Monday, 16 May 2011

Sauntering the South Bank

Having a full three weeks in London is a real treat.  In the past I have spent two or three days here and that has meant racing around to fit as many sights as possible into a day.  So this morning I have decided to take a long leisurely stroll along the South Bank.  It is a glorious sunny day, around 25 degrees.  I arrive at Waterloo Station and head straight towards the London Eye.  I've already ridden it and enjoyed its stunning views of London so  it is a good feeling to walk past the hordes of children queuing up for a ride.The area around London Eye seems to be busker central...there are so many, some brilliant, some expecting coins for merely being in costume.  I loved the two young men from the Caribbean who did the limbo, twirled tin bowls and did acrobatics, all to a calypso beat.  They certainly earned their money and put a smile on everyone's face. A bit further along a "seaside" has been set up in honour of the coming summer.  Far  from the real thing it is nevertheless a valiant attempt.  There are colourful beach huts, some set up as art installations, some as museums to English seaside life and some as craft shops, a long narrow sand pit filled with the finest golden sand, and a stretch of artificial grass laid out with deck chairs.  Two old ladies, clutching their hand bags are reclining blissfully in the chairs as I pass, their faces turned resolutely towards a watery sun.

 The South Bank book seller stalls are doing their usual roaring trade with tourist eagerly sorting through their vast stock . The recreated Shakespeare's Globe Theatre looks enticing but I am not prepared to stand at the back of a queue of thousands of screeching, shouting and desperately annoying European school groups, the plague of London in summer, so I simply admire the exterior and walk on. I round a corner and there is Sir Walter Raleigh's Golden Hind, amazing, just sitting quietly and relatively unnoticed outside a pub, patrons happily sipping their pints with their backs to it. I'm aiming for Burough Market, an artisan food market with a good reputation, and I am not disappointed.  Tucked away down old cobbled lanes (images of Dickensian London spring to mind) and under the railway the market is a wonderful hive of activity.  Stalls are piled high with cheeses, meats, breads, cakes, wines, sauces from far flung countries, jams from the Cotswolds.....how do you choose?  
Burrough Market

Is that a cheese sandwich, or what?
My son had told me that  a well known food writer has said the cheese and onion toasted sandwiches were the best he had eaten anywhere so I make it my mission to find them.  Armed with a glass of sangria I scour the market and am on the point of giving up when I spot them, hidden in a corner and with an enormous queue....word has clearly got round!  I wait my turn and am served a thick sandwich with a mountain of cheese inside which I eat in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral.  Next it is on to the Tate Modern Art Gallery.  The museum is set in the cavernous interior of what was once a power station and is crammed with riches.  I loved the gigantic Monet Waterlily pond, and was particularly taken with a vast Jackson Pollock and the Picasso room but there is so much to enjoy.  Two hours go by in no time. I stroll back to the train, drinking in all the sights along the river, St Paul's, The houses of parliament, Westminster Abbey etc.  It has been a perfect day, crammed with things to do and see.