Our day began in Covent Garden, where we planned to visit the Transport Museum and to do some window-shopping. But first, we dropped by at a random pub for some English breakfast. Nothing like a yummy plate of fats and proteins to start off a busy day!
Ever since watching Jamie Oliver cooking up breakfast for his pals on “The Naked Chef” eons ago, I had always wanted to sample classic English breakfast treats. For unknown reasons, I really enjoy seeing and eating generous servings of hearty food, which the English style of breakfast seems to promise. On one hand, I like refined and compact food presentation (i.e. the bento). On the other hand, I am also attracted to excess and large portions (e.g. casseroles, roasted meats). While I associate the former image with eating alone, the latter reminds me of huddling around the dining table with the people I like. This is true even if it was just me having a big plate of food by myself.
Breakfast is also easily my favourite meal of the day, even though I can never get out of bed on time. It assumes a special status in my friendship with Justin: an exceptional proportion of our time together was spent over plates of eggs, potatoes, and sausages (see previous post). For a long time, we would call one another every Saturday morning, go to the same diner for brunch with our other friend, and have basically the same breakfast. After that, we would all go off on our own to work at our respective “offices:” the studio at the architecture department for him and the library or the writing lab for my friend and I. Often, this Saturday brunch would be the only opportunity for us to meet and talk about the things we each encountered during the week.
Eventually we, especially me, frequented the diner regularly enough for the servers to memorize our eggs and toast preferences. It was quite heartwarming really, to be able to develop this kind of host-client relationship and to have someone ask you what’s wrong when they see that you are eating less than usual.
After brunch we visited the Transport Museum, which underwent a renewal in the recent years. Its photos on Flickr first drew Justin’s attention. If I remember correctly, he primarily wanted to take photos of himself next to the life-size models. The museum turned out to be a very fun place. It is a family-friendly museum, with various little interactive features for kids and adults alike. I also appreciated how the museum’s conscious attempts to historicize the evolution of (public) transportation with its discussions on social and political events, instead of just focusing on the technological development. Being our highly sophisticated selves, Justin and I amused ourselves by dressing up in pilot and train conductor uniforms, courtesy of the museum. The sad thing was that even though the costumes were designed for children, they were still a few sizes too large for the two of us.
(postcard from the museum shop)
We also walked around Covent Garden and stopped by Marks and Spencer for some snacks. I personally love its food products, and I was impressed with the variety of products that were not available in its oversea branches. A special note to travellers who insist on drinking bottled water rather than the local tap water: Marks and Spencer has the best prices!
Another shop of interest was Cath Kidston. Some of you have probably noticed how I have an affinity for patterns: Mina Perhonen, Eley Kishimoto, Marimekko, and Orla Kiely are among my favourite designers and companies. Cath Kidston is most noted for her floral prints, and I had wanted to get a tote bag with her signature rose pattern for quite a while. Sadly, I could not find anything that I absolutely loved, and in the end I walked out of the shop empty-handed.
One funny bit, however, was how the store had a bench by its entrance which had somehow become the “gentlemen’s corner.” Now to be honest, Cath Kidston is a pretty “girly” store, and it was understandable why some of the guys, presumably accompanying their girlfriends or wives, refused to “trespass” on this flowery haven. Nonetheless, it was still funny to see them huddled up in a corner (perhaps talking about their love for Cath Kidston) while they waited for the ladies to be done with their shopping. Talk about gender identities!
(Now if you must wonder, Justin did come inside with me. Poor thing.)
Dinner was a rather spontaneous picnic by the river. We picked up a bag of fish ‘n’ chips and sat on a bench close to the Royal National Theatre. At this point, I cannot recall the name of the fish ‘n’ chips joint, although I think we might have had found it on Gridskipper.
Not the best fish ‘n’ chips I had ever eaten… I had tasted better ones at the Fishermen’s Wharf in my hometown. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable meal. The scenery along the riverbank at night was very pretty (I apologize for the lack of a better word). I think it was during our trip to Europe that I came to a real appreciation of dining alfresco and tried to do so as often as possible. The European cities we visited all had such lovely outdoor spaces that it was difficult to resist having picnics here and there. It could also be due to the long dreary winters in Montreal that we could not wait to feel the summer breeze. Either way, there are few better ways to experience a city’s ambiance than to go outside, pick up a quick snack, sit back, and observe.
Names & Addresses
28 – 32 Shelton Street
London, WC2H 9JE
London Transport Museum
1 Tavistock Street
London, WC2E 7PG
Marks & Spencer
107 – 115 Long Acre
London, WC2 PHQ