Off The Beaten Track

Unless I have actual business to take care of there, I avoid large main streets like the plague. Notorious among the avoidees is London’s Oxford Street, which is a shitty thoroughfare full of tourists and other scum, all taking selfies and being fleeced by the stores selling the most awful tat (British for tchotchkes) while they try to persuade themselves they’re having a great time in the world’s best city.

Fach.

My advice: turn off the rotten thing as soon as you can — as I did when I walked down Soho’s Wardour Street, which is a narrow lane full of interesting places…

…such as the Pickle & Toast, which specializes in cheese toasties (grilled cheese sandwiches, to my Murkin Readers):

Exhausted by having had to walk a block down Oxford Street, I badly needed a cup of tea so I went inside.

I ordered my cuppa, and then sat down to drink it and relax awhile — but the smell of sourdough toast was too wonderful, so I ordered a cheese toastie. This was also because the place does not use just any old cheese, no sirree. This is the stuff they use:

It’s Quicke’s Cheddar, from Devon; and the sandwich looks like this:

Good grief. I could have eaten three, and the rest of the menu looked just as tasty — and they serve breakfast too, but I got there just too late. To say that this beats a Big Mac on Oxford Street is to utter the understatement of the century.

And just so we’re all clear on the concept: I could have eaten at about a dozen different places along Wardour Street, and I probably would have had just as good a time and just as good a meal. Now you know.

Delenda est Via Oxonium.

Buzzing Around

So after arriving at Heathrow yesterday, I wasted no time in re-submerging myself into Britishland culture: sausage roll and a cuppa at the station at 10am, followed by a lunchtime pint of Fuller’s London Pride (my tipple of choice where Wadworth 6X isn’t available).

…which I imbibed at this fine establishment:

For this last leg of my sabbatical, I’m staying in another hotel in Ye Olde Fleabagge Inne chain, this time in Earl’s Court. It’s been many years since I stayed here, but fortunately, it hasn’t changed much — although I continue to lament the disappearance of the excellent Hi-Tide chippie: last night’s fish & chips dinner in a nearby pub was mediocre. (I won’t mention the fucking background music because it was so loud it was actually foreground music, requiring that conversation had to be shouted to be audible; and in true Earl’s Court fashion — because all residents of Earl’s Court appear to be ESL* — the screams emanating from the neighboring table to mine sounded like a conversation between Latke and Simka from the Taxi TV show.)

All that said, I love Earl’s Court; it’s regarded with absolute horror by the upper crust — and I have had several letters from friends in said demographic commiserating with my plight — but I can think of no better catalyst to wake me from my somnolence after having relaxed in one of Johannesburg’s toniest suburbs for the past two weeks.

The difference between this:

…and this cannot be overstated.

And now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m off to find a decent Full English Breakfast amidst the curry palaces, Italian bistros, vegan vendors and halaal kebab restaurants hereabouts. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the only bloke in the place who’s reading the Daily Telegraph.

I love London.


*ESL = English [as] Second Language, to my non-U.S. Readers.

 

Forgot The Day

I was going to post the next set of my impressions of the new South Africa today, but I forgot it was Sunday, when deep thoughts are banished because mental health.

So allow me to take a look at one of the Brit TV babes, one Claudia Winkelman:

Someone once said, rather unkindly, that it’s impossible to take a decent picture of her because of her bizarre makeup and weird hairstyle — her trademark look, by the way. She also mugs for the camera when she’s aware of her pic being taken, which doesn’t help either.

However, she’s not a magazine fashion model, she’s a TV personality — and on TV she’s remarkable: intelligent, lively, animated, personable and possessed of the loudest laugh and dirtiest chuckle on either side of the Atlantic.

I think she’s very sexy — and for someone in her mid-40s who’s had a brace of kids, she’s just fine.

I Could Live Here

“Here” is “anywhere along the Midi (Southern France coastline)”, where I spent last week. Never mind the usual tourist pics like this one:

…because to buy one of those houses you’d need to win not one but three or four large $100-million+ lotteries.

No; I could live in one of the smaller places up the hill such as in Beausoleil, La Turbie or especially Juan-Le-Pins, well off the tourist areas, where prices are not even close to California levels — as long as you don’t doing a bit of renovation. But good grief, the views:

Apartment rentals are not bad: depending on the quality of the place, about $2,000 per month for a small 2-bedroom apartment (in Plano, I was renting a 1-bed for just over $1,200). Here was the view from Longtime Friend & Drummer Knob’s place in Beausoleil, just outside Monaco:

The weather is just about perfect, the food is about the same price as the U.S. (if you avoid the tourist traps along the coast) and the towns look like this:

A few miles inland, by the way, are drives like this:

…and given the season, that’s about as ugly as it gets. Gawd knows what it’s like in summer.

I need to brush up on my French (which, by the way, is in a sad state of dilapidation after years of non-use). Amazingly, my halting Franglais (for so it has become) was met with sympathy and even friendliness — the people in the Midi do not live up to the reputation of the French as surly xenophobes; quite the opposite.

I didn’t take too many pics of my trip there, because I knew after about three hours that I would be coming back.

If you’ve never been to the south of France, you owe it to yourself to go. Start saving now; you will never regret it. (I would recommend April-May or September-October, to avoid the high season when prices and such are sky-high.)

Oh, and did I mention the food? That’s for another post.