At Home in London

September 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm 1 comment

One of the things I love about exploring an unfamiliar city by subway is not knowing what to expect when I pop back up to ground level. By Day 11 in London, I was already familiar with quite a few places, but I had by no means seen the whole city. One of the parts left on my “to see” list was the Borough Market area. Borough Market is supposed to be foodie heaven. I wouldn’t know, since the market only operates on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, a fact that I did not discover until my last Saturday night in London. But on the following Monday, I decided to give the area a chance, hoping that it would have some delightful foodie shops, even in the absence of the market. Borough Market is near London Bridge station, so I grabbed a couple of London Walks cards that were close by, and I headed out.

London Bridge station has mainline rail in addition to the Underground, so the station is a little maze-y. When I finally popped out into daylight, I was home.

Or at least, it felt like it. It was like I’d found a wormhole back home, to Chicago’s West Loop. Converted warehouses, exposed brick, mixed-use office and housing (or so it seemed), a strange bustle during the lunch rush hour that was mixed with tourists and artsy folk that didn’t appear to have a pressing need to be anywhere (like me, ha).

My West Loop neighbourhood, the Fulton River District, has more dogs than this part of London, though. And the FRD does not have a church quite like Southwark Cathedral, which I enjoyed photographing in the super hot day’s bright sunlight.

Southwark Cathedral

I admit, at least 75% of the reason why I’d visited the Borough Market area was to try Monmouth Coffee at their shop. I’d loved it the day before at a café on Columbia Road, but I wanted the whole experience. It was a bit tough to find, since the streets cross at every angle besides 90 degrees, but I finally stumbled upon the corner shop across from an entrance to the market.

Monmouth Coffee

I was so excited because the open layout and trendy-cool interior reminded me of Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco, which frankly, makes the best cup of coffee that I have ever had. So I practically skipped inside and up to the counter, where a super-cool-trendy guy asked me what I would like. Even though it was creeping towards 35 degrees (that’s 95ish, for American friends), I knew that I needed to have my classic drink to properly try Monmouth, so I ordered a skim latte.

“We can’t make a latte with skim milk. Lattes are made with whole milk,” super-cool-trendy guy told me with a roll of his eyes.

I furrowed my brow and looked at the menu, trying to figure out which coffee drink is made with skim milk. I just wanted espresso and steamed skim milk, maybe with a decorative flower drawn with the cream or something. Then I caught sight of a glass-front refrigerator, stocked with identical, unlabeled bottles of milk, from top to bottom.

“Wait…do you have skim milk at all? Or just whole?”

“Just whole.”

Brilliant. I’m borderline lactose intolerant. I didn’t used to be, but now, I can handle a little bit of milk at a time, and only skim. I hadn’t had whole milk since I’d found out about the lactose thing. But I hadn’t come all this way for Monmouth Coffee to leave without trying it, super-cool-snotty-trendy guy, or not. So I told him to make me a latte. I wondered if I could mind-trick my stomach into dealing with the whole milk.

And at first sip, I forgot all about the milk. I had made the right choice, and in between my sweaty palms was a piping hot cup of the second best coffee I had ever put to my lips. Sitting in the un-airconditioned shop on the hottest day of the year didn’t sound like a great idea, so I took my coffee for a walk, hoping to catch a breeze. I didn’t find a breeze, but I did find some shade in the churchyard at Southwark Cathedral, where I snacked on a Larabar that had traveled all the way across the Atlantic with me, and I wrote in my journal for a bit.

Unfortunately, a lot of the shops around Borough Market had nothing to do with being foodie, but a few produce shops were open, so I headed back to the market in search of something else for lunch. I picked an awesome shop to wander into, because I found one with a juice bar! I love a fresh juice! So I ordered an apple-ginger-pineapple-celery concoction, and it was so hot that the sweet lady who made it offered me an ice cube. I wanted to say, “ONE ice cube?! What is that going to do?!” But I knew that she was probably doing her best to be sensitive to the needs of the ice-crazed Americans, so I thanked her and accepted the ice cube.

Borough Market

With my juice in hand, the heat in my face was starting to subside, but I knew that being trapped between buildings was making the weather more unbearable, so I headed back towards the river. My secondary goal in wandering this neighbourhood was to take photos of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London from across the Thames.

First, I walked through a striking arcade mall, where I bought the largest bottle of water that I could find at Boots.


And then I took photos of Tower Bridge. If you squint, you might be able to see the airplane above and to the right of the right bridge pillar. It’s nearly impossible to see at this resolution, but it’s surprisingly sharp at 100%! I’ve never thought about photographing planes before, but I guess I can! Good to know.

Tower Bridge

Part of me wanted to walk further down the river to shoot the bridge from more angles…but remember the whole milk in my latte? Yeah, it turns out that whole milk sure doesn’t agree with me. I think the heat made me feel even worse, so having accomplished my two main goals for the day, I decided to head back to my room for homework time. Not the most exciting way to spend one of my final afternoons in London, but a necessity.


Entry filed under: England, Europe, London, Photos, United Kingdom.

Market Sunday Liverpool Street Station

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Christina @ Food.Fitness.Fun.  |  September 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    One ice cube reminded me of “just one nail?”.


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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.


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