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Monday, October 1, 2007

Super Saturday

This weekend started off a bit slowly, which was just what I needed. I had a quiet night after work on Friday (oh, after a big org announcement came out after 6 p.m. and got everybody talking…hope I still have a job when I get back!). Let me just tell you that Waitrose has the yummiest line of prepared dinners…they really reflect the ethnic diversity that makes up London cuisine. (Several people have asked if British food deserves its poor reputation, and I must say absolutely not! There is a ubiquitous chain that I just love; it’s called Pret a Manger (Ready to Eat), and they have tons of yummy freshly-prepared sandwiches and salads. The other popular chains like EAT, Bene Bene, etc., are also much more European, fairly healthy, etc.) Anyhoo, at the grocery store, you can get these dinners that feature different Thai, Middle Eastern, French, etc., dishes, and you just put them into a pan to cook the meat, then add some kind of tasty sauce. So, last week I had one that was some sort of Moroccan lamb, and it was so good over cous cous, I ate it twice, including Friday night.

Saturday morning was lovely and lazy. I brewed a pot of Earl Grey tea and toasted two scones, topped with clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream reminds me of a cross between butter and cream cheese. I read a bit and just had a nice relaxed morning. Then, I tried out my newly-discovered exercise option! One day last week, I saw a guy push open the paneling between the elevators to reveal a stairwell. Eureka. Sadly, this had not occurred to me…I have not been able to find a way to get regular exercise, yet I live in a building that’s almost 20 stories high. Bingo! My own personal stairmaster!

I amused myself on the stairs (or, huffed and puffed, that is) for long enough that I could hardly walk today. By then, it was getting on into the early afternoon. I checked in with my friend Kelly to see if we should do one of the palace outings we’d discussed, but we decided the weather looked better for Sunday. So, I finally got dressed and headed to the Westminster area to do some of the museums galleries I’d been putting off for a rainy day. I went to the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, but I found out it would cost £11, so I decided some lunch was necessary, in order to ensure I had a full tummy and got my money’s worth (the scones had worn off by then).

At Pret a Manger (see above), I got a tuna baguette, apple and ‘refrigerator cake,’ which is apparently an old-fashioned sweet made of graham crackers (a.k.a. ‘digestive biscuits), chocolate and sultanas (raisins). We’ll call it a British s’more. I sat on the steps of Trafalgar Square and watched the tourists climbing up on the lions by Lord Nelson’s column. Then I walked back down to the museum. It was really interesting; it’s basically a bunker underneath the Royal Treasury building that was used by Churchill and the War Cabinet during WWII. I learned that the blitz bombings on London were concentrated around 1940 and 1941…at some point, I guess Germany gave up and had to focus more on defense than offense. Most of the rooms are maintained exactly as they would have been in 1945, and I found it really cool to walk through a museum that was so authentic…we don’t often get to see things of historical value in exactly their proper setting. They even had the bedrooms set up for Churchill and his wife, Clemmie (though Churchill only slept in his bed overnight three times and mostly just used it for naps). I think my favourite part was the Map Room, with the holes remaining from the charting of convoys as they crossed the Atlantic. The Churchill Museum (it just opened in 2005) was a bit too modern for moi…it has won several awards, but with its cacophony of videos and audio recordings, I found it to be a museum designed to cater to someone with ADD. However, I did find the video montage of Churchill’s funeral to be very moving. It also did a good job of giving a pretty well-rounded depiction of him and not sugarcoating some of his less popular aspects.

From there, I met up with Adam (yay…the blog has some ongoing characters besides me…hopefully you remember him from two weekends ago). He was working at his law office in the City (the main business district), and we tried to find a pub to go get a drink before our dinner reservation, but everything was closed. Seems the City shuts down on the weekends even more than Canary Wharf. So, we took the tube to Wapping, where we were going to have dinner, on the recommendation of someone I met through the bank. I was a little anxious, as I thought the Indian place I picked for us to eat two weeks ago was a bust, so I didn’t want Adam to think I was incapable of picking a good restaurant.

In short, it could not have been any cooler! The place is called The Wapping Project, and it’s an old hydraulic power station that’s been turned into a restaurant and art gallery.
It was lit with tons of candles, and the atmosphere of the candlelight and the industrial fixtures was just a great contrast. Wapping reminded both of us of NoDa in Charlotte…sort of an up-and-coming, gentrified former warehouse area. I had a clementine martini, and he had something kind of like a mojito. For starters, we had a Spanish charcuterie with lomo, jamon serrano, chorizo, olives, etc., and scallops with garlic polenta, corn and spinach. All very tasty. His entrĂ©e was a duck pie – shredded duck in a pastry crust with mashed potatoes – and I had porccini sformato. We had to ask what that was, and I’m not sure I can describe it, other than to say it was kind of like a mushroom pate…with a hint of truffle. We were too full for dessert.

We didn't take any photos, so here are a few that I found on Flickr...looks like these girls had fun!

After dinner, in my usual lame fashion, I was ready to call it a night, but we walked by a pub that looked really fun and full of people out on the deck, so we ventured in for a beer. Funny enough, it’s the oldest riverside pub in London and is actually in all the guidebooks!

The deck overlooking the Thames is really pleasant, and we had a nice time sitting outside (except for the cigar smoke).

I did not make it home until midnight, which was too bad, as I was supposed to meet my friend Patrick at 9 a.m. Sunday at the British Museum, so I’d need to leave home a little after 8.

To be continued!

1 comment:

Neil said...

i love the war cabinet rooms! i think not enough tourists know about them, so i try to tell anyone i know going to london to check them out. although i believed i failed to share such with you. glad you found it anyways.