ARRIVING IN LONDON YESTERDAY MORNING for a late winter sojourn, I had none of the sense of disorientation and dislocation I normally do when landing in a foreign country after a semi-sleepless night on a plane.
No, I just got right into it, though I haven’t been in England in ten years and, despite at least that many visits, don’t know London well at all. Its intricate layers and ever-changing character seem to defy knowing.
I’m staying with a dear friend in De Beauvoir Town, a neighborhood in the northeast of the city, developed in the mid-19th century from farmland into row houses, much like my home borough of Brooklyn.
From Heathrow I took the Tube to King’s Cross Station, above, and then a taxi to my destination, below. All smooth as clockwork. No sooner did I sit down in the back of the cab than the driver, noting my accent, said, “Well, shall we talk about the elephant in the room?” I was a little slow on the uptake (jet lag) and didn’t get it, until he added: “Your President!” Oh, him! I hadn’t thought about any of that in hours. The driver was smart and not a supporter, so the ride passed pleasantly.
My theme for this visit: historic pubs. I plan to visit at least one a day. So far on schedule, though the two I’ve been to (the nearest at hand) are not particularly historic and not found in guidebooks. Both were incredibly welcoming, and I don’t know why Keith McNally, instead of continually reproducing old-school French brasseries, doesn’t bring us some upscale British pubs. Lunch today, at The Scolt Head, below, right around the corner, with two other old friends, was convivial and delicious.
I had wild mushroom pie, but forgot to take a photo before tucking into it. The plate below belonged to another diner: your more traditional Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding. The sides were the same: potatoes, red cabbage, carrots and peas. Scrumptious.
We’ve done two long walks: yesterday down to Regent’s Canal, below, where industrial buildings have been turned into residences and narrow working barges into colorful houseboats. A few casual cafés have even popped up along the towpath there.
Today we did a circuit of what they call Georgian terraces in nearby Islington — that is, attached houses of the late 18th century to mid-19th century, uniform and understated, except for the occasional yellow or blue door. Some have carefully considered front gardens.
Islington has the feel of a village, organized around park-like squares. There’s little commerce, except for the occasional pub. It’s altogether genteel, a very fine address.
For the next three weeks, I’ll be exploring London, largely on foot. I hope you’ll come with me.
Spring is farther along here. Daffodils, forsythia, early magnolias about to pop. The mimosa, above, already in full flower.