24 Hours in London

I suppose I should start by saying it was actually more like 10 hours. Having caught an early (very early) flight from Edinburgh, I landed at a grey and drizzly Luton at around 8.30am before hopping onto the train to St Pancras, and from there, the underground to Tate Modern to see the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition. The chimney of the gallery (a former power station) dwarfed me as it rose into the sky - the sun behind doing its best to break through the clouds that swathed the city.
The Matisse exhibition was excellent: simply displayed and explained and providing bursts of colour on a scale both intimate and intimidating. "The Snail" was a particular favourite - yes it might look like a three-year-old did it but the playful shape discreetly cut into the top corner of the work made me smile.
Having moved through the exhibition fairly swiftly, I took a moment to stand on the Millennium Bridge for a few photo ops. Tourist-filled boats skated along the Thames between buildings old and new and under a sky that was showing promising signs of brightening up.
From the bridge I followed my stomach to the Borough Market - a foodie haven that was only about a 15-minute walk away. I felt like I was on a film set as I wended around Park Street, even more so when I emerged at the entrance (or one of them) to the market under a railway track - and through the intoxicating aroma of coffee. Even the entrance was buzzing with activity, and I soon was too after a pain au chocolat and latte (from the excellent Monmouth) the smell of which I could resist no longer. Wandering around the incredible variety of stalls, I was almost overwhelmed and sort of wanted to lie amongst the pastries, breads and desserts (possibly with a glass of something fizzy from the prosecco bar). The fresh produce was impressive too - piles of earthy mushrooms, purple carrots and tomatoes - green ones and striped ones - that were as shiny as Snow White's apple. Less impressive, was the idiot standing near me who I heard explain to his friends that the little orange squashes perched above the potatoes were pomegranates. Barbarian.
A light lunch of chicken dumplings and a brownie-topped meringue as big as my face (I had to eat it in stages over the course of the day) was eaten beside a nearby church garden and the sky-piercing Shard. I then headed over to the Tower of London to see the installation commemorating the start of the First World War - a river of handmade, ceramic poppies, which, against the now blue and hot sky, made for an impressive sight.
From there I made a quick pilgrimage to St Paul's Cathedral, paying homage not to any church but to Mary Poppins, before getting the Tube over to Regent Street for a wee bit of shopping (gifts of a Liberty tape measure and Fortnum and Mason's teabags don't really count as a spree).
I got on the Tube again, heading back east to Liverpool Street station to get ready for the train out to Stanstead for the flight back to Edinburgh.
First though (as usual) it was time to eat. Dinner was a tasty but messy cheeseburger with rosemary chips from Patty and Bun - luckily wet wipes were provided. By now it was about 7pm and it was time, feeling stuffed and sleepy, to trundle out to the airport under a rosy sky (eavesdropping on the conversations of  fellow train passengers for entertainment).

A day trip to London (from Edinburgh) is admittedly a bit tiring. In the beginning you are bleary-eyed and at the end you begin to feel the effects of the 5am start. But the London buzz is, for me anyway, so exciting and energising.
It can be easy for some to feel overwhelmed by the city - obviously it is busy; expensive; the underground can be stifling and people can either seem in too much of hurry or are actually not moving fast enough.
But I think I take it all in my stride: people-watching, thinking about how the city has everything and anything and how it can take you anywhere in the world.
Since first visiting years ago I've always thought I'd like to live there at some point - and maybe I will, maybe I won't. For now though, it was enough to have the day. Well okay, 10 hours, at least...


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