Today was our last day in London until the end of July. It was a full day, bits and pieces of which I’m hoping to share in what follows. Enjoy!
The center of our day was spent on Brick Lane, which has for centuries been a fascinatingly diverse area, always dominated by one distinct ethnic group after another: ghettoized 19th-century Londoners, 20th-century Eastern Europeans Jews, 21st-century Indians and Bengalis.
If you’re not familiar with Ken Leech or his work, you might want to be. You can start here.
- We walked from St. Botolph’s along Whitechapel Road, and passed the famous Whitechapel Bell Company. This is the oldest continuously running business in England (if not the world) and was the manufacturer of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Whitechapel bells come with a lifetime guarantee, and when a clever tourist complained that the Liberty Bell was cracked, the manager at the time said “of course we’ll replace it, so long as you return it in its original packaging.”
- We passed the East London Mosque, London’s largest and most influential mosque. I visited it in 2002 as part of a tour group, on a day when I found myself the only woman on Whitechapel Road without a head-covering. (The staff of the women’s entrance at the mosque happily provided me a headscarf to wear inside.)
We left the Whitechapel/Brick Lane area and walked for what seemed by the to be a very long way to Roman Road, where we passed St. Barnabas, where I spent six weeks as an intern of sorts in 2002.
In the park near St. Barnabas, we found a great addition since our 2002 visit: a playground for grown-ups, probably added in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics.
And lest anyone wonder whether I’m doing any writing at all….we found a fabulous cafe in Bethnal Green before leaving the East End to head back to the place we’re staying, and I worked for about an hour.
The day ended with a trip to Euston Station to buy our tickets for tomorrow’s journey north to St. Bee’s, where we’ll dip our toes into the Irish Sea in preparation for our Coast-to-Coast Walk.