The parks are beautiful in the sunshine and when it isn’t raining everyone makes sure they get out! Here we are, walking along; we turn a corner and there, across the water, is a Henry Moore sculpture!
One of our favorite mystery writers, Barbara Vine, wrote about the Portobello Market, so naturally we had to go see it. It is the oldest open air market left in London. It was fun to see all the stores and different vendors, but we did not feel compelled to do much shopping. We seem to be beyond the acquisition of junk, which leaves us sore pressed to buy much of anything anywhere. Even in the museum shops, it is hard to buy reproductions when you have just seen the original! We stumbled on a Moroccan food stall at the tail end of the market. They were grilling fresh fish: cod, sea bass, prawns, tuna, calamari. We had to be assertive – they almost gave us French bread instead of the thick flatbread the Moroccans were eating. Served with rice, fresh tomatoes, a sauce, and a drink, all for seven pounds and better than any restaurant.
I sat and drew for at least an hour and we saw a slice of London that we would not have experienced otherwise. There are a lot of conservative Muslims in London. What is disquieting is the feeling that people are moving to extremes, both the fundamentalist Muslims and Christians, which is not healthy in any society. I see it in the States and we saw it here. Extremism is intolerant of differences, illustrated this very week when two converted Muslims hacked up a British soldier with machetes and waited for the cops to come. Retaliation was not long to follow. While we were on the street corner we must have heard a dozen different languages: English, German, Moroccan, French, Spanish, and others I could not identify.
We took in another slice of life at Needoo’s, a Pakistani restaurant in Whitechapel, a working class neighborhood with some rough edges. We had a bit of trouble finding the place, which gave me a twinge of nervousness in the side streets where groups of men hung out at the corners. I stopped a black British man who graciously led us to his girlfriend’s apartment in the next block, so she could give us directions. Our confidence boosted by this kindness, we found the place two blocks on. It is clearly a local favorite for families, friendly, crowded and loud, where I had the BEST lamb I have ever had anywhere, “dry-cooked” and anything but dry. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.
The Tower of London. I stood by a remnant of the wall that once surrounded the city, at least four feet thick. The bottom was built by Romans, the top during the Middle Ages. I walked to the base of the wall and touched the stone, which you cannot do in the museum, thus having the experience of touching stone that was worked by Roman hands. Imagine! It was a powerful connection to history.
We walked the River Thames, both North and South sides. And we bought the transit passes for six days, which were well used in the most impressive train system in the world – so well organized and clearly labeled. Beats Boston and New York. Not to mention the depth of the tunnels! We joked about how the miners must have built them. And the double decker bus is the cheapest, most relaxing way to see London. Just go to the top in the front and enjoy.