Across the Thames from St Paul Cathedral, a short walk across the Millennium Bridge (the Wibbly Wobbly Bridge to the locals) is the Tate Modern, London’s modern art museum. I’m sure it holds quite a collection of wonderful art. But I did not go there for art. I went for lunch.
At the top of the large square brick building, which looks as though it should belong down river with the various warf buildings, sits large glass windows that look out over the City of London. On that floor sits a bar and a restaurant. The bar sits along the window, giving patrons a nice view while they sip their pint. The restaurant is next to it sitting between two large windows giving patrons a north and south view. It is quite lovely.
My host here in London is a wonderfully helpful person. She suggested that we go to the top of Tate Modern for lunch and awesome views. We understood that to mean we should get lunch at the restaurant (who drinks a pint for lunch at the top of a museum? Continue reading… ).
We were greeted by a cheery hostess who told us about the special menu. For lunch, they have the menu set up that you can get two or three courses for just under 30 pounds. It wasn’t too horrible… Right… Treat ourselves… It was our second to last day… Why not?
So, we take our seats and stare at the menu. Soon I realize that we are the only people who appear to be tourists. What I mean by this is that we are the only two so look as though we have been walking around all day. Everyone else looks as though they just left the office for lunch, which could very well be the case. So, I look at the menu. Everything sounds fancy. It all has strange sounding cheeses and mushrooms, veggies prepared in ways I don’t understand. Even the fish and chips were a step up.
OK, maybe I have judged too harshly. Let me try the starters… Chilled soups. Nope. Dessert it is. Dessert will save this meal. The dessert menu sounded like the mains menu; more strange sounding cheese, fruit, and absolutely no chocolate. What kind of dessert menu doesn’t have chocolate, especially when you are charging 30 pounds meal.
I look over to my friend. I have found over the last few days that she is hard to read. When we are not talking about something funny, her face looks stern and concentrated. So I can’t tell what she is thinking. So I ask her what she thinks of the menu. I hope and pray she is considering bailing as much as I am.She shrugs and says that the cold tomato soup sounds really good.
My first reaction is “Shit, there is something on here she wants to eat. That means that we should stay. We have already sat down. Cold soup is okay I guess.”
Then the waiter walks up. Shit. “Hi can I have some water?” He mumbles something in a thick French accent. “Still please?” I respond and he leaves. My friend is still looking over the menu and I am trying to figure out how to keep my 30 pounds.
Finally I whisper, “I think we should leave. I don’t see anything I want to eat.”
She nods her head. “Me either”
We quickly after our things before mumble French comes back. I walk to the hostess and say that we have changed our minds, we would just like drinks and we don’t want to take up a whole table. She looks confused and mumble French walks up behind her with a bottle of flat water and two glasses.
He mumbles something and the hostess translates to “You ordered still water?”
I quickly think on my feet.
"That was supposed to be tap, but I will pay if I must."
The hostess grins at me and assures me that it will be no problem. She was still cheery and so very nice. She pointed me to the bar and wished me a nice day.
My friend and I sat looking out the windows, across the Thames, at St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London. She had a pint of cider and I had an English cola. We spent less than 10 pounds.
I can’t say that I had any particular expectations before coming to London other than I would finally get to see a city I have wanted to see since I was a child.
Now that I am here, walking the streets, seeing the sights, eating the food, riding the underground, and listening to the people, I have realized that I did have an expectation, I wanted to feel like I was meant for this city.
Whether my expectation has been met or not is still up for debate. Could I see myself living in London? Yes. Could I see myself finding friends and fitting into the culture? Maybe. Could I see myself really being able to eventually calling myself a Londoner? I don’t think I could.
I can’t say anything negative about the people I have met in London. So far, everyone (except one old man working a jewelry counter who thinks he is too posh for his britches) has been wonderful and welcoming. But there is a distinct separation between locals and visitors, rich and poor, those who think they are more important than everyone else and everyone else, who are more important because they are real people.
If I ever become rich, I could see myself having a flat in London. If I ever become lucky, I could see myself moving here for a couple of years. If I ever have enough money, I will certainly return again and again.
London is a wonderful city full of culture and history, but any guide book can tell you that. To truly understand what that means you need to experience the city. Let London question your expectations of one of the worlds best known cities.