Comely cornerside shops selling fish and chips, ancient yet steadfast Gothic architecture among sleek silver skyscrapers, the thick whirl of a gray-tinged Thames – All things so iconic of the sprawling metropolis that has come to symbolize the peak of Western culture. But sky-high photos of the city from the London Eye show only the classic facade of a historic city. Perhaps the best way to understand Old Smokey is by observing the humbling clash of the contemporary and the archaic.
1. Shabby Destitute and Lambshank 6:00p
Still reeling from jet lag, my family and I hailed a cab that took us to our lodgings for the trip. Premier Inn London Tower Bridge was an eye-opening 9 minute walk to the River Thames. A shabby destitute pointed to a classy brick kitchen, muttering something about award winning traditional British food. Taking the Londoner’s advice, we dined at the Butler’s Wharf Chop House and enjoyed lambshank with rosemary sauce.
2. Impenetrable Fortress 8:00p
An unquenchable awe of English history drove us across the Thames, to the Tower of London and its infamous White Tower. The wavering voice of our tour guide echoed across the cream colored interior of St. John the Evangelist’s Chapel. Darkness greeted the tour as the guide took us around to Tower Hill; “And here is where poor Archbishop Simon Sudbury was the first man to be beheaded on Tower Hill,” he said. The legacy of the impenetrable Tower of London still lives on in the fortress’s daily battle reenactments of famous sieges and medieval art exhibitions.
3. Full and Proper 10:00a
The brick and green-tile clad corner shop houses the locally famous kitchen: The Garrison Public House. “ Always worth the visit. It’s one of the best gastropubs in South Bank, if not London,” shouted a hurrying Londoner, over passing buses. Don’t hesitate to pick up brunch at Garrison, or go for a Full and Proper plate, the house’s award winning breakfast platter.
4. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles 11:30a
A full hour’s ride on the Tube took us to the RAF (Royal Airforce Museum), made pleasant by the soft glow of gray London clouds. Even something so simple as the Tube can reflect the radiant culture of London and its people. The colorful brick houses, somewhat reminiscent of Haussmanian Paris, definitely displays the easygoing, even playful nature of many Londoners. Arriving at the RAF, and deciding to focus on WWI, I took a look at the First World War in the Air Exhibition, which detailed the inception of the Royal Flying Corps.
5. Cake and F*ckoffee 9:30a
Although the cafe’s front sign is made of Legos, Fuckoffe is no joke. A minute’s walk from Village East, Fuckoffee serves a delectable combo of pastries, cake, and coffee. “Come happy leave edgy” is the cafe’s motto, but I prefer “come edgy and leave happy” – their organic espresso is flavorful enough to wake a zombified college student during finals week.
6. Tacky Tourist Vibes 12:00p
Sure, it’s a tacky tourist thing, but the views from the London Eye are jaw-dropping. From the peak of the Eye, you can peer down and see the famous Parliament building (Palace of Westminster), and the steadfast Big Ben. Take a ride in the still hours, and you can catch a peaceful and solitary view of nighttime (yet no less busy) South East London. After our ride at noon, we headed back to the airport terminal.
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