We took our first big foray into London today and used the bus (and our feet) quite extensively. To get between spots Google Maps worked very well, however perhaps because of the close together building, or more likely that my phone dislikes me, the little cone that shows which way you are facing most often faced the other way about. It was so consistant that it became a bit of a joke between Mrs Crow and I that we would start every journey walking a half block the wrong way.
We got an early start this morning, and since most of the things we wanted to see didn’t open for a few hours, we decided to find the statue of Hodge the Cat in Gough Square. This was an adventure, not only due to the whims Google was having with my direction cone, but also because London is a bunch of warrens all stuck together.
Hodge lived in the late 18th century during a time when cats weren’t held in the best esteem. His roommate, one Samuel Johnson, was a rather prolific writer of the time, and was quite fond of the cat Hodge for whom he would go out and get oysters for this “very fine cat indeed”.
Anyways, we did find it back amongst the buildings in a wonderfully secluded square, where we sat a while, got pictures, and I was sure to leave a penny in the oyster shell sculpted next to the cat.
From there it was off to Twinings Tea shop. Long and narrow, it’s quite the posh shop full of tea bags and bags of tea as well as some old tea and cofffee making equiptment. We bought a bag of hand-sewn balls of green tea from China.
One thing I was sure to ask was the proper pronunciation of “Twinings”. Some folks at home pronounce it ‘twin-ings’ and others ‘twine-ings’. The latter is correct so now I won’t flop between both any more.
Along our travels around Westminster we spied the Court of Justice and a rather impressive statuary in the middle of the road containing a statue of Queen Victoria and topped by a Griffon.
Eventually we ended up at Leadenhall Market for lunch. That is an impressive place! This partially covered Victorian-era market is full of clothing stores and restaurants. The place we ate at was stocked witht cured meats and cheeses. It was located in a section that was built for butchers and fishmongers with rows of iron flat-bars above the storefronts where metal hooks were set for hanging sides of meat. Above our eatery hung large cloth bags containing pork haunches with the hooves sticking out of the top of the bag. The architectural details of the market are beautiful.
From there we walked down to the Thames and along to the Tower of London. Now, normally I would probably been happy to miss it. Mrs Crow wanted to see the Crown Jewels, and that’s okay, I guess, but I wanted to see the Ravens. Having grown up with crows in the house (my mom still has one that can’t be released for health reasons) the Tower ravens were a must see.
Not a real raven, but actual size of about a foot tall. Sorry, but I had no banana with me to show scale.
And you couldn’t miss them, they are huge! Quite a bit larger than the ravens I know in the pacific northwest. I was hoping to talk to the Ravenmaster, who wrote a book recently My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London, but apparently he had the day off and we got the raven talk by a fellow Yeoman Warder. May stop in to the Tower again before we leave to see if Mrs Crow can see the jewels (there was an immense queue!) and I can maybe see the Ravenmaster then.
To round out the afternoon we walked across the Tower Bridge. (you know, the one that everyone calls the London Bridge which is actually a different, and much more mundane one) and walked down into Southwark to find London Glassblowing. The designer is Peter Layton and I’d fallen in love with his designs in both clear and chromatic glass when I was initially researching the trip. Unfortunately all but few pieces were out of my price range, but oh so beautiful. The fortunate part was that I got to sit and watch a couple glassblowers make a few pieces. It was a bit warm for Mrs Crow, but I was rivited.
While sitting to figure out our way back to the hotel I noticed some grafitti art in the alleyway across the road that looked a lot like Banksy’s work. (I’m a fan and we’ll be in Bristol next week to see his stuff) I’d heard that he’d done some stuff in London, but it was unsigned so I couldn’t be certain. Further up the road was another mural, but this one was signed — by Tanksy. So an inspired artist then. Works for me, it was good stuff. Southwark is a very cool neighborhood full of artist’s working shops. Well worth the trip.
Impressions after Day One: There are few dogs and cats. Other than the statue of Hodge, I’ve seen no cats on the street nor in windows and less than a handful of dogs on leash. They’re everywhere at home.
Speaking of everywhere – bicycles. We’ve got a bit of bicycle culture going on in Seattle, but bikes are literally everywhere here; racks of rental bikes and in some quarters bicyclists outnumber cars.
Pedestrians are f*cking nuts and pay zero attention to crossing signals. That said, with the roundabouts and general confusing nature of roads around here, we’ve gottten to just watching the locals and joining their pack when they cross.
On escalators stay to the right if you’re standing. Escalator climbers will pass on the left.
Mushy peas are a thing and a frequent side dish. I still won’t eat them. Don’t bother telling me they’re great, I will not eat it. On the other hand, Lamb Curry is great, even though it doesn’t quite agree with me. Don’t bother telling me I shouldn’t eat it, I will eat it.
Pret is the Starbucks of London. Yes, there are Starbucks, but it’s the Prets that is on every corner here.
Onward into the fog tomorrow.