I didn't take a photo on Sundays walk, so have included a walk I did on Friday (it was almost the weekend) with Paul, Sujata, Alan & Carol. It was a relaxed affair, that involved a wander through Covent Garden, hot chocolates & coffees at the Fleet River Bakery, who I should also point out stock Frank Water (if you don't know what that is ... check the link), a meander through Lincoln's Inn Fields (the largest public square in London) and a mooch around Fleet Street, St Bride's and more, finishing at St Paul's. Here they are outside The Old Curiosity Shop, immortalised by Charles Dickens in the book of the same name. They've handily written it on the side of the building, just incase you hadn't realised. I should point out that it's currently a shoe shop ... nothing particularly curious about it, unless of course, you find shoes, strangely curious.
On Saturday morning I was joined by a heady mix of people with varying degrees of London knowledge. Martin having done his own London tours topped the scales and Anne who is over for a short period from France was just getting to know her way around. Throw in to the mix some born and bred Londoners like Jacqui (who was back for her second Bowl Of Chalk walk) Donna and Tariq and add a sprinkling of Camilla, Kate and Clare (over from Switzerland) and you've got a group on your hands.
We caught Hodge (Samuel Johnson's cat) having a crafty fag. Naughty Hodge.
For the rest of the weekend, it was just me and Tariq, as everyone-else bailed out. In the afternoon, we went from St Paul's to Monument via Borough and were discussing the Old Operating Theatre, which Tariq had never been to, but said was on his 'To Do' list. As we passed by, there was a sign outside saying that on Saturday it was 'Free' to enter (it's the 50th anniversary of the museum's foundation). What luck. Obviously we went in. It's an incredibly unusual museum, and is the oldest pre-anaesthetic operating theatre in Europe, generally used for swift amputations after the patient had been plied with alcohol.
So, many thanks to everyone who came this weekend, and Tariq, for putting up with me for three walks.
Most French - Anne
Most half French - Tariq
Most Londony knowledge - Martin
Best moustache - Tariq
Most tattoos - Tariq
Biggest West Ham fan - Jacqui
Most naturally rural - Alan & Carol
Last Friday I went to meet Christine and Rekha at the Savoy Hotel before going on a wander around Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Westminster. I'd heard about the Savoy's infamous cat, but hadn't expected to find him sitting nonchalantly in the rather splendid foyer.
Basically, to try and cut a long story short, back in 1898, a group of fourteen people had booked to dine in the Savoy restaurant organised by a guy called Wolf Joel, but at the last minute, one of his guests cancelled, leaving thirteen. They had apparently commented on the superstition that it was unlucky to have thirteen seated for dinner, and that the first to leave would be destined to die first. A week later, Joel was shot dead in South Africa.
Upon hearing the news, the Savoy Hotel vowed never to allow thirteen people to dine together and tried various things like having a waiter join the group, but discovered it wasn't always appropriate. In the end, they settled on Kaspar, a wooden sculpture of a cat, who since the late 1920's, when a group of thirteen books at the restaurant, joins them, sitting at his own place with a napkin tied around his neck to make the fourteenth member of the group, apparently also being served all the courses ... which seems mildly wasteful.
It would seem that Winston Churchill was quite a fan of Kaspar, who not only had him attend meetings, but intervened when the feline statue was stolen, to ensure his safe return. More recently, Michael Morpurgo immortalised the infamous fourteenth dinner guest in a children's book called 'Kaspar: Prince of Cats' which he penned after a stint a few years back as the Savoy's writer-in-residence.
However, I have no idea what the Savoy would do if they had more than one group of thirteen book for the same sitting ... perhaps they have another sculpture waiting in the wings.
A few weeks ago, a girl with two first names came on one of my walks, the Saturday afternoon, St Paul's to Monument wander actually. She's called Rachel Claire and as a recent arrival to London, thought she'd try to uncover some of the quirkier and down right slightly random things that there are to do in this great city ... of which there are many.
She juggles five jobs anyway, and as if she doesn't already have enough to do, thought she'd collate and share her findings on a radio podcast, courtesy of Shoreditch Radio. Not content with that, she recently set up an I Love London Town website, where she reviews some of the things she has done, so that others might find out about them too; random days out, restaurants, bars and pubs, fitness and exercise and stuff like that. Her ethos is strictly erring towards the weird and wonderful, so if you live in London (or even if you're visiting) and fancy a drink at a bar with a difference, having some food at a restaurant with a twist or are just looking for something fun to do one weekend, then I highly recommend checking out her website or following I Love London Town on facebook to find out what she's been up to and get a bit of inspiration.
Here's the lovely review she wrote about her Bowl Of Chalk experience:
I think that's it really. I believe you have all the relevant links and wot not, so you can keep tabs on what the girl with two first names does next in London, and maybe one day, you'll give it a go too. I'll leave you with some photos she took on our walk.
I managed to squeeze in four walks last weekend, but (as ever) forgot to take a picture of one of the groups, a lovely bunch of international liver specialists ... as you do. So, on Saturday morning Scott & Bailey, Tania & Chandra (who all stayed for the afternoon walk) were joined by Daniela. Here they are with Dr Johnson's House behind them, where the first definitive English dictionary was compiled in 1755.
We also managed to sneak in to the Inner & Middle Temple area which stretches from Fleet Street down to the Thames as we happened to be standing outside the gate just as someone went in. Very sneaky.
Daniela left us at St Paul's where the walk finishes, and after lunch the rest of us carried on over the Millennium Bridge to Bankside, and as Scott and Bailey had never visited Borough Market before, stopped for a quick look around before continuing back over London Bridge to the Monument. Here they are in Borough, and yes, it did rain quite a bit, so the umbrellas were pretty handy.
On Sunday, Bailey and Scott came back for more (these guys were unstoppable) and were joined by Marcia and Dui from Rio who had been forced to buy coats as they apparently don't need them in Brasil.
Girl with the most boy-like name - Bailey
Best Kevin Spacey impersonation - Scott
Best moustache - No Winners
Most collective knowledge of livers - Sunday afternoons group (no photo I'm afraid)
Most Brazilian - Marcia & Dui
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.