The Borough Market and Heading Home

I meant to comment ealier on my EuroStar ride from Paris to London. It remains a wonderful trip, clearly superior to the same journey by plane, if a little more expensive. The idea of passing under the English Channel has lost its excitement after so many trips, I'll admit (it's 25 minutes of blackness), but the whole experience is just more civilized than flying. Yes, you do have to schlep your own bag on and off the train, but that's a small price to pay for luxurious personal space, comfortable seating, and great views out the window. I travel “Standard Premiere” class, which is only a bit more than economy but not as astronomic as Business Premiere. There have been noticeable changes in service over the years: the included hot lunch choices became one choice, then a cold lunch, then smaller. But I've noticed this in a lot of places, a sign of the economic times no doubt. At least the wine is still plentiful and free.

My last day in London, I headed off to the Borough Market, which has been around in one form or another since the 1200s. It's a wholesale and retail food and flower market, in Southwark, beneath the southern end of the London Bridge. It features dozens of stalls and shops with a wide variety of foods, groceries, and flowers. I'm partial to a place there that sells take-away organic chicken wraps, with sweet chili sauce and parsely. Very tasty and easy to eat while strolling around.

This is also the home of The Market Porter, a nice old pub with a great selection of cask ales. Naturally, I had to sample several of them. The Porter is also frequented by the people who work those market stalls and it's fun to eavesdrop on their accents and concerns.

Across from the Market Porter, is Neal's Yard Dairy, with its racks and racks of full-sized cheese rounds and fresh dairy products. And, oh yes, free samples. If you like English dairy, this is The Place to visit. It's a shame U.S. Customs won't let me bring home a huge hunk of Neal's great cheese. When you go to the market, don't miss this dairy outlet.

My final stop in the area was The George Inn, now owned by the National Trust, and “England's only remaining 16th Century coaching pub”. The National Trust plaque outside says that both Shakespeare (the Globe Theatre is not far away) and Dickens patronized this pub.

That was good enough to get me to stop in and have a pint of Old Speckled Hen. It was fun to squint my eyes and imagine a drunken Will Shakespeare staggering out on these cobblestones. Although probably very little of what I coud readily see dates from that era. It was a good pint, nonetheless.

By the way, I've mentioned Hilary Mantel and her prize winning book Bring Up the Bodies in two other posts. Well, to top it off, she got on the elevator with me this afternoon at my hotel. We had a brief conversation and I congratulated her and let her know I was looking forward to her next book. What are the chances of such an encounter? Loved it.

This morning it's back into the arms of Virgin-Atlantic at Heathrow for my flight home. I've had a good trip overall and Oktoberfest in particular was fantastic. I'll add a post after this one that catalogs all the different beers I enjoyed. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to being home again. Until the next time I dust off my passport, safe journeys.

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