Sunlight bouncing off St. Paul’s dome and umbrella furled inside the battered suitcase. Could this really be London? It’s my first leg of the trip and too brief by far to fit in everything I’d like to do (always the traveler’s lament), but here are a couple highlights:
* The markets. No matter how limited my time, or how often I’ve been to a place, I’m drawn to markets as a way to get oriented to the local scene and culinary specialties. London’s Borough Market is a food lover’s paradise: breads, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, artisinal items, and prepared foods. Here’s their official website.
An eat-on-the-spot snack that’s the stuff of foodies’ dreams is Kappacasein’s grilled cheese sandwich (a blend of grated cheeses with onions and leeks that melt into gooey perfection between slices of Poilâne bread) or their raclette. Watch the cheese bubble under a burner before it’s dribbled atop new potatoes and baby gherkins. It’s hard to believe that the food could be that good to justify the long wait in line, but it is.
London has many other fresh food markets including small neighborhood gems (Marylebone, Pimlico Road, Islington, Peckham, and Alexandra Palace to name a few), as well as vintage and antiques markets (Portobello Road, Brick Lane, Covent Garden’s Jubilee Hall, and more). TimeOut has a good list.
* The museums. I devoted the better part of an afternoon at the Tate Modern absorbing works by Louise Bourgeois, photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe (self-portraits especially), and children’s sketches at the electronic drawing bar (some remarkably good). The Guerilla Girls make their point. Humor thrusts the blade in deeper. A quick jaunt to the Saatchi Gallery paid off thanks to Xavier Mascaro’s eerie sculptures.
* The illuminated nightscape. Many of the city’s architectural gems shimmer in a new light after the sun goes down.
* The Invictus Games. Prince Harry deserves a medal for throwing royal weight behind this sporting competition for wounded, injured and sick soldiers. I was at a hotel where soldiers from the British Forces were staying. Many have prosthetic limbs; others suffer injuries less visible to the eye. And all were pumped about having this occasion to reunite and demonstrate their athletic prowess. It was incredibly inspiring.