Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cider Saturdays

Yesterday was one of those unexpected days; both in terms of the weather and the entertainment. Weather-wise the week itself had been quite annoying. We had grey skies, drizzly rain, but not so much cold so as a result, London had a tropical feel about it which did not seem to suit at all. Entertainment-wise, I had a really busy week at work, preparing for my first formal event that I'm hosting this coming Tuesday. I collapsed into bed on Friday night really quite exhausted, and wanting to sleep for 100 years.

Saturday rolls around, as it always does, and London residents were rewarded with clear blue skies, and no sign of the rain or humidity that had been dogging us earlier on. I too awoke to Saturday feeling bright, refreshed and ready to face the weekend.

I met up with LW at the Borough Market for an early breakfast. LW works across the hall from me and is still new to London too. I had been raving about the Markets and the delicious bubble breakfast I'd had a few weeks before so LW agreed to come with me and see what all the fuss was about. Fortunately the bacon, cheese and bubble breakfast got a big gold star from both of us. LW's family is also back in Australia and we toasted her Dad's birthday with a half-pint of medium English cider, which I'd never had before but I really enjoyed. I hope LW's Dad appreciated that we were toasting him at 10.05 on a Saturday morning but that goes to show it's never too early for London cider, right? We wandered around the market stalls and tried a bunch of free samples. My favourites were the traditional Turkish delight (took me right back to the spice markets in Istanbul); and the 'Ubriaco' (drunk) cheese, from the Veneto region in Italy and is actually fermented in red wine. The flavour of the wine really does influence the cheese and it was delicious, if not a little intense.

LW volunteered to help me find the Bramah Museum of Tea & Coffee, which is somewhere I have wanted to go for weeks and can never find. I know the place exists, because there are street signs for it, and websites for it (even though the latter has not been updated in a while). Sadly even with LW's help, I came up empty. We followed the street signs as directed, but we must have walked past it or something, because we found nothing.

Well it's not entirely true that we found nothing. We ended up wandering down to the Embankment, looking out over the Thames and along the riverfront precinct leading up to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. I'm spending much of my day there today, so I'll write about that separately, but it was fun to actually be up there and looking at the signs for all the upcoming productions. The authentic mood was kinda shattered for me when a woman playing a lute, in full Shakespearean garb rollerbladed past us. Yes, you read that right. I guess it takes all kinds!

LW and I bonded over our love for Bridget Jones as we walked across the pedestrian-only Millennium Bridge, with the imposing dome of St Paul's Cathedral up ahead. We stuck our head in the Church, but neither of us was particularly inspired to pay the admission fee to look around properly. There wasn't even an old lady on the steps charging tuppance a bag to feed the birds, so we left! Wandering up Fleet Street in the direction of our office, I've never seen so few people around. Normally you can barely move, what with all the lawyers and office workers shuffling past you. LW and I enjoyed the reprieve from all that and just sauntered up the street and along The Strand which again, was eerily deserted.

We called into a pub fixture on that street called The Coal Hole. I'd been there before for work drinks and there's nothing fancy about the pub, it's just been around for a long time (since the early 1830s) and it has retained its English 'pubbiness', for want of a better description. LW and I knew we were in the right place when the first people we encountered at the pub were Oompah Loompahs. In full regalia, orange face paint and green wigs and all, these guys took authenticity to a whole new extreme. Sadly they did not join in when LW tried to show me the Oompah Loompah dance. I don't think they saw her actually but it would have been amazing if they did. Patrons were taking photos of the Oompah Loompahs, but we didn't actually talk to them so I've no idea why there were dressed that way. They didn't stay too long though, and neither did we really - just long enough to enjoy some ice-cold ciders, and we were on our way.

We rounded the corner onto Villiers Street in the direction of the Charing Cross Station, and I asked LW if she would come with me to the oldest wine bar in London. We descended the skinny, rather dodgy (but obviously original condition) stairs down into the depths of Gordon's Wine Bar. The atmosphere is quite creepy - middle of the day, but you're literally in an underground grotto so the whole place is lit with candles that lend an air of magic to the mood. The flirty French bartender sorted us out with some pinot noir, with the most generous pour I've yet had in this fair city. The delicious wine paired beautifully with the grilled steak sandwiches that we enjoyed - fresh from the outdoor BBQ in the courtyard. I swear this wine bar had everything but I have to confess, it's rather unsettling being in such a dark, mysterious place when you know that at street level, the sun is shining brightly.

From there the day is probably best not described in detail. It involves going to an evil bar by Waterloo Station called Hole in the Wall, which is about as pleasant as its name suggests. We then caught the train out to my neighbourhood and had a counter dinner in a pub where poor LW kept getting interrupted by some toothless man who I think had taken quite a shine to her. Actually he kept interrupting me about LW, presumably because he was too shy to talk to her himself. Classic. Where were the Oompah Loompahs when we needed them?!

Parting ways at the bus stop across the road from the pub, I went to the supermarket and reflected on what a great day out that I'd had. We'd done some exploring, some walking around, and a lot of drinking in pubs, but it was a great day. I thought it was a really promising start to a lovely long weekend.

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