London - The Great Wandering City
Trip Start Jun 12, 2005
14Trip End Jul 02, 2005
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Last night I trucked all the way from Hyde Park over to Chinatown for dinner where I ate at a terrible buffet that sadly had looked so fantastic from the window (I mean it was only 5 quid, who was I kidding to think it was going to be good). I also had the luxury of sharing my table with this crazy woman with a moustache who claimed her uncle was the mayor of Yonkers (do they even have a mayor?) and that she hated all medical students because we were "dodgy"
After a long walk home down Piccadilly (with stop number one at the Virgin Megastore) to Park Lane and all the big name hotels, I hit the hay.
Today I was determined to do a few things that I had yet to accomplish in my previous visits to London. First off, I wanted to do one of the London Walks...many times I tried to do the Beatles one, but it just never happened. So in true Siegel fashion I killed two birds with one stone and did a London Walk though the East End (of which I had not been to either) about the history of the Jews of London.
The walk was fantastic and took us from Tower Hill into London city and the original Jewish settlements and onto the East End to the newer (although now gone as well) settlements. The Jews originally settled in the actual city of London (only 1 sq mile) in the 1100's but were kicked out by Richard I "The not-so Lionheart(ed)" and did not return until Cromwellian England in the 1650's. Upon their return, the Sephardim sect from Holland settled in the East End and built London's still functioning and oldest synagogue Bevis Marks. We were lucky enough to speak with the Rabbi of Bevis Marks who gave us an interesting short lecture on the history of the Sephardim and later Ashkenazi settlements. Bevis Marks was quite an interesting building as it was directly influenced, although not built by Sir Christopher Wren, London's greatest architect
Our walk through the rest of the East End was quite interesting. The area has always been poor and due to its location near the Docklands, home to London's immigrant population. Settled first by the Huguenots fleeing the Catholics in France, it has been home to Germans, Jews, Eastern Europeans, Africans and more recently and currently Indians and mainly Bangladeshi (after Indo/Pakistani war of 1971). The Jews more or less left beginning in the 1970's and now on relics such as building signs (see pictures) exist. Some of the buildings have begun to be re-gentrified as well, but much of the area functions as crap shopping and small (but fantastic) Indian restaurants. On Sunday's the markets are quite a sight with Petticoat Lane (named for the fact that you could have your coat stolen at one end and then re-sold to you at the other end), Brick Lane (still has London's best bagel's!) and Spitalfields all bustling. Spitalfields is a little more upscale, with lots of small boutiques with jewelry, books, food and vintage and handmade clothing. I actually found a perfectly fitting Harris Tweed jacket that I purchased for the nice sum of £25, a tad bit less than J. Crew wanted for theirs...plus mine is authentic!
After a filling (and cheap £5!) Samosa and Lamb Curry lunch, I took a long walk to and over the Tower Bridge, along the Thames up to the Tate Modern
Needless to say, I was pretty worn out after all that, so after a nice walk back across the Themes on the pedestrian "Millennium (and finally functioning) Bridge", I headed by St
Earlier that morning I ran into Jane Post, a fellow WSU Med Student who was with her family in London. They were also going on a London Walk that happened to meet at Tower Hill Tube (to Greenwich). She had been with them for the last ten days after traveling in Western Europe with friends for three weeks, so needless to say she was in need of some away from parent's time. She was at a hotel over by where my dorm was at University College, so I took her to this little noodle place that I always used to go to The Hare and Tortoise for drinks afterwards and Punch and Judy over looking Covent Garden. We're hopefully meeting up tomorrow evening as well...
So for now I'm off...going up to see Eric as he arrives and moves into Oxford tomorrow!
Cheers and catch ya on the flip side,
- M (and soon A again)