If you aren’t familiar with my “Stake It” reference I doubt you will get this one! After a long and wonderful weekend of birthday celebrations and parties I prepared for my week long trip to visit our British cousins. I had a couple client meetings for work and fortuitously the first and second meetings were a week apart giving me a couple days to work in our London office as well as a weekend to soak up some British culture.
All packed and ready to go I hopped on my roomy 777 flight to Heathrow. Fortunately, not many people wanted to catch the early morning flight and I wound up with all three seats of the middle of the plane to myself. After breakfast was served I stretched out across the three seats, blankets pulled up to my chin, and slept almost the entire way there. That is my kind of flight!
We landed in London on schedule where I caught the Heathrow Express train into central London. I am always impressed by how clean, modern and efficient the public transportation systems in Europe are. The sleek ultra-modern train sailed through the burbs and into Paddington Station in moments. I arrived safely at my hotel, The Montcalm at The Brewery. The hotel was rather posh with a beautiful lobby adorned with crystal chandeliers (faux or not they were pretty), a water wall feature and murals of proper 19th century English depictions. My valet carried my baggage and ushered me to my room #002 situated off the main courtyard of the hotel behind my double glass French doors. I felt like I had my own wing.
When I am not in my client meetings I am trying to work on US time so that I am working as closely as possible in my clients’ time zone. So this morning before I went into the office I spent a couple hours wandering around London. The weather was what I’d expect this time of year, cool and rainy. I helped myself to a healthy breakfast of yogurt and fruit and some multi-grain bread at Eat which is not that different from an Au Bon Pain in the US. I took the circuitous route through East London from the Moorfields area to the Thames.
I imagined myself as Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins as I navigated the narrow bustling streets of London. I passed by quaint shops, cafés, an 80’s nightclub, a Tesco that reminded me of my grocery shopping days in Prague, royal looking banks, commanding edifices, public art and naturally, proper English women and gentlemen dressed head to toe in outfits I’d expect to see in old British films. In fact, last night while at dinner at Baracca, a small Italian place near my hotel I swear the woman sitting near me sounded exactly like Mrs. Crowley from Downton Abbey interjecting “quite” and “jolly interesting” at appropriate moments in her conversation.
I stopped at the Millennium Bridge across from the Tate Modern and snapped a few photos. The famous Tower Bridge loomed tall in the distance below the London fog and as the rain lightly fell on my head I felt “right and proper”. I would have continued onwards but the clock was ticking and work was calling so I headed back. But before I made it back I passed by what is most definitely my favorite sight of the day… a typical English butcher. The selection of meat in the case and in the enormous glass panel refrigerator was astounding. People lined the sidewalk waiting to get in and pick up their daily protein needs. I will never pick up a package of meat at my local US grocery store again and not feel a pang of sadness that I am not standing in line at an English butcher.
Finally, before getting back to the office I passed by the Bread Street Kitchen which I learned is a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. I did not have time to stop in for lunch but I did take a few pictures and I fully intend to stop in to eat! Stay tuned….