same area!) and then went on to a pub for an afternoon cocktail. The food was good, the conversation was better; a new friendship has begun. Yay for having TWO friends in England!
- The Shard! The tallest building in the UK, the shard literally towers over all of London at 310 meters high and can be seen from almost anywhere, including the back garden of our flat. We enjoyed some pricey cocktails on the 33rd floor. The view was stunning and I’m glad we’ve been there, but there are lots of beautiful views in this city so I’m not sure it’ll be a recurring event.
This is me after all, so you didn’t expect my interpretation of CliffNotes to be THAT brief, did you? 😉