You can find the map for today’s 5.67 mile walk here. 51 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates.
I’m back from a 3-week trip to the States. It was a much-needed holiday from the chaos my life had become here. I was so busy trying to get walks done, write witty and insightful posts that made you think, “Now there’s someone I totally want to be friends with,” find time to make enough money to eat food, and cram in laundry and personal maintenance once in a blue moon that I wasn’t doing a very good job of enjoying any of the moments I was actually in. Everything I sat down to do was the thing I had to do before the next thing I had to do and my mind was just not in the game at all. It really freaked me out that I couldn’t even pay attention to conversations I was having with my closest friends. My walks were about the only place I could enjoy the moment but they’re a very small slice of my mental pie. Hence the emergency trip home to rein things in and get a grip on what I needed for myself.
The good news is, I spent my time away reading a lot, writing a lot and getting my schedule clear so all I am doing are the things I really want to be doing. It is a whole different world now. I am still learning not to say yes to everything that comes my way but I’m getting there. London has got so much going on that if I took a night off to hang out at home I felt like I was wasting an opportunity. I have learned that I really like those days/nights at home though. Quite a lot.
Today I finished off Soho. As far as these posts are concerned I haven’t started Soho yet but, as previously mentioned, I am a little behind the times. Oh! That reminds me! As of yesterday, I now have my computer back up and running! All it took was £115 and a few tears shed in front of a stranger and now things seem to be running as slick as snot, as my dad always says. Anyway, I have posts yet to come on Soho but as for today, it was my parting visit.
I am quite familiar with this part of London. I spend a lot of time wandering through here when I have time to kill. I also used to run tours through this neighbourhood so I had to learn a lot of the cool, hidden spots when I was preparing for that. So you have my word these places are worth a visit! Carnaby Street was my first stop. I love the main drag here and it is definitely the most famous, but I’ve met so many people who haven’t taken a minute to check out the side streets around here and they are brimming with great hidden gems.
I have always really liked this Carnaby Street mosaic, officially called the Spirit of Soho Mural. It was designed by local residents and represents the parish of Soho with depictions of notable residents and local crafts. Look closely at St. Anne’s skirt and you will see the map of Soho (including Chinatown below). I have looked at this a million times and didn’t notice that before. I love maps hidden in art!
Probably one of the best clocks around London. On the hour, the opera singer Theresa Cornelys winks at Casanova who blows her kisses and Karl Marx takes a sip of Coke from behind his book. Mozart just stands there feeling left out.
More of Soho’s colourful characters can be found at Ain’t Nothin But, a fantastic blues bar just around the corner. I have been here a few times now and it’s always really fun. The place is usually crammed with people coming to enjoy the free jazz/blues gigs. I particularly love how they somehow manage to capture the essence of a deep south blues bar so well. Every time I leave I expect to walk out onto Bourbon Street.
Speaking of the American South, a really good night out in this part of town starts with tasty BBQ then a trip to Ain’t Nothin But. The nearest BBQ joint is Pitt Cue which might actually be by favourite in terms of high quality, cooked all day, fall off the bone, Southern cookin’. That’s a hard thing to say when I have been a long-time loyal customer of Bodean’s just around the corner. Bodean’s meat piles are complimented by some mighty fine BBQ sauce that I can (and sometimes do) drink straight from the bottle. I suggest perhaps you give each a try and find their individual best qualities. Couldn’t hurt, eh?
If you’re around before the evening places open up, you can enjoy a tea and cookie at Sacred Cafe. This place has a lot of nostalgia for me. I used to study here when I was working on my Master’s because I really enjoyed the atmosphere. The upstairs has a great open space with a patio that spills out onto the street. The downstairs is dark and Zen-like but has good tunes playing. It’s is generally pretty bustling but the tables are far enough apart that you aren’t up in each other’s business. The only thing that needed improvement was the toilet situation (there was always a queue of two or three people) but they have rectified that now by putting in a second one. So it’s basically the perfect cafe.
Before I crossed into Chinatown for the remainder of the walk, I stopped at the Rupert Street food market (the southern extension of Berwick Street’s daily market) to grab some tasty panang curry which I took to St. Anne’s church’s gardens to eat. It was absolutely delicious.
Maybe it is because I am only in Chinatown after hours that I always thought it was kind of boring. I guess that makes sense if most places are closed. But today I enjoyed walking around it seeing what it has going on during the day. I liked Lisle Street and Newport Court the most because they had a mix of things to offer: restaurants, the requisite bubble tea shops (there are so many), tacky gift shops, health food stores, book shops, a food market and even a barber or two.
I still wouldn’t suggest Chinatown as a destination on its own but it is a nice place to wander through if you’re in the area and want to get more of London in your system.
I wanted to take a photo of the most famous restaurant in Chinatown for you but I sort of forgot the name, so I’ll just tell you the story. Wong Kei is an establishment where the staff would yell at you to sit with strangers, move if they wanted your table for a bigger group or if you asked for cutlery instead of chopsticks. They would also chase you out of the restaurant if you failed to leave a sufficient tip for their courteous servers. It was sold off and reopened under new management this March. They claim they will clean up the service and make it a friendly establishment. Such a shame. It was a good time!
After nearly 6 miles, I was pretty beat so I kicked back in Leicester Square to people watch and bask in the beautiful sun. It would have only been better if it were free Ben & Jerry’s day. This year a friend and I managed to hit up all three locations in the square within about half an hour. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
That’s about it for Soho but I can’t leave the area without telling you that I’m ridiculously excited about going to see the Book of Mormon (for the second time) in a couple of weeks. “Brash, crude and offensive” is definitely the best way to say it. Needless to say, I loved it immensely and can’t stop singing the songs around my house. My flatmate finally said she’d rather hear the real thing so we booked it in. Can’t wait! Until then, I have a lot of walking to get done. Only 51 days until the Congestion Zone Ends party! Be sure to RSVP on Facebook for updates on the location.
See you next time!
You can find the map for today’s 5.67 mile walk here. 51 days until the Congestion Zone Ends Party! Follow on Twitter for more updates. Follow @3MilesanHour> //
Quick update from the future: now that this project is finished, I’m off on another adventure! Keep in touch on my new blog at Three Miles an Hour. See you there!