Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

I like to hear them small birds sing

I have one full day in London, and it's the most beautiful day it is possible to have in London. Everything looks and feels wonderful on a day such as today.

When I travel overseas I keep a small notepad with me in which I note what I did each day and in which I write the occasional observation. I find this helps me think through and relive my trips, particularly years later. It's sort of an abbreviated travel journal. Travel journals are good.

I'd consider keeping a similar summary journal during my regular life, except I'm afraid it might highlight how often I lazily waste my days. When I travel, though, I pack things in. That's partly because simply wasting a day when I travel, as I'm sort of doing today, becomes an adventure on its own. I'm wasting a day across the ocean!

By posting this entry I am violating my own guideline of no more than one post per day, but as I walk the streets of London (wasting leather on these gritty paving stones, as Kipling would have it) I pass Internet cafes and I think this is a good way of keeping my travel notebook.

But my travel journal is generally dull, I'm afraid. It lists where I've eaten and what I've eaten, for example. Yesterday, while waiting to check into my hotel, I went to a nice little sandwich bar and had a smoked salmon sandwich because in England smoked salmon sandwiches are as common as ham and cheese in the US, or so it seems. Also I love smoked salmon. Today, at Pret a Manger, I had a crayfish and arugula (called rocket here) sandwich, again because you don't see that much in Minnesota. You also find a lot of prawn salad sandwiches, but in general those are vile; they consist of watery mayo mixed with bad canned shrimp, for the most part, although as with most things the quality is a bit better at Pret a Manger.

Why don't we have branches of Pret a Manger in the US? They seem to be as common as Starbucks here. Fresh sandwiches and coffee and decent desserts, pre-packaged but pre-packaged often. In a way they are like the old Automats, when they served good pie and coffee quickly and cheaply (I have only the vaguest memory myself of being taken to the automat in NY City, but that memory has been reinforced by much reading). The branches of Pret a Manger are always crowded, in my experience, day and night.

The Brits seem to do well with chains that provide decent food quickly. Last night the dinner was at a branch of Wagamama, Asian-themed quick service at long communal tables. I had duck gyoza (not bad, but not stupendous) and salmon korroke which were like crab cakes but made with salmon and even a little corn, topped by a fresh salad and some actual crab. They were fried as well as good tempura, not greasy and very hot and smooth within. I also had delicious coconut ice cream, topped with a mint leaf. I can see why there was a long line for the restaurant as we left.

Also today: I made it back to Tabio, the best sock store in the world (it's a Japanese store), which is on King's Road past Sloane Square, and then I went to Peter Jones and picked up some Kent combs. I decided I can wait until the dollar is stonger before replacing my Mason Pearson large all-bristle brush (you can't get the large all-bristle model in the US, although you can get most of the others although they are cheaper here). But mostly I've been walking up Charing Cross Road from the Embankment, alternating tourist-awe views of the passing scene with bookstore browsing.

Whenever I sit still for a minute and listen to the folks talking around me they are usually not speaking English. Ah, London.
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