To end the series (really, this is the last post about England), how can you not go past the English pub? We visited some wonderful pubs on our English adventure, some modern, some comfy, some unbelievably old and quaint. Hubby’s favourite drinking spot was the old Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell – an 18th Century pub with blackened old beams, that could barely sit a dozen guests, but which served the best beers in town.
Hubby, a beer geek, was really happy to be trying out new beers everyday. I was more happy to try out the food. Pub grub was generally of good quality in generous-sized portions. By the sea at Lyme, we ate the biggest piece of fish ever. It’s a locally caught plaice, with chips and peas.
And the best food can be found in the most out-of-the-way places. The North Inn in the tiny village of Pendeen, Cornwall is a great example of that. It was the best pub out of a two-pub village, and during our stay we ate there some half-a-dozen times in all, so we really got to know and love their food. These fish cakes were the best I tasted, so tasty that I was half way through my first cake before I realised that I hadn’t taken a photo.
But the best meal we had there were their curries. Even though we had a few curries in London, the two curries here were so much better, and fresher, than any curry we had in our entire trip. I chose the black-eyed pea dahl which was full of flavour.
Hubby chose a beef vindaloo which was out of this world.
It’s wonderful to find these little places to eat in England. It certainly made the frigid March weather a little more bearable. That said, we were quite happy to leave it and discover Greece…
One thing that London has an abundance of is markets. On weekends, it seems that Londoners and visitors from everywhere hang out in them, no matter the weather.
The closest market to us is Smithfield, down the bottom of St John Street. It’s not really a ‘hanging around’ kind of market, but a serious wholesale one that buys, sells, probably even butchers, meat of all kinds. Like most wholesale markets, most the action takes place in the early hours of the morning. I’m not one to wake up so early (unless it’s from jet lag) so unfortunately I can’t tell you what it’s like.
I can however tell you about its history. Smithfield has been a livestock and butchers market since medieval times. Livestock used to be driven down St John Street to be slaughtered, although livestock weren’t the only things being butchered. Smithfield has also long been an execution spot, being not too far from the Tower of London. William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) was executed here, and many other deemed a heretic or dissident – quite a few during Tudor times.
Nowadays there aren’t any crowds crying out for blood, just a line of semi-trailers in the middle of the night, waiting to unload their meaty goods.
It’s true that all this talk of history (particularly history beyond the 18th Century) is a bit bewildering for us from the New World, but I suppose even the 12th Century pales in comparison when you look at things from a geological point of view. We’re not getting into geology quite yet, but we are heading back to the 12th Century. Through this Tudor gate is the oldest church in London.
St Bartholomew the Great church isn’t really in Clerkenwell, but in the neighbouring parish of Smithfield. It was built as part of an Augustinian Priory, way back in 1143 – that’s a mere 77 years after the Norman Invasion, in the time of King Stephen (that’s the bad dude in Pillars of the Earth). From the outside, you can tell that it’s an old build by the handmade mortar, full of shells and other bits and pieces, and by the flint stones that were used.
From the inside, it’s pure Norman architecture – simple and elegant. Even though it’s been built up and fixed up quite a bit in its time (due to fires and in the Great Wars, bombings), one can’t mistaken it for anything but a medieval church. Unsurprisingly, it’s a sort-after location for period dramas. It’s very easy to imagine bald monks and knights and lords worshipping here.
Let’s take a walk around Clerkenwell. By Clerkenwell Green is St James’s Church. It was built on top of St Mary’s Benedictine Nunnery after its dissolution at the time of Henry VIII and is a major landmark in Clerkenwell.
Around the corner is the School Keeper’s entry to was a rather grand old school.
There were many flats and terraces, of various ages. These terraces may be Georgian.
Hubby however was interested in pubs. This one was tiny inside, and looked as if it hadn’t been redecorated since 1720. In Victorian times, it was a coffee house, where the intellectuals of the day met, such as Samuel Johnson, Handel and Dickens.
Clerkenwell is in the East End, just outside the walls of the old city. It rises to a little hill, and has a view of St Paul’s from the north side.
St Paul’s might have been rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, but the fire didn’t get this far north, hence places like St John’s Gate, built in the 14th Century by the Knights Templar, still preserved.
Recognise the name and the cross? Well, you would be familiar with the St John’s Ambulance service. It all started here.
The area around the gate once supported the Smithfield Meat Market down the road, but the warehouses and factory spaces have now been taken over by interior designers and architects. Now the old juxtaposes with the new.