Day 3: Here Comes The Sun King

[note: Internet service is on strike in Paris so I'll have to add the photos later when I have a stronger signal]

Once again the day commenced with a trip to Lower Marsh for a cup of whatever they call the coffee over here – flat white? I went to a different cafe, The Four Corners, drank my coffee and wrote yesterday’s blog. When you consider the time difference that means that you’re actually reading a blog about the past that I wrote in the future. Pretty cool, huh?

Fancy foam

Fancy foam

From there I tubed up to St. John’s Wood to start the holy pilgrimage. St. John’s Wood is a weird area. It’s the home of the national cricket grounds and Regent’s Park is nearby. It’s also a center for Jewish and Islamic communities. Obviously a questionable move by the British putting those 2 groups together given their bad neighbor history.

My first stop was at Panzer’s Deli to pick up a picnic lunch. I was warned that the help could be surly, but British surly is different that Boston surly, so I found them to be fairly nice.

From there I walked over to Regent’s Park. It’s a large city park. In English “regent’s” apparently means goose shit, but it was still a nice spot for brunch. I ate my bagel and lox, orange juice and cucumber salad near the boating pond.

After a brief respite I went to Queen Victoria’s Garden. Or maybe it was Queen Elizabeth’s Garden? The garden was really nice but it must be a little late in the season because the flowers were coming off the bloom. It was still quite pleasant.

Here’s the fountain in the middle of the garden.

There’s also an open air theatre, but it was gated and I forgot my grappling hook so I couldn’t sneak in for a photo.

Look at these cute kids playing footie in the park (don’t worry, it’s still really boring to watch even on this side of the pond):

From there I walked back to St. John’s Woods High Street. Along the way I noticed quite a few Porsches and Beamers and figured it must be a swanky area. It was. The High Street reminded me of downtown Wellesley: clean and boutiquey. Luckily, they still had a pub and I could stop for a quick pint after walking a few miles in the 30 degree heat, which I think translates into 112 degrees fahrenheit.

Finally it was time to head to the main attraction: Abbey Road. It had been a Beatles day throughout, and I was able to listen to Rubber Soul, Revolver and the White Album during my walk. I timed the playing of Abbey Road to coincide with my trip to the crosswalk and the studio.

Side note: in a very Boston-like move there’s a tube station called Abbey Road that has nothing to do with the famous Abbey Road that everybody wants to see. If you want to see Abbey Road you need to go to St. John’s Wood. By the by, St. John’s actual wood was a cricket bat, which is why the cricket grounds are located in that neighborhood. I would have liked to catch a test, but those things last weeks and we only have a few days in London.

It’s easy to figure out which crosswalk is the famous one due to the crowd of people standing around. The weird thing is that Abbey Road is a busy road, with cars and trucks fighting tourists who try to recreate the photo of The Beatles crossing the street. Most people draw lots to see who gets stuck being Ringo.

The actual Abbey Road studio is on the left side of the street. It’s still an active recording studio so people aren’t allowed to enter the gates. As you can see, many people leave a quick message to commemorate their visit:

It was very cool to be at Abbey Road. While the crosswalk itself only has slight magical powers it is amazing to think of all of the people who have been touched enough by The Beatles’ music, even 50 years later, to make the trip. Are there any current musicians who are iconic enough to warrant such devotion? Will Kid Rock’s favorite Waffle House become a tourist destination? (Actually, I sincerely hope it does.)

It’s weird that there’s not more Beatles-related stuff in the area. Obviously it’s a key tourist spot and a Beatles museum would be perfect. I’m sure there’s a Beatles museum in Liverpool, but we’re not in Liverpool now, are we love? This coffee shop is literally the only place that exploits the Beatles connection:

I headed back to the hotel to pick-up Lyn and we went to Harrod’s via Piccadilly Circus. And when I say “via Piccadilly Circus” I mean that I took us to the wrong tube station, but that’s part of the fun of traveling with someone who just walks around and takes the tube without having an entirely clear idea of where they’re going.

Piccadilly Circus is very Times Squaresy in the way that Times Square is both cool and annoying. We hung for a few minutes and grabbed a taxi to Harrod’s.

My first black taxi and OMIGODWHYDON’TWEHAVETHESE??? Wow, they’re spacious and clean and efficient and fantastic. Seriously, why don’t we have these in America? Not that I have anything against old Crown Vics and smelly Prius’s, but we need these stat.

Harrod’s is a pretty crazy store and we couldn’t help but spend $45,000 on a Warhol and a Dali. I’ve never seen a department store that sells fine art but sure enough there was a gallery hidden in the Qatar section. The Egyptian escalator is outrageous and I like how they keep prams and fat guys off the escalator with these poles:

The weirdest part of Harrod’s was the statute and memorial dedicated to Lady Di and Dodi al Fayed. For the record, I think it’s terrible that the two of them were murdered and it seems like Princess Di was a nice lady. That said, I’m generally anti-Diana. When you accept the job of Princess of England it’s a lifetime contract and you take the bad with the good. Keep your dalliances discreet and do the job you’re being paid for. Charles was obviously a loser when she married him, but that was the deal. Don’t enjoy the riches and fame and then push for a divorce and discredit the magnificent institution of fake royalty of a former empire. That’s just wrong.

After Harrod’s we went to the Gloucester pub for a traditional meal. We split a scotch egg (interesting), Lyn got the fish & chips and I got the bangers & mash. (Have you ever noticed that all British food features an ampersand?) The Gloucester wasn’t as good as the Water Poet but it was decent. I do like the pub style of ordering at the bar – no waiting for servers or checks. I think I’ve had my fill of British food for the moment and look forward to getting down with the French.

Tomorrow we’re booked on the Eurostar for a quick trip to Paris. London has been great but I’m really excited to visit France. There’s a strike or protest going on, but Say La Vee, Mon Amee.


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