Monday, October 26, 2009

"Driving Slow On Sunday Morning, I May Never Want To Leave"

“Let’s get up earlier and get out of the hotel before noon tomorrow” the hubby’s final words before drifting off Saturday night. He had big plans for the following day, lots of things he wanted to do before we headed out to Wembely Stadium to watch the New England Patriots take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I believed him when he said it, I knew he meant it but I also knew that he was up way past his regular bedtime and knowing how much sleep he requires…well let’s just say I wasn’t panicked. I was also wondering just how much was going to be open on Sunday here in London, sure the bigger tourist places might be, but I knew from my past trips to other parts of Europe, Sunday is kind of closed and stuff.

I woke up before Call-o and was half ready by the time he got out of bed, “Wow, check you out” he commented on his way to the shower but in the end it was about 12:15 before we stepped out of the hotel, again. We had plans but we needed to get a bite and I remembered reading about the traditional English Sunday Roast, didn’t really know what it was but it was what I flashed on when I thought of Sunday here, so we headed out into our little neighborhood, his plan was to just get a bite to eat, mine was to see if I could find a Sunday Roast….walked up about 2 blocks before I saw a sign on one of those a-frame chalkboard deals in front of a little bistro, “Full Sunday Roast” we walked in a were seated right away.

The place reminded me of a Paris bistro, warm brass, dark wood, white linens, heavy cutlery and a 3 foot tall face bursting with Stargazers that I could smell from my table. I ordered a glass of Chablis, Carl a cocktail and we went over the menu, I was instantly drawn to the roast beef…reminded me of my mother, we always had roast beef on Sunday when I was a kid, but there was also Eggs Benedict, with fries no less…hum, what to do?! When our server Michael, a tall, very friendly, somewhat gangly young man, returned with our drinks I just asked, “Oh well the roast beef is quite nice, goes down really easy that” well that was all I needed to hear..Carl went for the roasted pork belly and we munched on bread smeared with unsalted French butter.

I was sitting in the banquette facing the bar so I got to watch all the goings on back there, watched as one guy stocked the bar, made drinks from bubbles and juice and kind of barked at the other servers…seemed like he scared the hell out of them, there is always a pecking order in a restaurant and this guy, well he was clearly pretty high up on the food chain. While we waited for our food I watched as families came in, pink cheeked kids, sweater and scarf clad adults, all looking to enjoy a Sunday Roast together, many times meeting the grandparents as well, the place was filling before my eyes. The sound of children with their adorable English accents talking to their grandmas, the clank of heavy silverware being rested on a plate, the bar active….. pouring glasses of Champagne, pulling pints and mixing drinks…the smell of roasted meat, French fries and the faint whiff of rosemary, and those beautiful Stargazers. The music just pushed me right over the edge, little louder than one might expect for such a quaint little place, but at all too loud, in fact it was at the perfect volume and the tunes they had spinning for a room full of people enjoying a Sunday Roast, “Send me forget me not’s, to help me to remember. Baby please forget me not, I want you to remember” disco and soft rock like Van Morrison and Elton John. All of it, the music, the smells, the sound of a four year old saying, “Oh but granny I want it” in that accent, the warm brass, dark wood…it all spun around me, slowly, softly, sweetly, you that moment when you are listening to someone talk and you realize, “God, I am in love this person”…that was me yesterday afternoon at JT’s Bar and Grill, falling in love with the day, the people, the ritual…this place.

My roast beef was very nice, not as good as mom’s used to be, but good and the Yorkshire Pudding was unreal but Call-o’s pork belly, holy mother of gorgeous meat! I had pictured braised, not sure why, just how we tend to see it back home but this was a perfectly roasted hunk of pork belly with a think, crusty band of super crunchy skin on the top….drool. We ate slowly, I ordered more wine, we had coffee and I even ordered us a Bushmills just so I could be in love just a little bit longer, that was when the lyrics to that song came bouncing into my head, “Driving slow on Sunday morning, I may never want to leave” summed up my feelings exactly.

We got our bill, said thank you and goodbye and walked out into the brisk but absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon. We walked past the square at Covent Garden where I saw couples holding hands, shopping bags clasped in the other, groups of friends sitting in the outdoor cafes, eating meat pies, drinking pints and just sharing the afternoon together. We walked past Fuel, the place we had dinner a couple of nights before and there were these groups of kids, maybe 18-20 years old and they were having a few pints, some crispy wood fired pizza and talking…not quite the horrific picture people try and paint to warn against letting 18 year olds have a drink right? They were laughing, sharing a meal, sipping on pints and behaving just like….well, just like the rest of the adults in the square. We passed people dressed to the nines, we are talking gowns and tuxedos here, on their way to a Sunday matinee at the theatre, whole families dripping in their finest, spending the afternoon enjoying and appreciating the arts.

As we made our way back to the hotel I started thinking about that stupid Tower of London tour, how people make you think to understand this place you have to see those things…utter bullshit. That may be the kind of vacation that some people enjoy, they may strive to have a photo of their ginning face in front of Big Ben, one that looks just the one of their parents, their grandparents and that’s fine, just not the way that I choose to learn about a place. I had read about the Tower of London, watched specials on the History Channel, seeing it in person did nothing to further my understanding of it. For me sitting in that bistro, walking the square on a Sunday afternoon, passing the beautifully clad people making their way to the theatre, that made this place real for me, gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people that live here, made me long for a few more days to wander amongst them…. “Driving slow on Sunday Morning, I may never want to leave”…..


Thomas said...

When we travel, my wife says that I have an uncanny ability to wander into the more "interesting" parts of a city.

That's because my soul is in those places, where life pulses.

I like museums and historical sites, but I love what's happening in the here and now.

London sounds a lot different from my long ago last visit there.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It's no mean feat rendering the HoseMaster speechless, but I have been dazzled by your posts about London. The arc of your vacation, from jet-lagged exhaustion, through the torture of the Tower of London, and continuing through the redemption of the food and people and energy of the Soho streets, has been exhilarating to read. Granted, I am your biggest fan and deepest admirer, but you have outdone yourself, My Love, and I didn't think that was possible. Bravo!

I am crazy in love with you.

Your HoseMaster

Samantha Dugan said...

Could agree with you more, the life of a city lies not in it's relics but in the pulsating part, where the people work, eat, drink and share time with those that they love...and for that, London has been absolutely wonderful.

My Love, you flatter me and I do think that your vision might be a tad fuzzy but I have to admit I adore you for it, so thank you. It has been quite the ride over here but there is not one thing I would not do over again to feel the way I felt yesterday afternoon, last evening and into today. Cannot believe I am leaving tomorrow, ready to come home but...feels a little like I am leaving a lover behind. Thanks for taking this ride with me kid, I love you!

Nancy Deprez said...

Awesome. What a beautiful post, Samantha. Your descriptions of the sounds, sights and smells of this Sunday in London brought my own memories of London rushing back to me in a flash, my good memories of the place that I couldn't quite put in words to describe why I loved the city much more than I had expected to. It's hard to describe how exotic a place as regular-sounding as Britain is; no, they don't speak a different language or eat a different food, really; instead, they speak it differently and eat it differently, and that makes all the difference.

So happy you are so happy in London! Looking forward to seeing you when you return.

Thank you again for sharing.

Samantha Dugan said...

Thank you so much, when I wrote this is was so easy to let myself shift back into that moment, sitting in that place...just loved it so much, wish all of you that read could have been there with me.
As much as I love France and Spain, well London, it just stole my heart...I will be going back.