DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm off to London next Thursday for a three and a half week stay, and I've been so busy the last few weeks (month...) that I've hardly had time to think about what I'm going to do once I get there (other than work...) So I thought I would ramp up my pre-trip anticipation by making a little things-to-look-forward-to list.
And then I realized that not only do most of my much anticipated to-dos include food or drink, or food AND drink, they are also probably a bit weird and very eccentrically personal.
But here goes:
1) I arrive early on Friday morning. For years I flew into Gatwick, so the very first thing on my list was to hit the airport bookshops. If you've never flown into London Gatwick, it's a sort of cross between an airport and a shopping mall, so once you've cleared customs and immigration, you could spend the day shopping before you ever left the airport. I could never wait to see what was on the bookstore shelves that I hadn't seen in the US. Now, alas, I fly into Heathrow Terminal 3, which is not nearly as much fun. I have to content myself with arriving at Paddington Station via the Heathrow Express, and there I make my first pilgrimage, a visit to the Paddington Bear stall. Now I know I'm really in London.
2) Then, a taxi to my rented flat, one of two this trip. The first flat is in South Kensington, so fingers crossed for a pretty day, and a drive through Hyde Park. Bliss. Arrive at flat (a new one for me), unpack, find the nearest supermarket, buy essentials, which always include a box of Twining's Lady Gray Tea (the English version tastes different than the one you get in the US, I don't know why) and a copy of the Radio Times. The Radio Times is an iconic British thing for me. It's a bit like the American TV Guide, but GOOD. Great photos, fun articles, and of course, the week's TV and radio schedule. I know we get British TV is the US, but we don't get the funky things, the real-life cop shows, the documentaries and gardening specials and game shows, all irresistible stuff. I am so nerdy that I highlight things I want to watch. Then a nap, and dinner somewhere comforting and familiar.
3) Saturday morning, the London MUST DO--Portobello Market. (Again, fingers crossed for a pretty day, although I have done Portobello in sleet and snow.) I am a browser, not a shopper. I make my way down the hill, checking out my favorite antique stalls and shops, stopping for coffee and a croissant at Mr. Christian's deli in Elgin Crescent, admiring the fruit and veg and flower stalls, the giant simmering vats of paella, taking in the aroma of crepes and sizzling sausages, listening to the music from the buskers and the CD stalls. Then, the lunch destination, a tiny place at the very bottom of the market, Falafel King. (The photo above is me at Falafel King a couple of years ago, on a gorgeous sunny day.)
And from there, oh, London is my oyster.
I want to watch the scullers from Putney Bridge, and have Sunday lunch at The Jolly Gardeners pub in Putney.
Covent Garden is a must, with a visit to the London Transport Museum, and tea and a scone at the Covent Garden Kitchen.
Wednesday Evensong at St. Martin in the Fields.
A look in the National Portrait Gallery.
A glass of champagne at Searcy's in St. Pancras Station, just for the atmosphere. As you sip, you can
watch the Eurostar trains depart for Paris or Brussels, and imagine adventures.
A proper afternoon tea at Sketch, just off Regent Street. Very quirky, fun, and delicious.
Lately I've been following a mobile tea van on Facebook. It's called Good and Proper Tea, and it moves around London. I'm determined to track it down.
A visit to Darwin's house in Bloomsbury.
And Daunt's Bookshop in Holland Park.
And Selfridge's, just for fun.
There will be dinners with friends, and hopefully a jazz club or two, maybe even the 12 Bar in Denmark Street.
There will be research, too, although all of the above count as research as well!
But by now my feet are tired, and evenings in with a book and something good on the telly sound just as appealing.
So REDS and readers, if you have been to London, what tops your fantasy to-do list?
And if you haven't, where would YOU start?