Sunday, May 12, 2013

Postcards from London: Last Bits

I didn't bring home any vintage postcards on this trip, but here's something better: a five-minute, early color film of London sites in the 1920s by Claude Frisse-Greene. It's like watching old colorized postcards come to life.

I wrote to the folks at Paul, the French bakery chain that has dozens of branches in England and several in America, especially around Washington, D.C.. I told them we Bostonians desperately needed them. They wrote back and said they were glad to hear it and were looking for locations. I told them Back Bay has four cupcake shops and no decent bakery except Flour, where the lines are always insane. Shall we start an email campaign?

I like cold tea and I drink it iced when I'm in hurry.

I should also write to the folks at the Underground and tell them we desperately need them here, too. Trains are scheduled frequently more often than not, and arrival times are posted and accurate. The stations and trains are clean. And the riders behave. It's expensive to ride but we bought an Oyster card that gave us unlimited travel for a week and it was so easy.

"Mind the gap."

We were instructed to have tea at Fortnum & Mason by a London-loving friend who goes there often, (sometimes on a weekend when she has nothing else to do). And she was right. I make good scones using an English recipe and homemade, self-rising flour, but I need to look into finding clotted cream over here. I'm sure it's around. 

On this trip, I realized the truth of how restorative tea is after a long day of walking and sightseeing. We felt renewed afterward, and I'm sure the sugar had much less to do with it.

Having seen only one cat in London, I was happy to see this ancient Egyptian tabby in the British Museum (look under the man's right arm). He (or she) reminded me of Toffee: he's grabbing a bird with his front legs, has another bird with his back legs, and holds a duck in his mouth. 

A busy, happy cat.

There are no cats in the Elgin Marbles as far as I know, but I looked at them anyway.

To me, the soldiers seem rather depressed, as if they were missing their cats back home. Very touching reminder that art's meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

People-watching in Trafalgar Square before sunset, with double-decker buses and Elizabeth Tower (home of Big Ben) in the background.

We were very happy here.

A dog relaxes in a great antique shop on the Portobello Road. I crave one of those 19th-century burled-wood stationery cabinets in the background but they were all in the range of £600 to £800. Not today, thank you...


This is the kind of gorgeous, wild garden you can sometimes find behind those elegant blocks of Victorian rowhouses, accessible only by residents. When there's a garden running along the front of the block, the residents have keys:


After a terrible dinner in a handsome, atmospheric pub (tasteless chicken-and-mushroom pies and severely freezer-burned peas and carrots, which took almost an hour to arrive), we didn't attempt it again until our last afternoon, where we went to The Gloucester, "the only pub in Sloane Square." The menu was identical to the first pub (many old pubs were bought up by conglomerates and run as franchises), but the food and service were vastly better:

Get your drink and find a table. Go back to the bar to order your food and pay.

Our ploughman's lunch consisted of quiche, salad with mustardy vinaigrette, bread, Stilton, Cheddar, apples, Branston Pickle, and pickle onions (which we ignored). It hit the spot.

You can find Branston Pickle in the imports section at Shaw's. It's sweet, salty, and pungent, a bit like chutney, only picklier.

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