Mark Kaigwa has been chronicling his journey to London, earlier in the year, via posts on this blog, for the last couple of weeks. If you haven’t read his posts, start with journey to the city, life at 30,000 feet on a Virgin Atlantic jet and first impressions of the city. He posted one on books that i really liked and which I’m going to share with you today. Enjoy.
Books, Bricks & The Great Boffin Sherlock Holmes – Journey to London 2012
By Mark Kaigwa
This week recaps the last few and is when I began to get settled in to my reason for visiting the city in the first place which was to get some work done. But being the Kenyan that I am, I wasn’t about to commence work without a good cuppa to keep me company and I was in for a treat as we had English tea served right at half past 4 as we got down to business in Clarence Gate Gardens.
Strolling through the city streets of London occasionally it was easy to get caught with one of the things that fascinates and catches my eye – architecture. Every brick, beam and strut in the city tells so many stories and my eye’s been fascinated by each feature. One of my memorable sightings was the St. Cyprian’s Church in Clarence Gate.
All work and not a bite to eat makes for a sad Mark and after some hard work in Glentworth Street we got a great recommendation to walk some ways off to the Swan & Edgar. Little did I know the treat I was in for! I’m not a bookophile, but I have friends – I’m looking at you, Wamathai – and peers who show above-average appreciation for literature and this would be the place for them.
The entrance was unassuming and I was greeted by just the casual laughs and chatter of patrons on a rustic bench outside with their ales. Entering the lower level and a well furnished wine and drinks bar greets you amid the waitresses moving in and out of the kitchen. And then, after acclimatising to your surrounding after a few minutes, you notice it. You are completely surrounded by books. Everywhere you look – and there it was right in front of me, fixed into the bar itself, various spines from assorted English paperbacks.
Moments later when we’d been seated upstairs is where I saw it in all its glory. Surrounded by hundreds of books in the cosiest corners of the vintage leather seating. From English classics to contemporary publishing one can’t help but pick up a book and snuggle up into one of the corners where the soft seeping remains of summer sunlight or the amber glow of the fireplace during winter guiding you through each page.
We had a great time there and I recommend it to those looking for a great platter and drinks or all out dinner.
During the walk back I stumbled across the Sherlock Holmes Museum and thought that the locked door must be some sort of trick. It hit me much later, being in London that as I got more accustomed to the London Underground that I was not too far from the home of the famous sleuth’s modern home as depicted in the BBC’s mini-series Sherlock. For those who haven’t watched it, I recommend it. I don’t watch much and it’s one of the memorable things I’ve watched the last two seasons of.
The evening found my motley crew and I in Shoreditch with a fantastic dinner at Busaba Eathai which has a great Thai restaurant with a range of contemporary adaptations and spicy classic Thai dishes; I can attest that the calamari is addictive. It’s a popular place so a reservation or a walk-in with some lead time is recommended especially on weekends. The Pad Thai is a good recommendation for the discerning traveller.
The highlight by all means had to be where we watched the night go by Callooh Callay on Rivington Street. I’ve been to a few countries, bars, lounges and clubs in my days but this definitely stands head and shoulders in my eyes for a qurky experience. We arrived there and began to seek somewhere to seat ourselves. This didn’t take long as a group left after some time standing near the bar for us. I was slightly surprised to be called near the bar by the bartender and he reached forward to hand me a cassette tape. I stared blankly at it for a few moments and then held onto it as we sat. Soon I saw chuckles and smiles from everyone around me who also got a cassette tape. The unassuming cassette tape, turns out not to have any music but as an ode to the popular Now That’s What I Call Music! series of tapes, they had replicated this down to perfection and turned it into their drinks menu. Genius! Oh, and just found out that it won them the World’s Best Cocktail Menu.
It didn’t stop there, they have dozens of very eccentric, peculiar but incredibly thoughtful details in the decor, styling and ambiance that make it a very special place indeed. The bathrooms and the rest of the lounge are hidden behind what can only be described as possibly the most lifelike representation of the wardrobe from C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Creativity expressed blending fantasy with very memorable styling. One walks towards the mirror and pulls an modest fixture that turns out to be the handle that turns it into a door and you can then explore the rest of Callooh Callay including the bathrooms themselves which contain a collage of cassette tapes – remember the drinks menu?
I was impressed and this was definitely one of the best highlights of the trip to London. Stay tuned for more on the little bit of the Olympics atmosphere I got to see/get close to on the final episode of Journey to London 2012. This time I’m doing something different – I present to you a sneak preview of Wembley Park Station – near the famed cauldron of chants, jubilation and defeat in the world of world football, Wembley Stadium. Peep the great picture below with #nofilter courtesy of the 8MP lens on the impressive Samsung S3.