One of the many advantages of having spent a lot of time in London, and of having grown-up children, is that you can split up and do different things.
So on this Tuesday, that’s exactly what we decided to do.
The girls – Grainne, Ghazal and our friend Sarah decided on a shopping trip to Harrod’s. Garrett, Finn and I set out for the Tate Modern. Pierce, unfortunately, had to work.
Going to the Tate Modern, based in an old power station on the South Bank of the Thames, also gave us a chance to walk across the Millennium Bridge. The suspension footbridge starts just south of St. Paul’s Cathedral, crosses the Thames and ends just between the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern.
It was a thrill to walk across the iconic bridge, and just as exciting to see the rejuvenated South Bank. In the early 90s, my office was a stone’s throw from the Globe Theatre in the Financial Times building. At that time, there was little else near the FT (except an abandoned power station!).
Now, tourists walk up and down the clean pedestrian paths with a choice of restaurants. A wannabe bard wearing heavy framed round eye glasses sits at a table banging away on his typewriter. His hand-made sign reads: “Poetry. Any subject. Pay what you like.” He’s a little short on customers today.
Borough Market is a five minute walk way, filled with stands selling fresh fruit and vegetables as well as delicious prepared foods. It’s a thriving area. It makes me happy.
Here’s something else that makes me happy. The Tate Modern is free!
We walk into the cavernous Tate Modern and head up to the second floor to view the permanent collection. My son Garrett has educated me a little on modern art, at least to the point where I can recognize a few names and styles: Gerhard Richter, Mondrian, Mark Rothko. I’m not sure I could tell you what these artists were necessarily trying to convey, but I do find their work appealing.
See, you can teach an old dog a new trick. Well, maybe half a trick.
After a couple of hours of art gazing, it’s time to meet up with the girls for lunch. We decided to grab a bite at Harrods, London’s world-famous luxury department store.
Look, I’ll admit to being a little thrifty at times. Some mean-spirited people might even say cheap. But come on, $25 for a hamburger seems a little much. Fortunately, we noticed that you have the option to get three sliders instead of one burger. So most of us decided to split one order between two of us. And since we were scheduled to go to dinner in about three hours anyway, we didn’t need a big meal.
But really Harrods? I realize that you cater to people with a whole lot more green than this middle manager makes, but cut us a break on the price of a hamburger why don’t cha?
We wrap-up lunch and split up once again. The girls head over to Selfridges for more shopping. Garrett and his friend Sterling take off for a museum and Finn and I go together to search for theatre tickets for tomorrow and to pick up the wedding programs.
I guide us over to Leicester Square (do I really have to include a sentence on pronunciation? Google it if you really don’t know). We go by TKTS London, the only true theatre ticket discounter that I trust. They usually only sell same-day tickets, but we roll the dice and ask about the Wednesday matinee for Young Frankenstein.
Score! We pick up some of the best seats in the house for GBP 45 instead of the usually GBP 69.
I told you I was thrifty, right?
Happy with our purchase, we run by the print shop and grab the wedding programs, which look absolutely beautiful. When I show them to Grainne and Sarah back the hotel, I notice a few tears rolling down both their cheeks.
We gather our emotions and head out for an Indian meal. One of the huge cultural shifts in England in the last quarter century is the massive growth in the popularity of Indian food. I read a few years ago that England now has more Indian restaurants than fish and chip shops. I believe it.
Pierce has made reservations at Tayyabs,which specializes in Punjabi cuisine. It’s located near Aldgate East / Whitechapel (yes, Jack the Ripper territory). The place is packed. The staff are super-efficient. They quickly bring out a plate of papadums along with a selection of mint sauce, mango chutney and a spicier sauce that I wasn’t familiar with.
They are known for their lamb chop starters, so we order a bunch and tear through them in quick order. For our main course, we have a variety of specialties – Karahi Chicken Tikka Masala, Karahi Chicken, various naan breads and plates and plates of pilau rice.
(By the way, most of Tayyab’s dishes start with the word Karahi, which according to Wikipedia is a “type of thick, circular and deep cooking pot that originated in the Indian subcontinent.” There, now we both know.)
The food was spicy, delicious and satisfying. Oh, and the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license but allows you to BYOB. That saves a bob or two, as the English might say.
One side note: Our son Finn and our friend Sarah opted out of Indian and went for a fabulous meal at Gordon Ramsay's Petrus restaurant. Sarah, it should be noted, is not cheap. She is exceedingly generous and gave Finn a meal to remember.
We have one more stop to make. The bar where Pierce and Ghazal held their engagement party has offered us a free round of drinks to celebrate the wedding.
We head over to the Nordic Bar and order an assortment of cocktails to end our night.
On the house! Now you mean-spirited people, hold your tongues. I'm not that cheap. I swear I tipped the bartender.