City break London: afternoon along the Thames

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Big Ben

London is a spectacular city, one of my favorites in the world—and I’m in good company. It seems that just about everyone puts the British capital at the top of their list. Just yesterday, CNN posted “50 reasons London is the greatest city” on its website. Although I share a fondness for a number of the items listed there, this post heads in the opposite direction, offering a short list of impressions from a recent blustery stroll along the Thames.

When my husband and I traveled to London last week, we had just one afternoon for sightseeing. It was the classic dilemma: finite (and short) time in place; a long list of sights we’re keen to experience; and two (mostly convergent) agendas for the time available. Our four-point solution:

  • Find targets for our cameras—Thames views would do the trick?—check
  • Take our time and save energy—Bridge to bridge walk, two museums, a restaurant?—check
  • Find good food—What do internet and the Guardian recommend?—check
  • Find something entirely new to both of us—Cecil Beaton at the IWM!—check

Afternoon along the Thames

London Eye
The London Eye, white against dark clouds, adds drama of its own to the skyline.

On the day, after the weather went from awful to iffy to light-if-not-sunny, we bundled up against an autumn wind, and made our way to central London. There we had a happy couple of hours’ meander along the Thames with our cameras. To keep things simple, we limited ourselves to the south bank of the river between Westminster Bridge and Southwark Bridge, with a stop for lunch along the way.

London Eye-Look up!
At the London Eye, we turned our cameras skyward. No time for a ride, alas. That will have to wait for another visit.
Bubbles along the Thames
Bubbles did not last long against the chilly wind along the Thames, but that did not matter to these boys.
Wahaca, Mexican food in London
We stopped for lunch at Wahaca, a popular venue for Mexican street food. The restaurant, installed in a tumble of brightly painted containers, is informal, and offers friendly service and good value.
Carnitas taco, Wahaca, London
Roll me a tortilla, and that is a good start. Top it with well-seasoned pork and pickled onions, and I’m over the moon! Salad, pumpkin flautas and carnitas tacos at Wahaca did the necessary to satisfy two sets of Texas-trained taste buds.
Used-book market, London
A used-book market! After lunch, it was a pleasure to rummage at tables set out nearby along the Thames. Afterward, we headed for the Tate Modern, to get warm again and browse the art.
Footbridge over the Thames, London
St. Paul’s and the other side of the river beckoned, but that too will have to wait for another day, another walk along the Thames.
Airstream Cafe, London
The pale sun faltered soon after lunch. Hot chocolate from a stand on the promenade along the Thames made for a delicious and warming dessert.
Atrium, Imperial War Museum, London
When the light began to fail, we took a bus to the nearby Imperial War Museum, where a superb exhibition of Sir Cecil Beaton’s World War II photographs, Theatre of War, is on through the end of December. Poppies for Remembrance Day were being “planted” beneath the old warplanes.
Boadicia, warrior queen of Britain
Boadicea, the British queen who led an uprising against Romans who occupied her land—her name means “victorious” and in Victorian times she came to be viewed as a heroic symbol of Britain.

We would have loved to spend more time prowling London’s wonderful museums, taking in a show or any of the many activities I’ve grown to love about the place. There will be other opportunities for such things. In the meantime, our bracing afternoon outdoors was a fine prelude to the week of meetings ahead.

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