As the heart of historical London, the one square mile designated as the City has a staggering amount of history. Over hundreds of years it’s been frequented by figures such as members of the Knights Templar, Sir Christopher Wren, and Samuel Pepys, as well as hundreds of ubiquitous white-wigged barristers. Today, it remains one of London’s busiest and most distinctive areas.
It was indeed very busy when I was last there- it was a Friday afternoon before a bank holiday weekend, and everyone seemed to have descended on the Fleet Street area. Instead of working, however, most people appeared to be running errands or enjoying themselves; and the numerous historic Fleet Street pubs were all crammed with merry patrons! My dad and I soon joined their ranks (snagging a pub’s final table!), and had a fantastic lunch at The Old Bell Tavern. Their fish and chips are wonderful, and when washed down with a pint of Guinness or Abbot Ale, there’s nothing more satisfying.
The Royal Courts of Justice, for once, appeared quiet
Once sufficiently nourished, we continued up Fleet Street towards the enormous columned facade of St. Paul’s. The Wren-designed Cathedral is such an icon of London, and it’s impressive every time I see it. I’m rather delighted by the fact that my own humble church, although built in 1987 of underwhelming brown brick, is also called St. Paul’s!
St. Paul’s Cathedral stands calm amidst the chaos
No wonder most of the City was starting its weekend early- it was such a pleasant day! It was sunny and mild, at least it was until we got within a block of the Thames. Then there was a biting wind quite unusual for June, but still nothing that a Starbucks cappuccino couldn’t remedy!
The West Front of the Cathedral
We braved the wind, Starbucks in hand, as we crossed the Thames via London Bridge. From there, we went to peruse Borough Market. Since we were staying in a kitchen-less hotel room, there wasn’t much point to buying any of the market’s remarkable wares, but simply looking was an experience in itself. There was such an array of goods; greengrocers selling vegetables I’d never even seen before, stalls with gorgeous cuts of English meats, and offers of all kinds of delicious-smelling meals and snacks. It was rather a shame we’d eaten so much fish and chips for lunch!
I wish I lived in London so I could shop Borough Market for necessities every day!
We couldn’t possibly eat anything more, so we left Borough Market sadly empty-handed. We passed the ancient Southwark Cathedral on our way back to the street, but had no time to stop. This church has such a long history and lovely architecture that I’d like to go back and visit it sometime.
Southwark Cathedral is mere paces from Borough Market
Next, we thought we’d maybe go back to the hotel and pack our bags in preparation for the next day’s departure- but it was only mid-afternoon and there was a pub within sight. How could we eschew the prospect of a pint? The pub was a Fuller’s Ale and Pie House called The Barrowboy & Banker, and it was packed!
The pub that enticed us. Image found here
We shuffled our way to the bar- muttering many an “excuse me” and “sorry” on the way- and then enjoyed a pint each of good old Fuller’s London Pride. The atmosphere and experience were absolutely brilliant. The barman was amusing and friendly, and although we had to shout to be heard I’ve never felt more welcome or at home at any establishment! As I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with countless other patrons at the bar, I felt like I was a Brit and that I belong in British culture. My British heritage is of utmost importance to me, so that was a really special moment.
When we were at The Barrowboy & Banker, we could hardly see this sumptuous interior through all the people! Image found here
That June day in the City was the most recent one I’ve spent in London, so I remember it often. And how wonderful it was! The City is more than just barristers and financial giants. It’s vibrant, welcoming, and historic; so much so that it rivals any other area of London one might mention!