Day 5 (Saturday)
- Saturday, May 6, 2023, was Coronation day, and a day for me to sleep in.
- A friend of a friend of a friend hosted a coronation watch party, where for nearly three hours I watched the live BBC broadcast of establishing Prince Charles as the King of the United Kingdom – because that’s still a thing democratic countries do. The party had great drinks, coronation chicken and coronation quiche, and dessert, accompanied by hilarious commentary from those assembled, myself included.
- Note: The word “coronation” dominates the city right now. It’s in the window at every shop, at every train station, on flags hanging outside small hotels, and even on decorative arches over pedestrian streets.
- My old friend and a new friend left the party and went on a long walk in Soho, first to Bar Termini for negronis. We then hit up the Liberty department store, where one of the Kingsman movies was filmed, ate dinner at Paradiso Burgers in Kingly Court, and had a nightcap at The White Horse.
- I also picked up deluxe millionaire’s shortbread at M&S (a department store with a grocery department); I bake them using this caramel slice recipe; a key difference is that the recipe, created by an Aussie, calls for coconut in the shortbread base, which I follow and I love compared to the UK version.
Day 6 (Sunday)
- This morning I moved from the hotel I was staying at near Euston Station to my friend’s friends’ flat in Covent Garden, and then another friend joined us (to keep the story straight, we are the same group of three friends traveling around London today as on Friday and Saturday). We grabbed coffee and pastries at Arôme Bakery and headed over to London Bridge station via Charing Cross station.
- London Bridge station is connected to The Shard, a skinny glass pyramid hotel and office building. It’s also next to Borough Market where we went to get delicious spicy jam from Pimento Hill.
- After visiting Pimento Hill we had jamon iberico sandwiches from Brindisa Spanish Foods and oysters and rosé from Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House.
- From there we took some combinations of trains to Shoreditch High Street station on the Overground network. Read more about Overground in “Transportation” below.
- I attended the weekly, 30-minutes-long organ recital at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The organist was Peter Wright (he has his own Wikipedia page), who played “Prelude and Fugue in B minor (BWV 544)” by J.S. Bach, “Joie et clarté des corps glorieux from Les corps glorieux” by Olivier Messiaen, and “Dankpsalm (Op. 145, No 2)” by Max Reger.
- The three of us ate a mixed platter at Ilili, a Lebanese restaurant. (There are two locations of a restaurant of the same name in NYC and D.C., but it seems they’re unaffiliated.)
- The night ended at Eagle, a discotheque next door to the restaurant. But on the way home from Eagle I noticed a seriously tall and wide gap between South Western Railway trains and the platforms at both the Vauxhall and Waterloo stations.
- London Overground. The development story of this collection of new services is fascinating and provides some lessons for Chicago. Transport for London, or TfL, is a governmental authority under the control of the Greater London Authority, which has an elected mayor and council, the London Assembly. The first of six lines opened in 2007 and there are now 113 stations. Over 16 years TfL incrementally built a rapid transit network using existing active and disused main line railways. Chicago has many disused railways and many underused Metra lines; the idea there is to redesign a “regional rail” (RER, S-Bahn, etc.) network using existing and new lines – I wrote about this last year.
- Southeastern, a private railway (one stop from Charing Cross station to London Bridge station (his National Rail service is inside the Oyster area so it counts and costs as much as an Underground trip in the same area)
- South Western, a private railway (one stop from Vauxhall station to Waterloo station; see Oyster area explanation above)
- Bus 8 (a route dictated by TfL and operated by Stagecoach London, a subsidiary of Stagecoach Group headquartered in Perth, Scotland)
Note about certain transit routes here
Many of them are run by contractors. Some bus routes are, kind of hilariously, operated by the national railway operators of Germany and the Netherlands. Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Abellio is owned by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). Some other bus routes are operated by RATP, the Greater Paris transit operator owned by the Government of France.
The Elizabeth Line is operated by a subsidiary of MTR, the transit operator and real estate developer majority owned by the Government of Hong Kong.