“What do you mean, you’ve never been to London before?” I asked our friends Jim and Stacey.
Jim and Stacey, for my DEVOTED readers, are the couple went to Italy with last year. Stacey and I have worked trade shows together in Barcelona. They are extremely well traveled folks.
But they had never been to London. So when they invited us to spend a week in Ireland with them this summer, we suggested they meet us in London.
There are few things better than playing tour guide to newbies in a city that you love.
We meet for breakfast at our hotel and Uber over to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Along the way, we point out the big attractions – Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Savoy (site of our son’s engagement!). We arrive at St. Paul’s, pay our GBP 18 each (wowsah!) to get in and take the excellent audio tour.
There’s a lot to love about St. Paul’s:
The fact that Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture was controversial at the time because it was considered “too Catholic” in Protestant England. Protestant English cathedrals had spires, after all. Not domes.
That both Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King preached at the cathedral.
Sure, plenty of people know that Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington are buried at St. Paul’s. But what about Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan fame? Oh, and did you know he wrote the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers?”
After we take in the glory and majesty of St. Paul’s we take Jim and Stacey to one of my “off the beaten path” favorites in London – Postman’s Park. This little park, just a short walk from St. Paul’s, contains memorials to many ordinary Brits who gave their lives while saving others. Have a look at the pictures below for a sample of these extraordinary memorials.
As usual, touring builds up an appetite. Pierce has made a reservation at St. John in Smithfield Market. Chef Fergus Henderson created the restaurant with a “snout to tail” philosophy. He specializes in offal and parts of the animal that are not generally served at Applebees. Bone marrow, liver, tripe or kidneys could be the special of the day.
The great man is actually at the restaurant, but I decline to bother him since he was eating lunch. Instead head chef Jonathan Woolway agrees to let me take his picture in the kitchen.
Grainne and I share a portion of lamb’s liver – a favorite of ours – along with some potatoes and beans. Pierce and Ghazal dig into their favorites – bone marrow and mutton. Jim opts for white hog ham and Stacey gets a green salad. We finish off lunch with a raspberry pavlova and a cheese course.
Everything is simple and delicious. No fancy garnishes or sauces. Just beautifully prepared, fresh meats and vegetables in an almost Spartan setting with hardwood floors and white paper tablecloths. St. John has well deserved great reputation for elevating cuts of meat that most people wouldn’t normally order. Take the dive. You’ll be glad you did.
We have just enough time to hop on the tube and make our way west to tour Buckingham Palace. It’s my first time visiting “Buck House,” and I love it.
One of the things that stood out was how monarchs understood that their palace had to make a statement. Take George IV. He hired John Nash – an accomplished architect with expertise in theatre design to create dramatic rooms. Rooms that would take your breath away. Rooms that left no doubt who was in charge.
I won’t even try to describe the rooms. But it does make me wonder what it would be like to grow up in Buckingham Palace and have all room to run around. I mean, how do you child-proof a place with priceless paintings, statues and furniture?
Not my issue. We retire to the pub and have a pint to quench our thirst. Grainne and I head over to Pierce and Ghazal’s for a quick dinner in. We also get to meet up with our nephew Jonathan.
Jim and Stacey head out for dinner on their own, and I receive a picture via text with this message: “First fish and chips!!”
This whole visiting London thing seems to be catching on…