Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

London in 4 Hours

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When: 1 pm on a weekday

Where: Paddington, London

Why: An 8 hour layover in Heathrow

How: Heathrow-Paddington Express

Looking towards Italian garden from Queen Anne's alcove in Hyde Park. Traffic included a few joggers, a handful of tourists, a couple of hobos and an office goer.

5 minutes later ... The office goer had a great sense of timing. He managed to duck in and out of rain rather effectively.

The best thing about a short layover in Heathrow may be the Paddington express which takes you to the heart of the city in a mere 15 minutes.  We had planned to explore the area around Paddington – Hyde park, and Oxford street neighborhoods – by foot. Our general strategy as we stepped out of the station was to find our way to Hyde Park, walk along the Serpentine to work up an appetite for fish and chips, for which we had narrowed down a couple of gastropubs. The sky looked partly cloudy and the ground looked fairly wet. On account of Mr. Weatherman’s promise of a cheery and bright 72 degree day, we were ill equipped for any potential rain. Hand in hand, my better half and I stepped out on the streets towards Hyde.

Fish and chips and peas

Special of the day - Boar sausage stuffed with apples with creamy polenta

We walked by several restaurants – Indian, Lebanese, Greek and English pubs. We saw some elegant buildings and housefronts that reminded us of BBC’s Sherlock Holmes production. We watched couple of ladies walking their horses. We walked by some mews with cobblestone paths. Then we entered the Hyde park and feasted on the expansive greens. It appeared mostly occupied by tourists and some regular joggers. By now, in a matter of 15 minutes or or so, the sky had gone from partly cloudy to dark grey. Italian gardens at Hyde is where the sky decided to fall on our heads. We found shelter in Queen Anne’s alcove, along with several other passers by and hobos.

While we waited for the rain to stop, a walk along the serpertine looked less and less appealing. We decided to head back towards the hustle and bustle of Paddington and find ourselves the first decent looking pub. The first one that came our way was the Fuller’s Victoria. It looked decent from the outside and with another torrential rain imminent, very inviting inside. Old men in tweeds sat drinking tall glasses of beer. As we found our way to one of the the comfortable seats, I noticed the dark wall papers adorned with glam shots of Queen Victoria. Before my better half starting moaning about lack of wifi in this old establishment, as he is wont to be when tired and hungry, I had him order us couple of tall glasses of beer and some food – their award winning ESB, a plate of fish and chips and a plate of boar sausages on polenta.

The chips were fat and crisp. The fish was flaky and crisp. The sausages tasted sweet, the accompanying mushroom gravy worked well with the polenta. Were we at a gastropub – a few Mizune leaves decorated the boar sausage! The brews were light and hoppy. We sat there for a hour or perhaps two. In San Francisco, in that amount of time, a table would have served four different groups of people. Not here. While groups of people sat discussing various issues in an animated fashion, the only significant movement was the sky that went through various shades of light and grey. We had slowed down considerably as well. Perhaps due to the jetlag, or food/alcohol induced stupor or perhaps because we were on a vacation. In any case, it seemed too dangerous to order the steamed apple cake.

We were worried that we would be served microwaved fish and chips, but we could not have found better food had we spent hours on chowhound. We had expected a bright day which we shouldn’t have. It was indubitably expensive but it equally indubitably worth getting out of Heathrow airport. All in all, a glimpse of London that matched all the years of reading and musing about London.

Written by Som

June 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm

One Response

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  1. […] Lamb and Flag. They are the what you expect of a traditional British pub. Like Fuller’s Victoria, it transports you to a different era with its gleaming dark woods, narrow stairs, stained glass […]

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