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Saturday, September 10, 2005

London - Day 2

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One of my must-do's was a visit to Borough Market - yes, it's the one Jamie Oliver gushes about but I'm not going there because he did...honest!

Amazingly the hostess at the B&B has never been but has heard good things about it. Maybe it's just me but I find this odd. I'm sure just about everyone's been to Victoria Market back home - it's almost un-Victorian not to have gone. Then again the English are a bit odd when it comes to traveling - they work on a different scale and where we wouldn't think twice about it, they would insist on traveling with a picnic lunch and overnighting in some nice little B&B. After all 5 miles is an awful long way.

I'm out the door quite early and off to Knightsbridge station - the closest entry of which happens to be shut due to some kind of renovation work. No problems - it gives me the opportunity to wander down Brompton Road. I'm quite glad I made the executive decision yesterday - I wouldn't have liked following this route lugging the bags behind me.

To get to Borough Market involves a train change at Green Park - then taking the Jubilee line to London Bridge Station. It's not complicated but the Underground was uncomfortably hot. I'm having Singapore flashbacks - or maybe that's jetlag. It's with much relief that I re-emerge onto the London streets. A short walk and I'm there - Borough Market. I must be awestruck as I fail to take a picture of the markets entry.

I've arrived before the scheduled opening time of 9am but that doesn't seem to be a problem. It's quite a large complex, a mix of indoor and outdoor - some sections wedged between train lines, roads and Southwark Cathedral.

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Some of the stalls are still in the process of setting up. I feel a little self-conscious as I take the pics - I'd love to be buying so many of the things I'm seeing but without cooking facilities, that's just impossible. I'll just have to satisfy my visual appetite.

And what a sumptuous feast it was from the freshest rounds of cheese
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to the brightest and plumpest berries and vibrant fruits
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vegetables that sing with colour
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then there were the fish and meats
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and things that are a little more unusual
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Brindisa is a store located in the market and they specialise in Spanish Foods - what I found amazing were the many types of Jamon - there are Iberico and Serrano but within these two groups the variations are on area of production and curing lengths, combinations of which produce widely different tastes and textures. It wasn't go to be as simple as ordering 100 grams of ham!

The Jamon is all hand-sliced and they can have up to 3 people slicing the Jamon - demand must heat up as the day progresses. I return to the store later in the morning and there is a half hour waiting list on the Jamon! Oh well, next time.

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Neal's Yard Dairy - isn't in the market itself but on a side street and it's one of those places recommended by the food Mafia. It was pretty much impossible to enter the shop since the queue stretched past the front door and it seemed to full of people that will that night over a Bordeaux or five, will talk about how this cheese is from Neal's Yard Dairy yet fail to actually know what they are eating.

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This is the modestly named Monmeath Coffee Company and it seems to share it's clientele with Neals Yard Dairy. They proudly boast to have been roasting coffee since 1978! Wow, am I impressed - though not impressed enough to fork over £3 for a coffee.

Now I hear you saying but where will we go for our coffee to sustain us as we feast our way through Borough Market? Well EAALO has the answer for you - wander over to Clink Street and there you will find an unassuming cafe - devoid of crowds, where you can actually sit at a table and have an excellent coffee for, wait for it, £1.20! The name of this gem is Amano. If you don't trust my word, just click on the link.

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Having gone snap happy at the market I've had to take a break to empty out the SD card onto the Ipod. It's a good excuse to enjoy a very well made capuccino. My only regret is that I only had one.

Some general advice about the market - go early so you can drool at your leisure. If I've got your tastebuds going, more photos from my sojourn can be found here:
Borough Market Set

Besides the market I did stumble upon a few other interesting sites nearby - the first of which was looming right above me - Southwark Cathedral.

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Southwark Cathedral is surrounded by a most attractive and peaceful garden - an excellent place to relax if the market is overwhelming your senses. You can go inside - admission by "voluntary" donation, £4 or more please! If you'd like to take photos that would require a permit priced at £2 (£5 for video).

Unfortunately I was lacking change and didn't really feel like asking for change from a £20 note so I had to be content with external shots.

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I was quite taken by the gargoyles and the water spouts - quite pretty gothic features - which can be seen in this pic.

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Now, I didn't know this at the time (because I don't watch those types of movies), but this was used as Bridget's apartment in Bridget Jones Vacuous Mutterings or something like that. I took the pic because I liked the building.

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The Golden Hinde - well, one of the replicas. It's at St Mary Overy Dock just off Clink Street.

Unfortunately the weather didn't hold out for me and with a drizzly rain and overcast skies I decided on a change of plan - and trip down the Thames might be the way to go. At least I would be able stay comparatively dry and still see touristy things that I'd promised the immigration official I'd come for.

Well, it was the weather and the fact that as I had exited one of the underground stations a security alert was issued ordering an evacuation. Hmm, the Thames suddenly looked a lot more interesting.

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My vessel of choice was the Catamaran Cruises which offered a hop on and off ticket for £9. Quite reasonable considering it took you from Westminster Pier all the way to Greenwich Pier. As the name suggests, it gives you unlimited rides on their vessels and enables you to explore the 6 different piers at which it stops.

Alas, as mentioned, the weather was such that it limited any explorations on land - with a series of heavy showers I consigned myself with the knowledge that I would, most definitely, be returning to London for a much longer visit.

I did, between showers manage to get a few snaps of some classic London icons like
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no, it's not Big Ben - the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge

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no, not London Bridge, this is Tower Bridge

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The Maritime Museum in Greenwich

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The Cutty Sark in Greenwich

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I was also quite fortunate to see the Tower Bridge open to let through the old sailing barge, "Thistle".

If you are interested you can see more pics from today here:
London Set

To satisfy some food purchasing urges that had been left unchecked since Borough Market this morning, I returned to my stomping ground, Harrods and this time picked a few items from their Delicatessen section. Unfortunately, ordering 50 grams of prosciutto didn't illicit any shocked reactions - so entertainment wise it didn't reach yesterday's level.

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My choices were attractively package but the taste is what really mattered.

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Mortadella with Pistachio - my first taste of real Italian made Mortadella - wow, what a difference! A dominant pork nose that's sweet, much more complex in scent and flavour then the mass produced imitations; the flavours in harmony with the pistachio

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San Daniele Prosciutto - a more mature taste, sweet and extremely soft, almost paste like - intense lingering flavour in a see through slice

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Sage flecked Salami - the scent of sage lingers as you eat, adding another dimension to the humble salami

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