At 2.32 miles, today’s walk was the shortest yet. A slow commute and freezing cold rain whittled my window of opportunity down to just over an hour. Still, I managed to see some pretty revolutionary things.
Today was day 1 of the tube strike, which I completely forgot was happening. It wasn’t until my bus had only managed to creep two miles in 45 minutes that all the signs I had ignored before started to sink in: our high street bumper to bumper for nearly a mile, four number 328 buses packed to the brim all arriving at the same time, community support officers in their neon green jackets scattered all over town.
Here’s how a strike looks on paper:
Even if you aren’t familiar with the underground, you can probably tell that all those red squares and exclamation points do not lead to happy commuters.
On a normal day, we tend to moan a bit if our train is a few minutes late, pace slightly and pout when its 10-15 minutes and curse the heavens out loud if they dare delay it more than that. But when it takes two hours to go 6.4 miles (that’s 3.2 miles an hour for those too lazy to do the math), it becomes so broken it’s comical. We move past the anger and slip into a state of camaraderie and humour. Everyone just shrugs their shoulders and laughs about how ridiculous it is. It’s a bizarrely pleasant atmosphere, actually.
Same, Same But Different
After two hours on the bus, I found myself back in the land of posh row houses with pretty doors…
…spotting shiny old cars.
This really is an aesthetically pleasing area to wander through. I highly recommend a mosey or a promenade (maybe even a gambol if that’s more your style) through these cosy, residential streets.
While you’re at it, enjoy a leisurely stop at one of the charming cafes in my new favourite area: Amwell Street. When it is rainy and cold out, there are fewer things more enjoyable than hot chocolate in a tiny four-seater cafe.
As I ran out of space in the last post, I’ll take a minute here to share a bit about this cute little area. It’s a positively delicious place, full of adorable boutique shops and quiet cafes. It is also home to my new favourite confection: the lemon apolline (or as the internet prefers to call it, sfogliatelle).
I’m not sure how this treat isn’t in every bakery every day. Basically, it takes the best part of a croissant (the crunchy, buttery, tips) and shoves them together around a creamy lemon filling. I love crunchy things. This is so crunchy that shards fly off with every bite. And let’s not get started on the aromatic burst of lemon in the middle. Perfection.
You can find these tasty creatures at Myddleton’s Deli. I tried my first one here on yesterday’s walk and as I just so happened to end up on that street again…it seemed only right to sample another one (you know, for quality control).
I am not sure why you are still reading after I described these to you. Get to it!
And Now, a Confession
When I first started this quest, I had the grand idea that every day would be so exhilarating, so full of discovery that I would be blown away by the magic of it all at every turn. I’d come home and share with you all the fascinating tidbits I learned and show you gorgeous photos beautifully capturing the ephemeral mystery of our complex and endlessly intriguing city.
In reality though, London (like any city, I imagine), has lots of not-so-thrilling parts and even a reasonable amount of pretty boring parts. A lot of it is quiet and residential, a lot of it is gritty and industrial, a lot of it is just people living their lives. And, shock of shocks, it rains a lot. Sometimes big, fat, juicy drops of freezing cold rain.
But that is what London is really all about.
I understood that in a poetic sense when I chose the Johnson quote over there on the sidebar, but now I understand it in a real life sense. Sunny or rainy, business-like or leisurely, covered in vines or covered in rubbish, London is a city of contrasts; a conglomeration of personalities, agendas, lifestyles, tastes, sounds and smells. It’s constantly changing and continually staying the same. It’s big and bold, quiet and secretive. It’s quite simply the best city in the world.
Johnson says it better than I ever will:
“Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolution of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.”
See you next time!
111 days until the Congestion Zone Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.