We’d discussed vacationing with the Goldbergs for quite some time so we had to celebrate their arrival in London with a champagne afternoon tea at the Dalloway, a lovely hotel in Bloomsbury with outdoor garden seating. As we ordered our first round of bubbly, Goldberg spoke up and said “Well, this is probably the right time to tell you that Alison is pregnant.” AHHHH!!!! Congrats! What a wonderful way to start their trip- great news for great friends! (Admittedly, though, my self-talk was about the rolodex of activities that I had planned that included a bit too much imbibing. Cleary, I hadn’t learned my lesson from Caity’s visit). So we had to ‘remix’ a bit but that was nothing we couldn’t handle as we were so excited to host our friends.
We filled our bellies with tea, sandwiches and decadent custards (that’s British for ‘dessert’). It was so good just to stroll through Covent Garden, catching up on life stories, including Noodles’ most recent tricks and trainings. Noodles is their puppy dog. We hit Chinatown, Leicester Square, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, and Westminster Abbey. You’d think that Corey and I would be able to answer everyone’s questions at this point, but we still get stuck and make up answers. Luckily, Goldberg knows that he should only believe half of what we’re talking about, especially when Corey starts a sentence with “Scholars maintain…”. We walked behind Parliament for the first time. We also sat out on the patio at Narrow Boat for the first time before a chill evening at home.
Sunday roast was, of course, at our favorite spot- Smokehouse. Visitors from home kept bringing sunshine to London, so we were able to walk off our roast through Shoreditch to Spitalfields Market. Alison bought her first ever gift for baby Goldberg, a cute beanie made to look like a pilot’s helmet complete with cloth goggles. We sampled fine sweets at a chocolate store and this is where I learned how Alison and Goldberg keep track of their expenditures when traveling abroad. When Goldberg asked Alison about how many pounds she had left, her response was “About two desserts worth…” Absolutely brilliant.
Corey shared the usual Jack the Ripper story over a pint at the Ten Bells and then we wove between the various vendors packed in on Brick Lane. Alison found stamps that cost more than postcards, and I purchased a couple bowls of produce (everything in the bowl only costs a quid). We had to hold Corey back from jumping into a jazzercise showcase event, where a very enthusiastic gentlemen dressed fully in sequins and spandex was trying to woo him in as a sidekick. Of course, the first weekend wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Lahore. Corey took charge and ordered a meal large enough to feed eight. There were only four of us, plus baby, but the fact that we’d basically walked a large chunk of east London we felt we had earned it, right?
We said goodbye for the next couple of days as G+A flew to Italy to visit Goldberg’s family and his sister who was studying abroad at the time. The day we reunited, Alison and I stayed in for hangouts at our flat, while Corey took Goldberg out to the Horse, his local after-work watering hole. It was really nice to think that our friends were meeting one another even with such distance between us. That night, Goldberg met some of the same guys from Corey’s stag at the Horse.
On Friday, we ventured to Stoke Newington, a neighborhood north of Angel, with a small yet charming upper street dotted with curio shops, vintage clothing, and a couple of hipster bars. We ate at Rasa, a Southern Indian restaurant, where none of us had any prior knowledge about what to order. The food had coconut flavoring like some Southeast Asian dishes, but had little of the vibrant coloring. For example, the eggplant curry was incredibly tasty but looked like the color of the gravy you’d pour over sausage and biscuits.
Saturday, we took the Thames Clipper to Greenwich (yes, it’s a sight that we like to take folks to see). This visit we added some new spots to the itinerary: the Painted Hall, and the Maritime Museum. At the museum, Alison donned a real helmet from a suit of armor! We shared plates at the market for lunch, and then took a long stroll up to the Observatory. Here, Alison and I picked up a few things at the gift shop though we didn’t buy tickets for the Observatory. I found out that Alison loves gift shops. I purchased a walking tour guidebook, which I think will be a solid resource for future guests. We walked all the way down the promenade to Blackheath, a heath that became a graveyard during the black plague. It looks like a big open field right now, but it’s eerie to think about the space in that context when you’re surrounded by beautifully lush rows of trees lining the walkway. These trees were also helpful as we got our first bit of London weather at this point on the trip. We huddled into a local pub and shared a sticky toffee pudding to wash away our rainy blues.
Off the Clipper, we made our way to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese. This was my first stop using my new walking tour guidebook. It’s one of the oldest pubs in London, rebuilt after the fire in 1666, where the likes of Charles Dickens used to contemplate over a pint. The dimly lit interior is a maze of various sitting rooms, so you can find your own little corner at the end of a long day. The rain started again as we left the bar for our final stop: a sports bar to watch England play their first game in the Euros. Nothing like hearing the chants and the cheers of the British football fans, even when they took a shocking loss in the 91st minute of the match. Alison diligently finished her postcards on the last night, while Goldberg packed their bags. We snuck in a cheeky trip to the British Library on Sunday morning before their flight. We were all blown away with the number of artifacts and historical documents living there. I’d recommend a trip to the library to anyone who visits London, over the British Museum and Westminster Abbey, even.
It’s really true that time flies so quickly when you’re having fun. We finally made our dreams come true of traveling with the Goldbergs, celebrating with desserts, beers, and laughter. Can’t wait to meet the newest member of the family in December!