I arrived in London on June 6 and had three really excellent days in the city. My brother met me at the airport and took me to my hotel in central London. I stayed at Blades Hotel in the Pimlico district, which is located near Victoria and is close to the Tate Britain art gallery. One evening during my stay I walked to Westminster, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, which took me about 30-40 minutes. I wasn’t in a hurry, so a long walk was fine for me. The streets were full of people and I was really happy to see so many cafés. There were large chain cafes, such as Café Nero, as well as smaller more unique patisseries that served excellent coffee. It was really great to have so many venues in which to get an Americano or cappuccino. There was a festive atmosphere in the part of the city that I visited, with groups of musicians playing live music in Trafalgar Square, in front of the National Gallery, and various other locations. On my last evening – Saturday – I wanted to visit some of the bookshops on Charing Cross Road, near Soho. I visited Foyles and then Blackwell’s at 100 Charing Cross Road. This was after a long day during which my brother and I visited the Docklands Museum next to Canary Wharf, the British Film Institute on the South Bank, and Borough Market by London Bridge. We had been walking around the city all day and riding on the tube trains and I wanted to find a nice café to enjoy a really good cup of coffee. After visiting Blackwell’s – I purchased a copy of Freya Stark’s collection of travel stories, Perseus In The Wind: A Life of Travel– we stumbled across Caffé Vergnano 1882, at 62 Charing Cross Road. This café is perfectly situated for relaxing after spending hours in the local bookstores.
This café offers high quality coffee, pastries and sandwiches. The décor is unlike any other café I visited in London and consists of oak flooring and paneling on the lower walls, and grey paint on the upper half of the walls. We sat on barstool chairs along one side of the café, with our coffees and pastries on a shelf. With its refined décor and impressive-looking coffee equipment, this café has an air of exclusivity about it. This café was voted “Coffee Shop of the Year” by What’s on in London magazine in 2005, and it was not difficult to see why. It was a good place from which to reflect on my short trip to London and the places I had seen. I had visited a few areas that I had never been to before and apart from seeing my brother in person for the first time in two years, I had most enjoyed visiting parts of London that are off the main tourist track and that were new to me. One of these places was Jacob’s Island, just east of Tower Bridge on the south side of the Thames. A part of the district of Bermondsey, this area was used by Charles Dickens in his novel Oliver Twist.It served as the backdrop to old Fagin’s lair and the fitting death of Bill Sikes. Many of the old wharf buildings from the nineteenth century still exist, although now they have been turned into restaurants, offices and fashionable homes. But the area still evokes the scenes portrayed by Dickens. I am sure that I will visit classy Caffé Vergnano 1882 again during my next visit.