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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

London Recap

AsiaMark in London

London is always fun for me. They speak English there, which, after two years in Czeko, is a nice change … even for two days.

Mark in London Nag’s Head

We flew into Luton airport, north of London, and took a cheap bus into the city, where Asia’s friend, Mickael, met us and hosted us at his apartment. Hoxton Square is a happening area north of The City. I bought some Polish beer at a bodega, just to wet our whistles before a nice snooze. Mickael’s place is opposite a bar, and the sound of quacking ducks put us to sleep.

Saturday started out gray-skied, but we had a plan to wedge them open with our sunny attitudes. After a quick stop for a breakfast sandwich, we trundled over to the Borough Market, on the south bank of the Thames. Here, beneath elevated rail tracks, lies a huge weekly market for food, flowers, and wine/beer.

market food

We picked up Romain and Chen, Asia’s other two friends living in England, and we became the international crowd: 2 Frenchman, 1 Pole, 1 Taiwanese, and 1 American. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but we were SERIOUS people today.

Asia & the boys

It appeared that every ethnicity was featured beneath a tent at the market: curried chicken, guerrier cheese melts, Greek hamburgers, oysters and clams, Thai chicken, and enough desserts to rot a sweet tooth. We bought a jar of tomato & onion chutney and lemon-butter preserves.

French cheese stall

This is a place to wander, sample, drink, take photos, wander & sample some more. Then find a park to walk off your “free” lunch.

deer & bunnies

We wandered down the southbank towards the London Eye, with no desire to stand in that line or do much sightseeing, but instead to soak up London’s flavors and people and people and people and more people. When you come from a sleepy little 1.3 mil city to a 7.7 mil EuroTropolis, the difference is a closeness that you can almost taste.

Asia & phonebooth

Lunch was a dip into the British cuisine: fish n chips. A London Pride ale washed that puppie down. Onward to the book stalls beneath a bridge. Book shopping was #3 on our list (behind (#1) visiting friends and (#2) retrieving Asia’s long-abandoned suitcase from Chen, who lives in Newcastle), and we tramped with eyes flitting across book spines around the several yards of tables. But I quickly saw this book-search was in vain: too many beach titles.

Jonno Adams lives in London, these days, so we met at Charring Cross, left the Asia group for a bit, and found a pub that had a decent selection of wines. We caught up on the three years since we’d last seen each other. Jonno’s ready to storm the beaches, and looks the part, too. He does have that “Britain can make it!” look, n’est’ce pas?

Jonno & Mark 2010

Later, meeting up with the others, we collected four more, and made 10 for dinner at a China Town restaurant, where Asia and I proceeded with a Dinner4Two that could feed four starving goats. Yum. The night was settled past 12-ish, which was nicely rounded with Tube rides, people watching, derelict sightings, and more quacking ducks till 3am.

Asia & Michael in Tube

Sunday was an important day: nary a dent was made in either of our book lists. We needed to do some serious hunting, and there were only five hours left on the program! The day opened with beautiful blue skies and an American-style breakfast restaurant around Hoxton Square.

Mark & the boys in London

We ate heartily, with Asia praising the pancakes and maple syrup all through the day. Then we needed to dash.

Asia’s pancakes

The first bookstore was quite beautiful, in Marylborne, a picturesque neighborhood that looks more like a Victorian village had been taken up and set down in the center of London. As beautiful as the shop was (3 levels, ornate touches, stained glass skylight), there were few used books here. Bum steer, thanks to the InterWeb.

One more chance. Off we raced to Nelson’s column, and up a near street where lay a bookshop. But wait! Just past the National Portrait Gallery (NO SIGHTSEEING!!!) we came upon a different used-book shop … Ah-haaaaa! … and here we struck gold. After only a few minutes (I was still perusing the sidewalk selections) Asia came bounding out of the door holding a bundle of titles in her hands. “I’ve found five on my list! And I’ve just walked in the store!”

I bought six at this shop. And next store was another shop, where I found five more books. Ah, what ecstasy! Better than …. well, use your imagination, but not the one that puts you in the gutter.

Books bought in London

To sum up: a fab weekend.

When we got home, James Bunny couldn’t wait to see all the goodies we brought home.

James Bunny

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