running errands in london

Saturday is our errand day, in London just as much as it is anywhere else. Braving tourist crowds and a longer-than-usual to-do list, we made a few stops with waves to the roommate's-first-time-in-London sights as we went.

A bus took us from our door to Shakespeare's Globe and we then walked on foot across Millennium Bridge. Unable to help myself, we got a handful of overpriced caramelized nuts on our way across. They were just as delicious as I remembered. Perhaps it's the cold wind and the water. Perhaps it's Saint Paul's guiding your footsteps from across the water. Perhaps they actually are the best nuts in the world. We will never know.

Circling the cathedral and then slipping underground, we made our way to our first errand at James Smith & Sons, makers of umbrellas and canes since 1830. Filled to brimming with blackthorn, all manner of woods, stains, and pewter details, every inch of the shop expresses over a century of craftsmanship.

After carefully looking over the offerings, Roommate found just what she was looking for in a simple and elegant dark-stained birch handle with a strong maple shaft, a simple brass ring joining the two. With London rain in her joints and the underground's maze of stairs, it should take care of her well this trip and for decades to come.

Just around the corner I opened the door to L. Cornelissen & Son, another of London's oldest shops. Trays of brushes, bottles of pigments, and endless colors line the walls. Stepping from beauty to beauty, the ancient floor squeaked and shifted under my weight and I desperately wanted to sit and sketch those cupboards for hours.

Leaving the paints behind and in search of a cozy place to take a rest, we found ourselves at Second Cup Coffee, tucked into armchairs in a small corner beneath a spiral staircase. With a coffee for Roommate, some sips for me, and a pause in which to write, we wiled away a happy half hour with hardly a soul around.

Then back underground to Picadilly Circus and a jaunt through Japan Centre in search of a quick tea-time bite. Catching sight of a conveyor belt inside, we bustled into Shuang Shuang, were promptly seated at the counter, and realized too late to back out that we'd gotten ourselves into the wonderful adventure of Chinese Hot Pot. 

While I started out in slight panic with no idea what to do or where to start, it quickly transformed into excitement as I remembered to breathe, caught my bearings, and thought of Future Abby's food adventures and how proud she would be when I told her of mine. Soon the waiter brought brought our already steaming broth and I lost myself in the excitement of seeing a plate of thin-sliced pork belly moving past followed by a pile of sliced shiitake mushrooms. Into the pot they went along with a plate of mystery greens and I waited impatiently for the flavors to blend. 

From the jolt of adrenaline at the start to the deeply comforting broth filling me comfortably all the way to my toes, I left a different woman than I went in.

Warm, happy, and well, we turned the corner and snagged some tea from Fortnum and Mason before turning into Green Park, my favorites of the many green expanses in London. From the grand ancient trees to the meadow-cut grass, it somehow manages to fill both of the conflicting needs in my heart, one for large open spaces and one for cozy corners. 

The end of the path found us at Buckingham Palace as the evening light hit the gates and set the gold leaf on fire.

On our last reserves of sight-seeing energy, we made our way towards the Thames. Waving a hulloh to Westminster Abby as it coyly hid behind the trees and another to Big Ben in the sunset light, we caught our bus to take us back home, to dinner, and to a very quiet Sunday.

What would you show your roommate on their first day in London? Comment below or share with us on the facebook page.