And sometimes it’s tea that counts! London days always began with early morning tea, waiting for daylight and the young people to wake. And tea through out the day sustained me – a “cuppa” welcomed in any number of settings.
On Christmas Eve afternoon a quiet tea at a deserted neighborhood bakery, watching last minute shoppers hustle by outside and the bakery door repeatedly open to customers destined to be disappointed by the nearly empty shelves, tea with the sweet bride while seated on tall stools at a little place on Portobello Road (while the others descended to a basement café serving full English breakfasts), and cups of tea perched at the edge of a table in another crowded place, enjoying a series of conversations with shoppers who were into the city for the day.
Nowadays there are countless Pret-a-Manager restaurants in London – popular and ubiquitous and so useful to tourists. Their size and style varies with the neighborhood, but they offer fresh ready-made sandwiches to grab – when tables are full or time’s too short to sit – food fuel critical for our constant walking.
I took to having the same sandwich – egg salad and cress – whether standing under the shadow of Big Ben outside a hole-in-the wall place across from the Houses of Parliament, or at museum cafes.
Hot tea made that sandwich work in the winter, I clutched a paper cup, while the tea steamed and warmed my hands. Twice we carried cups when we joined walking tours (tours in winter provide heat, people clustered together like penguins, trapping a little warm air).
My favorite tea was at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich – a wordsmith-recommended destination – and a place we all enjoyed. To get there, you ride the Docklands Light Rail out of London proper, and because the rail is elevated, pass rapidly over and through abandoned wharf areas now repopulated with the tall steel and glass office buildings of modern prosperity. It looks a cleaned up “Blade Runner” vista.
But Greenwich itself is old England – with village-size buildings and the beautiful structures of the old Naval College now housing the Maritime Museum. We found a huge “Turner and the Sea” exhibition, and ships and sagas galore with tales of exploration, trade, piracy, and famous mariners.
In the café, they serve tea properly – a pretty china cup with plenty of hot water in an accompanying pot – just right for an egg and cress sandwich.