Oct. 18: Covent Garden & The London Hat Incident
One of the things I've enjoyed the most about London, next to the language, is the dry sense of humor Londoners possess in abundance. Friday in particular was an amusing day. We went to Covent Gardens that day and ended at Leicester and Trafalgar Square, and funny things just kept happening all day.
However, I must tell things in chronological order to remember, so we begin at the "The Black Penny," though nothing very funny happened there. We were standing about the entrance looking as if we wanted to go in but didn't quite know if we would and a man with ginger hair came out, invited us in, and started talking about the shop in such a charming way that if for no other reason than his superb people/sales skills I wanted to buy something. At that point I hadn't had coffee since the evening before I left for the trip and now seemed an excellent time to indulge.
Kerri and I were the only ones that decided to buy something there and so she ordered cold brew coffee while I asked for a recommendation, and went with a "Picaloo," which was a long espresso (excellent by the way). After we sat down he came and sat by us for a long while with his soup and bread and chatted with a mate by phone. We chatted up a bit again and left, but not before Kerri sneaked a photo across the table.
Next we gamely set out up Martin Lane, ever on the quest to find a coat for Maria, and soon I saw this store, whereupon I gasped and darted in because I love swanky stores. One because I never buy anything there and two because the decor is just that amazing. This one had old, wrought iron Singer Sewing machines tucked in corners and exposed brick walls. The clothes were a bit beyond us, with coats priced at £250.
We went here, and we went there, we saw a lot of things, but the best moment is when I was standing taking a picture here waiting on the others to finish shopping at T.K. Maxx (referred to in an earlier post as concerning yours truly, a hat, and a London gentleman).
As I said, I was innocently taking a photo of the street there and suddenly my hat lifted off my head and acquired legs walking down the street ahead of me. I looked up in astonishment and here a dapper, suit-clad gentleman was seen wearing a burgundy felt hat very much like mine. He turned, laughed, and I, with a half-amused, beseeching look, stretched out my hand as if to say, "give me back my hat!" It took several shakes of the hand to bring him back and I thought maybe he'd decided to keep it, but no, back it came and landed on my head gracefully before said gentleman (if indeed any gentleman ever takes a strange lady's hat) rejoined his friends. It was highly amusing after I got done checking to see if his friend stole anything off my person while I was distracted. He hadn't, and it's great fun to retell the story.
I like how the English are more direct and succinct than passive-aggressive Americans. For example a sign I saw in Westminster said "now wash your hands" above the WC sink, where we Americans would've said, "all employees must wash their hands." I've also fallen in love with the way they say "cheers" at every turn, with an incomparable sense of humor in the way they express themselves. No wonder all my favorite authors are English.
This sign was found at Sun Tavern where had our first fish and chips, and it was excellent. The chips were hot and crisp, and the fish had a beer batter that was perfect with tartar sauce and English mustard. It was a proper fish and chips. It was a bit weird to order food at cocktail hour in a pub, but we were hungry and it was actually only £5.95 instead of the £9-12 everywhere else.
In the evening three girls were made very happy by going into not one, not two, but three bookshops. It was marvelous, and we spend as much time as we could while the guys went off the explore the surrounding area, they not being of the bookstore type. Meanwhile we buried our noses in books and explored old copies of Dickens, Austen and Moore.
As we entered the last bookshop an old man going in at the same time said to us, "sorry, only one at a time," and then cackled in great mirth as we took him seriously. Another tapped my hat and said, "great hat." It seems Londoners have a just appreciation of hats. On another note, their style is in general way better than the average American. They know what to pair with skinny jeans, and not to wear yoga pants into public unless exercising. The suits fit to perfection, and it's refreshing to see a general population wear well-fitting clothes.
We finished the evening with Leicester Square which reminded us of Times Square. Lots of screens, jazzy shops and entertainment. We watched some street shows going on, mostly breakdancing, and watched the world go by. I reflected on humor in London, and considered moving here. It is expensive though, so I haven't decided for sure, after all France and Italy await.
Highlight of day: nutella crepe at a little stand in Covent Garden market. It was incredible, and I'm only waiting to see if that one can be topped in Paris.
Favorite place: All Saints Store