DID YOU MISS ME?
I didn’t show up here last week because I was in Boston when my blog failed to publish and I did not have the password with me and was thus unable to access the damn thing to re-set the command to Let Rip.
This is me, Letting Rip at the Boston Public Library last Friday night (attending the lovely wedding of Top Cat’s nice and new nephew):
Oh yeah, I still got the moves. And, as I had about three pints of champagne in me on this particular eve, I’m still in keeping with the theme of this week’s last week’s story.
So here, in full, is the Blog Post That Shudda Happened When Vivian Was in Boston Being Super Groovy:
Top Cat says that this was my characteristic pose in London:
That’s me, figuring out our next 1,000 steps in my handy Mini London A-Z (updated for 2001). Yep, I still use maps on paper instead of my smartphone.
This is Top Cat’s London Look:
He upgraded his footwear to leather loafers because I insisted that his usual ratty sneakers and droopy socks would not do on this trip. (I let him keep his beloved day pack.)
What I’m saying is, I don’t think our 20-year-old selves would be crushingly embarrassed by our 60-year-old selves. No, I’m not talking about our looks. I’m talking our outstanding ability to quench a thirst.
We only had 4 days in London (because we took one full day to visit Windsor, Oxford, and Stonehenge at sun set — see how important that Oxford Comma is???), yet we were able to see The British Museum, The Geffrye Museum, the Museum of London, and the V&A AND take in 10 — TEN– drinking experiences.
London’s 7,000 pubs outnumber its 200 museums, so I’d say we got the ratio just about right.
I’ve already blogged about our visit to the Lamb & Flag (see: Is That, Or Is That Not, A Corgie?), Charles Dickens’ favorite watering hole in Covent Garden:
So here, in order, are our 9 other Memorable Tipples:
No. 9: The Lamb, on Lamb’s Conduit Street, Russel Square:
We were there at the stroke of noon on a quiet Saturday. The Lamb is more of a bustling weekday hangout for the local regulars, in operation since 1729. The pub was updated to its current look c. 1890. You can see in the photo (above) the rare and famous etched-glass “screens” above the bar, which were put in place to shield Victorian upper-class drinkers from the rabble on the other side of the “public” bar. If you’re into etched glass screens in pubs, well then, this is your kind of place.
No. 8: The Cross Keys, on Endell Street, Covent Garden:
London Time Out likes The Cross Keys a lot because this pub “makes zero effort to appeal to tourists. Sort of ironic really, as standing outside in the failing sunlight, sipping a pint, taking deep lungfuls of the aroma wafting down from the nearby chippie, is one of the most perfectly English experiences you’ll get in the West End.”
I liked The Cross Keys because Top Cat had wandered off to check out the fading sunlight of an unseasonable warm and clear Thursday evening, so as I was on my own I began a chat with the English guy sitting next to me on the banquette and I really enjoyed talking to someone new. It was a nice break from the non-stop one-on-oneness with my significant other, which is is one of the hazards of traveling a deux.
No. 7: Discount Suit Company on the backstreets of Shoreditch:
Top Cat and I split up on Saturday afternoon so he could go to a Premiere League soccer match (home game for Tottenham Hotspurs v. Crystal Palace) while I checked out The Geffrye Museum and gardens and the V&A. But first, I made a detour along Bishopsgate. . .
. . . to pop in at this 5-star speakeasy known as The Discount Suit Company because it’s in the basement of the Discount Suit Company!!! Some people have trouble finding the unmarked black door on the Wentworth Street side . . .
. . . but I spied it easily, and descended a narrow stairway the led into a wood-lined room that is instantly comfy:
It was just 2:00 in the afternoon, so I only had a vermouth on the rocks and a delightful discussion about English wines with a very handsome Millennial bartender, who told me about a place in the Spitalfileds Market that might have some plonk from Blighty. Everyone under the age of 35 looks sooooooo appallingly young to me.
I liked this place because I actually went into the Discount Suit Company on the ground floor, which is a going concern that sells — wait for it — discount suits and had a chat with the father and son who run the place. I really wanted Top Cat to come back and buy a shirt or two at discount. . .
. . . but alas, that’s one of the things that we just ran out of time for.
P.S. I did stop in a the Spitalfields Market, because it was on the way to the Geffrye and because Spitalfields.
No. 6: French House on Dean Street, Soho:
Top Cat picked this place mostly because of its name, which he thought would please me (being the Francophile that I am) but it is also a very well-known watering hole. It was opened by a German called Schmidt in 1910 who was deported at the start of the first world war. The name was changed to the French House under its subsequent Belgian owners because during WWII it was a home base of the Free French. General De Gaulle was supposed to have written his famous rallying call to his occupied nation, A Tous Les Francais, here.
Top Cat and I nabbed a great table in the cubby . . .
. . . which gave us a good view of the clientele, which is young and trendy. The management does its best to nurture the art of conversation; no singing, no TVs; beer is sold only half pints; and if you dare to talk on your cell phone, you will swiftly be told to hang up or clear out.
Gifford’s Guide for Discerning Drinkers notes that The French House is the U.K.’s top consumer of Ricard Pastis, a French licorice-flavored liqueur. The wine list at The French House is superb and prices are reasonable, which is why this pub is always crowded with an army of regulars.
Outside in the “patio” (sidewalk area) I saw this young lady with her gray hair:
Millennial gals with gray hair is quite a thing in London these days. I happen to really like the look — it looks very fairy-tale-ish, IMHO.
***This Just In: I just learned that the correct term for what I called “gray” hair is lavender. FYI: Lavender is the new IN color.
No. 5: The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.
The actual address of The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is: Inside the Breakfast Club’s fridge:
There are three Breakfast Clubs in London. Each one is a casual, hip place for great breakfasts and fine comfort food the rest of the day and night. . .
. . . and each Breakfast Club has its own speakeasy. But I had to come here for obvious cat-people reasons.
The rule is that when you get to this Breakfast Club you have to tell the hostess: “We’re here to see the Mayor” because, duh, it’s a speakeasy and there are rules. So that’s what we did, and after a very short wait we were let into the fridge:
We had a bottle of Pinot Grigio and poutine (dinner, because we’d forgotten to eat since lunch):
Cute couple at the next table and their waiter smiling for my camera. THIS NEVER HAPPENS IN PARIS.
I can’t tell you exactly why we had such a good time here, but both Top Cat and I enjoyed sitting in this little basement, but maybe these notes from the menu will give you an idea of the “vibe”:
Naturally, I could not get the great old XTC song The Mayor of Simpleton out of my mind for a week.
No. 4: The Mayflower in Rotherhithe:
Rifles, ropes, model ships and pulleys clutter the ceilings and sideboards, evoking images of explorers and drunken sailors. Dickensian scribbles above the chunky black beams read “poverty and oysters always seem to go together.”
This nautical-themed pub sits on the site of the former Shippe pub, built in 1550, making it the oldest pub on the River Thames. It’s famous for its connection to the Mayflower that set sail to American in 1620 — the ship’s original mooring was just off the back deck, which is on the actual bank of the Thames:
This pub is very convivial and well off the tourist track, and it’s in a section of London that I had never even heard of — so it was fun to venture south of the Thames for a Saturday night out!
I love a pub that has a big tent over the deck lets puppy dogs drop in for a beer.
After a quick diner of pub grub and a drink or two, the rain had stopped so we — me, Top Cat, my sister the brilliant Oxford scholar and my brother-in-law the brilliant head of congressional liaison for the Dept. of Justice — headed out to a place right around the corner:
No. 3: Midnight Apothecary at the Brunel Museum, in Rotherhithe:
The Midnight Apothecary is a roving party that hits select venues in London — I picked the one held at the Brunel Museum because that’s the one that the Evening Standard (the dominant London newspaper) called “the hottest pop-up bar in town.” Also, I had to see The Brunel Museum, which is the kind of place that gives me hope that the London that I loved for being a tad quaint and behind the times has not totally disappeared: it’s a museum about a tunnel. That’s it. A tunnel. A rather short tunnel, at that: it’s only the width of the Thames River.
The museum exists to tell the “fascinating” story of the world’s first underwater tunnel, namely, the Thames Tunnel, nearby, built 1825 – 1843. In its time, this tunnel was called “the 8th Wonder of theWorld”, which I know because we got to hear a very enthusiastic lecture down in the old entrance shaft of the “wonder” itself:
But the main reason we were here was for the Saturday night rooftop garden party called Midnight Apothecary. Well, “rooftop” was stretching it, because the museum is mostly underground, hence the “roof” is on top of a one-story building.
First, there are excellent cocktails flavored with unusual (apothecary) herbs:
And Second, there’s a garden, and lots of people, and a campfire over which to roast marshmallows and meet friendly Londoners:
I really liked the towering thistles.
I’m going to stop here at No. 3, for now, because Top Cat always complains that my blogs are too long and the stories I have for the final two Drinking Events (# 1 and 2 in the Top Ten) are so good that they deserve their own posts. Really. You’ll like them. One’s about a cat and a martini and the other is about The Chelsea Physic Garden.
So, my Dear Readers, get out there and live it up this weekend — the LAST WEEKEND OF SUMMER — and meet me back here next Friday.
And I mean it: get out there and do something fun before the Summer of ’16 becomes just a memory!