London, What a Great City! We Are About to Start our Pilgrimage...
The Rocky Mountains of Colorado were just turning gold when we left.
London, What a Great City! We Are About to Start our Pilgrimage...
We have enjoyed twelve days of nice weather walking around London, hoping to get in better “walking shape” before starting our Via Francigena walk from Canterbury to Rome.
Except for one rainy and cold day, every day has been cool and dry, perfect weather for walking around this city.
When we left the mountains of Colorado, the trees had already started to change their colors, and in some areas, the forests were ablaze with warm gold tones.
We did absolutely no prior training for our upcoming pilgrimage before we came here.
We did no walking, no gym strength training, nothing....
After three months of sitting and painting in my studio, I knew that it would be hard to be on my feet for many hours every day, let alone to be walking every day.
We have used our time in London to walk daily and get into a “walking mode.”
During the first few days, we walked between 15 and 20 Kilometers each day, and my feet and calf muscles were very achy.
In the following days, little by little I have been getting adjusted to being on my feet all day and walking.
London is an exciting city with lots to see and do.
The architecture is wonderful and varied, the old markets are bustling but wonderful, and best of all, London is a city that is not full of high rise buildings, which allows you to see the sky everywhere.
Along our walks we crossed the canals, walked along the River Thames and enjoyed the city parks.
We rented a modern apartment in West London.
It is a new apartment hotel nearby the Royal Botanical Gardens, with daily housekeeping and glass walls that allows for views and light.
It is not a great neighborhood, but it has stretched us to go and see all the different neighborhoods around the city.
The different neighborhoods are diverse and worth strolling through.
We have walked through neighborhoods lined with trees, now shedding their golden leaves in front of the beautiful white townhouses.
We have passed by streets lined with small Polish markets, Bangladeshi or Indian eateries, vegan cafes, street art, brick buildings, museums, palaces, monuments, bridges and art galleries.
We have passed by large Turkish, Moroccan or Arab restaurants with outdoor seating, and seen people smoking apple scented tobacco in long necked Shishas.
We have seen people from all over the world, and been able to find all kinds of African food, European food and of course Asian food of every nationality, budget, style and flavor.
Because we knew that in the upcoming two weeks of walking in Northern France, we would eat only French food or on some days would have to eat just cheese and baguette sandwiches, we chose to eat in a variety of restaurants while in London.
London is no longer a city where chauffeur driven Bentley’s or black Jaguars drive suit-clad aristocrats to high end boutiques and art galleries with snobbish attitudes.
Those days are truly gone.
Now, London is without a doubt, an immigrants’ city.
We have heard every language from around the globe spoken in the streets, all except English, which is sparsely spoken.
The fashions, which used to be conservative and very pricy, is more or less the same as in every European city.
There are very affordable chain clothing stores, designer name shops and what is unique, are the high end boutiques.
In those high fashion boutiques, the fashion seems to be geared towards the “Crazy-rich” Asians from China, Hong Kong and Singapore, or towards the ever fashion conscious Persians and Arabs.
I have seen in the windows of those boutiques thousands of dollars worth of running suits, in shiny blue or red fabrics, studded with glittery sequins from head to sleeves.
High heeled funky shoes complete the outfits, removing all doubts that the person clad in one of those sequined track suits, has any intention of actually exercising.
But I do have to admit that I did like the very interesting clothing combinations that I saw in those high end boutiques.
It was a free and fun combination of high couture, with casual and practical sportswear.
Sometimes, when I want to wear my nice jackets or coats, I decide that they are not warm enough for the weather, or not practical enough for what I plan to do that day.
In those high fashion boutiques, they simply layer the puffy warm ski coats under high couture coats, or a pair of sweatpants under fashionable skirts.
On this trip, we have brought only hiking clothes, but I did like these fashion forward ways of combining the practical with the elegant.
It felt whimsical and careless in a good way.
The combination of designer coats over plastic rain hoody jackets, skirts over wide pants, the hems of t-shirts showing under dress shirts and layers of mismatched clothing, actually looked very cool.
Oh, and the food..... the food in most places we ate at was just superb.
We ate the best dim sum in a small and nicely decorated place called “Bo Lang” in Chelsea.
They have steamed Lobster dumplings with gold leaf and caviar, dumplings with prawn and chives, red cabbage and forest mushrooms, all wrapped in vegetable juice-colored thin dim sum wrappers, and steamed in bamboo baskets.
In “Dum Biryani”, in a busy cave-like restaurant on the edge of Soho, we had the best vegetable Briyani, cooked in a clay pot and covered in a flaky puff pastry.
We had some fabulous Malaysian food and coconut based desserts in “Tukdin Flavours of Malaysia Restaurant,” in Paddington.
We ate fabulous Chinese food in “The New Fortune Cookie” which is located next to the “Gold Mine,” another place famous for its good Chinese food that truly IS a gold mine.
Lines of people stretch outside the Gold Mine, and their food, especially the Beijing Duck, is very good.
We loved the Tanya Cafe, which offers scrumptious finger-licking good vegan raw desserts and comfortable seating in South Kensington, and every morning we ate a healthy delicious breakfast and fresh juice at “The Wild Bunch” in Chiswick.
We had some good Balti Indian food in Brick Lane, and Greek food in a busy and loud restaurant called “The Real Greek” in the Southbank area, near the Tate Modern, just to name a few.
We also ate small snacks at the Camden and the Borough Markets, with their many lovely choices.
It is getting cooler now, but we are enjoying our time in London very much.
At the British Film Institute, there is a film festival that is starting this weekend.
We have bought tickets for some of the films.
The reason I love participating in film festivals is because most of the films never get wider distribution.
This means that outside of the film festivals, some will never make it to Netflix, Amazon Prime, cable TV or to any theater near you...
But the movies are exciting, moving and very worth watching.
Sending you warm thoughts and smiles,