Nearly two months after we left, I'm finally reaching the last day of photos from our trip! It's amazing how much you forget about a trip til you look back at photos and realize everything you saw and ate and experienced.
We decided to take a 'slow' day for our last 24 hours in London - sleeping in late, making breakfast at our friend's flat, then heading up to the Thames to walk along the river. We borrowed our friend's Tate Modern membership card, which gave us access to the amazing views from the upper levels.
Once again, the weather was blissfully sunny and warm, delightfully going against my every expectation of a damp, gray visit to London. We walked from the Tate over to Borough Market, passing centuries-old church ruins and catching soft breezes from the river.
And then we arrived at Borough Market, heaven for food lovers.
I realized after we visited how few photos I had taken - I spent most of my time walking around with my mouth gaping open (partially out of awe, and partially so I could eat the free samples more quickly).
Farmers, fishmongers, and pastry makers have been selling food for 1,000 years in Borough Market, and it remains a dynamic center for locally produced, grown, and handcrafted food and drinks. We arrived in time for the lunch rush, lining up for Thai curries, sheep's milk gelato, Cornish pasties, and whatever else the stalls were selling that day on the outskirts of the market. Inside the covered atrium, booths sold an endless variety of soft cheeses, fresh-caught fish, spices, teas, pastries, mushroom pate, local vegetables, lemon tarts...the variety and abundance was overwhelming.
Regrettably, we couldn't load up our bags since we weren't checking any luggage on our flight back to Dublin. So we wandered, tasted, inhaled, and imbibed. On our way out, we stopped by Monmouth Coffee Company, a fair trade coffee company with shops scattered throughout London. I feel I had indifferent experiences with coffee during our stay in England. But Monmouth changed my mind. We discussed the varieties for sale with the barista and took home a pound of Brazilian beans. We even drank a free sampler of the beans we bought, which meant we skipped the line of 20+ people waiting to order their lattes.
After Borough Market, we decided a nap was in order and took the train back to Balham. We dozed in the afternoon sun slanting through the flat's windows, wandered through the local Sainsbury's to buy chocolate covered digestive biscuits and herbal teas to take home, and decided on a nice, traditional picnic dinner for our last evening in England.
If I had to pick a place to live in London, it might just be Balham in southern London - parks and transportation within walking distance, loads of locally owned shops, and a laid-back neighborhood feel. We stopped in a 'beer and home-brew general store' - We Brought Beer - to pick up a couple of London-brewed craft beers. We also ordered fish and chips from a shop run by a Japanese man who told Andrew that a British fish fry is a lot like making tempura. Which might explain why his version was so delicious.
A local park was just down the road. We found a park table, spreading out our British fare and watched families cycling and dogs trotting and old couples ambling hand-in-hand along the tree-lined paths. It was a quiet, yet appropriate way, to end our trip.
The next morning, we flew out of Gatwick Airport back to Dublin for one more night of Irish hospitality via AirBNB. Emer's flat was a bit of a splurge for us, but we felt we'd earned it a bit. The weather had turned rainy and gray in Dublin while we'd been in England. We sloshed through the streets, too low on euros to take the bus anywhere, content to experience more authentic weather than we had for the past two weeks.
We returned to the flat, napped, and headed out again for one last pint of Guinness at a wood-paneled pub, with pictures of Bill Clinton framed and signed on the wall. (We couldn't seem to get away from him - he had also been spotted at the Turf Tavern in Oxford, as well as others.) We watched the football match with the pub crowd, listening to shouts and groans of the fans, licking the creamy foam off our lips as we sipped Ireland's iconic brew.
The next day held a long flight to Chicago and on to Kansas City, where the weather had turned 30 degrees hotter and I was re-introduced to the concept of 'sweating.'
What a trip we'd had - a mere introduction to two weeks spent in two very different countries whose past mingled with mine not too many generations ago. The unfortunate (yet lovely) thing about travel is that more travel doesn't diminish your desire for it - although a few nights (at least) in your own bed is greatly appreciated. It only increases your desire for more travel. We're already scheming and dreaming of ways to spend more time on the other side of the ocean. And hopefully we will do it again soon...
- Tate Modern - international modern and contemporary art museum (Bankside, London)
- Borough Market - historic market with produce and prepared foods, cooking exhibitions, and culinary shops (Southwark, London)
- Monmouth Coffee Company - fair trade coffee roasters and purveyors (Borough Market)
- We Brought Beer - a beer and home-brew general store selling local and international craft beers (Clapham Junction, Balham and Tooting Market, London)
- AirBNB - locally hosted accommodations; click here for a $35 credit on your first trip