We woke up this morning and decided that we should have a bit of a lie-in. So while I retouched photos and wrote down some stuff for the blog, Sarah napped and faffed and researched some stuff for the next part of the trip. We had a nice breakfast and then lit out to do a bit of an explore.
We caught the train down to Holborn, and after watching the rush hour squeeze people into the tubes, we decided we’d walk down to St Paul’s instead via Fleet Street. So we joined the on-foot rush of folks jostling and hustling to get to work, while we sauntered and stopped and stared at some of the classic architecture that still exists in the City of London. The stunning façade of the Royal Courts of Justice, the odd mix of supermodern and gothic styles, and the endless tide of harried-looking Londoners made it feel very odd – like we were in a bubble, with the river of humanity breaking around us.
We walked up to St Paul’s, stopping and picking up a UK sim-card on the way to be able to access maps and data on the go. St Paul’s is incredibly imposing – a mix of stalwart columns and intricate masonry, rising to that iconic dome. I took some shots with the Theta as a 360 of the courtyard, and we went up to investigate climbing up to the top of the basilica. For 18 pounds a person, given our time constraints, we thought better of that, and walked up to have a look at Paternoster Square and the Old Bailey, before walking down to the river and making our way back to Temple station to come home and prepare for lunch.
Lunch was at Ramsay’s, the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Chelsea, as an excellent Christmas gift from Sarah’s parents. We arrived a little early, so had a mosey around the neighbourhood, looking at the terraces and churches and schools. There’s a lot of paraphernalia around the Brexit vote – both sides are getting increasingly vitriolic as the vote deadline looms for Thursday. We went into the restaurant at midday, and had one the most enjoyable lunches I can remember. The service was intensely personal and generous without sacrificing a mechanical exactness, and our food was nothing short of incredible. Deconstructed pea and ham soups, followed by agnolotti with Provencal goat’s cheese for my starter, a black-leg chicken with wild garlic for main, and a lime and mint concoction topped with granita for desert, accompanied by an Alsace Gruner Veltliner. Sarah’s meal was equally impressive, with cured ocean trout for starter, a superb cote de porc with homemade black sausage, and strawberry tart for dessert. Our final amuse bouche was berry gelato encased in white chocolate, and elderflower jelly. We even had a quick tour of the kitchen courtesy of our head waiter (a charming French gentleman) as a result of our nationality – the head chef is from Sydney!
We left Ramsay’s very full and happy, and caught the bus home to change into something more roomy and comfortable. We then walked up through Hyde Park, stopping to look at the Serpentine and the sculptures, and made our way up to some of Sarah’s old haunts. We visited Queensway, and then stopped for a drink and some Wifi time at The Mitre, one of the pubs Sarah visited in her heyday. We watched Iceland deliver a stunning victory over Austria in the Euro2016, while having a quick fish and chips and bottle of wine and watching the general flow of humanity around Holland Park.
We left the pub and made our way down to Shepherd’s Bush to see Sarah’s old house and neighbourhood. The imposingly massive Westfield centre really makes a statement, but outside that, it did feel very working-class and an easy place to live well and cheaply. We had a look for Sarah’s old house but she couldn’t be sure of the address so we guessed at which one it was, had some appropriate nostalgia, and then bussed back home. We had a brief interlude with a very chatty salesman, who was an Argentinian scuba instructor, then photographer, and was now selling skin crème in Piccadilly, who tried to sell us 150 quids’ worth of sea salt and oils for skin hygiene – which we politely but firmly declined. We schlepped home to fall into bed at the end of another long day of exploring!