Saturday, June 28, 2008
Returning to London
Dateline: London, 28/6/08
My three favorite cities in the world span 6000 miles: San Francisco, my adopted home city; New York, where I'm from; and London. My first visit to London was in 1971. I had just graduated from college and wanted to travel on my own, but didn't want to have to cope with a country where I didn't speak the language. Since England had not been on the itinerary for the trip to Europe with my parents in 1965, it seemed a good place for my trip.
In the '80's and early '90's I became a frequent visitor. I worked for a Boston company that had a London office and I was lucky enough to travel here a couple of times a year. I also went on two Rowan knitting tours in the UK. I developed a list of "my" places that I would go back to each time, for example a yarn store called Creativity which no longer exists, and a sandwich shop called Tea Time in Clapham Common, south of the Thames, which a google search shows is still there.
Since I added an extra 3000 miles between me and London by moving to California in 1994, I have not been able to visit as often. Jim and I were last here in 1998, for an occasion similar to this one but 10 years younger. We are here now to celebrate my cousin Jeffrey's 60th birthday; he and Helene will arrive from New Jersey tomorrow. In 1998 we celebrated his 50th birthday. Jeffrey is an Anglophile and once lived here for a year on a job and house exchange. I expect that we'll be celebrating his 70th birthday here in 2018.
Jim and I are renting a flat, which has become my favorite way to travel; usually cheaper than a hotel room, and it gives you more room and a taste of local life. Our flat is in a part of London that is new to me, the east end. We are close to Brick Lane, famous for Bengali immigrants and as a novel by Monica Ali which I read after finding out that we would be living here (and which has just come out as a movie). We arrived this afternoon after a long, uncomfortable flight with little sleep. (Air travel really has become very unpleasant.) After a short rest, we explored the area. Brick Lane is lively with restaurants, shops, and people of all colors and nationalities. We had dinner at a very good Punjabi restaurant. I was glad to find lots of coffee places, including one of London's 112 Starbucks on nearby Whitechappel St.
Brick Lane also has two beigel (sic) bakeries right next to each other. My onion bagel, actually a bialy (which has an indentation instead of a hole) looks like no other bagel or bialy I've ever seen. It looks more like an onion hamburger bun, but not as soft. At breakfast tomorrow I'll find out how it tastes.