Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Day Off - Staying Local

Over the weekend we had decided to map out what we definitely wanted to do on a calendar so we wouldn't run out of time.  Buckingham Palace was slated for yesterday and the Churchill War rooms were scheduled for today, Tuesday.  Then we discovered that Buckingham Palace is only open to the public from July 2 to early September when Queen Elizabeth goes on holiday to Scotland.  Apparently everyone else knew this way before we did because when we went to get tickets the earliest we could get in was August 27th!  That is why we did the War Rooms yesterday...

... and that is why this morning we all decided that today would be free- unscheduled - and that we would explore the local Hammersmith neighborhood.  After a coffee at the Brackenbury Cafe, we walked across the way to check out the local butcher,  and spent a good forty minutes talking to this wonderful Cockney butcher named John Stenton.
 John greeted us at the door with a "'Ello, 'ow are ya?  And where d'ya call 'ome?"

He was getting ready to go on vacation so he said he didn't have a full stock of meats.  He specializes in catering to a large French population, but the French, too, have left for vacation.   He was an absolutely delightful guy and we ended up buying three hamburgers made with 100% beef and three lamb sausages that he said were delicious.  He said he wanted us to try his pork sausage as well so

he threw in three of those for free! 

We told him we were in search of the Thames River.  He pointed us in the right direction and said told us about a very good pub called The Dove, "if you can find it!"

So we headed towards the Thames and found we had to walk through a pedestrian Subway that took us underneath the highway to the riverside.  We were looking at a map and I was trying to ask "Siri" where the Dove Pub was when a jogger came by and pointed about 20 yards down a walkway and there it was!

It turned out to be a wonderful place.  It was built in the early 18th century.  It was originally called the Dove Coffeehouse.  Coffeehouses were all the rage in the 18th century patronized by scientists, philosophers, politicians, artists and others who came to drink coffee, chocolate, wine and ale and to gossip, read newspapers and transact business.  (Sounds a little like San Francisco of today!!)

When you first enter the Dove there is a door that leads to the smallest bar room in Britain and has a Guinness World Record plaque to prove it.  It measures 33 square feet and has a funny tale to explain it.  In 1911 a new landlord took possession of the Dove and he wanted to acquire a full liquor license.  But in order to serve beer and spirits a pub was required to have two bar rooms;  the Dove had only one.  So Mayes instructed his ship-building brother-in-law to build pre-fabricated bar off site and bring it in in the dark of night.  Suddenly the Dove had two bars and the liquor license was granted with no fuss.

In the 20th century it is said that writers and actors such as Dylan Thomas, Alec Guinness and Ernest Hemingway  propped up the bar.

We had a terrific meal at the Dove, Don ordering his usual fish and chips while I had a wonderful Lamb something which the owner told me was a specialty and very British.

It was a typical cloudy, rainy London day, but we left the pub with our umbrellas and went along the river walk.  There were a number of rowing clubs along the way and several other pubs.

It is always so fascinating to me to see how old everything is in  London compared to places in the US.  This Blue Anchor pub was established in 1722 when "George 1st was King of England and Louis XV was on the throne of France."

This is the Hammersmith Bridge crossing over the Thames River.  It was low tide and we saw houseboats wedged in the mud along the way.

We came back to the house for a bit of a lie-down and then Loren and I set out to meet Loren's second cousin whom he hadn't seen in over forty years!!  Barbara had married a British actor and had moved to England many years ago.  Loren had kept in touch with her brother, Randall, but hadn't seen Barbara since she was a small child.  We met her at a pub and the two of them got caught up with family whereabouts and lore.  We had a lovely time and hope to see her again before we leave.

We ended our day with a pint at a pub!

 Loren's son, Dave is presently in Italy with his wife, Mel.  He responded to my blog with his perspective of having just "done" Rome with all its history by saying, "I've been wondering about the ways in which we are fascinated with the past. Perhaps all of us who are enchanted with the past are, to greater or lesser degrees, uncomfortable with the present. Or perhaps just disappointed by it. Not completely, however; it's not as though we are hopeless or fatalistic. Just not rosy progressives. Just an idea."

He and Mel are continuing on to Florence, and he says,  "Florence is different than it was 12 years ago. Not sure how yet, but I'm going to try to see the "present" in it instead of just the past as we take our walking tour tomorrow. Since last we were here, several events have occurred that must have left a mark: 9/11, the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic crisis and big changes in European immigration and demographic patterns. Curious to see what your take on the "London of Today" will be once you've really dwelt within its customs for a while."

Well, in a way, I felt we experienced the Present Day London today:  walking around our neighborhood streets, encountering John, the local butcher, finding a tucked away "local" pub, meandering in a misty rain along the Thames, and then having dinner with a native family member.  We did nothing that tourists would have done and it felt like a day in the life of a normal Hammersmithian!  And we still have so much more of the people and the culture to take in before we leave.

Tomorrow we are hitting the theater district - going to Chorus Line at the grand Palladium Theater...
stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

So fun to learn about Hammersmith and spend another day with you guys. Don't think I agree with Dave's interesting idea about those who are fascinated by the past. For me, anyway, it's more of a visceral thing. I feel it in my bones when I am in Paris. And I love to read about history because in many ways we learn that people don't change that much over time. Our evolution is, indeed, VERY slow. Things change, phones, cars, medicine, but emotionally we are still actors on a Shakesperan stage, don't you think? Miss you. Love, Carol

Glorita Jucá said...

Can't help but agreeing with both Carol and Dave. As much as we learn from the past and confirm that people don't change much over time, we may also be astounded by the failure of so many promises and dreams that we once believed in or thought would lead the path.
Anyway, what a lovely day you had! Love your appreciation of all things, you have such a beautiful spirit!