British Holiday Chapter 13: Canals, Cheese, and Ottolenghi

Cheese Boat! (that's the guardian's hq in the background)
We were well rested after a lovely night in the Islington flat, so we headed out to buy some cheese. I learned a lot about London on the way.

We started off through the rather nice back streets in Islington.
A road in Islington
The Cheese Boat was going to be moored across from the new Guardian offices in York Way.

On the way we got coffee at the weirdest little cafe. The patrons were all old men, sitting in pairs like spies having clandestine meetings. Or maybe they were just couples. It was hard to say, even though we had what seemed like several years to study them all while we waited for our coffee, which we took with us because we were excited about the Cheese Boat.

We got there early... too early. No really. They were there, but they had not opened yet. We had a couple hours to kill and few backup plans. There was a canal museum near by, but we weren't planning on going so we didn't have any of the details.

It was on the A to Z though, so we were able to track it down. It was right there, across the water. I think we ended up walking a mile to cover 50 feet, but I wasn't in the mood for a swim. We were pretty lucky here, because we arrived only 10 minutes before opening. We really do start our days too early. All those let's-get-on-the-road-at-four-to-beat-the-traffic road trips growing up are hard to shake off.

Leff (that's me) listening to an old canal man speak out of an ice cream spoon
Anyway, I had only learned of the existence of London's canal system a few days before, when we went to Camden Town. And here I was, dragging Rakka to a museum about them. It was kinda cool though. Especially since we got there before everybody so we had it to ourselves.

Canal People live under the stairs
They had a bunch of boats outside, which we sat next to and ate some tesco sandwiches. (that's the guardian in the background again. see what i mean, it's right there)
Bantam IV
There was a little display thing to demonstrate how locks work. We sent Rakka's little deer through.
A little nicer on vimeo

There was a nice little movie playing (which they don't have on their youtube unfortunately) full of old footage of real working canal boats. And this map. That's a lot of canal.
London's Waterways
The time was sufficiently killed, so it was back to the Cheese Boat!
Cheese Boat
The cheese boat is run by a nice old Welsh couple. A thing I've learned since is that there's a long association of Welsh people selling dairy in London. Milk-maids were primarily Welsh at least into the nineteenth century (London: The Biography - Ackroyd).

The Merry Milkmaid by  engraving by John Savage after Marcellus Laroon.
We got some Black Bomber, Pickle Power and Green Thunder. Which we brought all the way home to Seattle; I was nervous in customs, they didn't care.
Cheese samples at the cheese boat
Next it was back to kings cross for the tub up towards Ottolenghi in Belgravia.
Kings Cross from Goods Way
This was on of those tube trips where a little walk would have saved us a ton of time. We took a route that required a transfer, and the first leg went about 3 feet before we transfered (we could still see kings cross), but it took like a half hour.
Platforms 1 and 2 at Edgware Road
We got there eventually though. You probably know this, but Belgravia is fancy town. Which makes it pretty perfect for this fancy little foodery.
It's a tiny little building, so it's pretty easy to overwhelm it with foodstuffs. Which they do. The path from the kitchen to the display table shares 100% of it's floorboards with the customer area. It becomes claustrophobic really rather quickly. I felt that I was in the way from the moment I walked in.
Ottolenghi knows how to show it off
As a result, I didn't actually pick food. I just pointed at things that I could identify so that I could get out. So I ended up with chicken and broccoli.
Ottolenghi chicken and broccoli
Rakka did a little better. She got a savory pastry thing.
Ottolenghi savory pastry thing
The next stop was Rococo Chocolates across the street. As I remember, the weird thing there was that their computers were down so they couldn't sell things they had to weigh, which included everything. They almost refused to sell us chocolates. It seems that even in fancy ass Belgravia nothing ever quite runs at 100%. It's part of London's charm.

Anyway, we took our loot up to Hyde park, as you do. It was a beautiful day, but we still managed to find a bench. I love that.
A day in Hyde Park
And we got the tube to head back to Islington. We didn't know it was a game day. It was a game day. We didn't know that they close our tube stop on game day. They do close our tube stop on game days. It probably would have been better to get off at the stop before. As it was, we over shot our station, and wound up on the wrong side of the block, which was about a hundred miles long in every direction. I exaggerate but honestly we had to walk a mile farther in the wrong direction before we could cross over and get back to the flat. We were back to being exhausted again.

Next up, our last day and my best meal ever.

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