Despite a solid hangover on Sunday, I still managed to take 1000% better photos than the day before. There was cake in the morning, and there was some sightseeing, and a roast lunch too… and then I suffered a wine-induced late-onset implosion in the afternoon, just in time for our flight back.
But let’s start with the cake. As I said, we stayed just by Aldgate East, which is where this beautiful independent coffee shop slash mind-blowing bakery is based:
Exmouth Coffee Company they’re called, and oh my gawd the cakes. The display speaks for itself, really, and the same goodness goes on for a few meters towards the inside of the shop too. The place is duly famous on Tripadvisor, people queue in and outside the shops and passers-by routinely stop to gape at the mountain of baked awesomeness on display.
But let me point out the canelés to the far bottom left of the picture above. I never knew these things even existed, but let me tell you they are amazing. Caramelised to a dark sticky crust on the outside, with a custardy bouncy texture on the inside. The flavour leans to custard and rum, and maybe even oranges? Unlike anything I ever tried.
Some googling shows that canelés originate from Bordeaux, France and require specially made copper flutes to bake. Of course I immediately looked into a recipe, and apparently I shouldn’t even bother attempting these without the proper copper implements (a mere £15 a piece). Whom whomp.
It was warm enough to just sit outside, something that even loud construction noises couldn’t deter us from. Once we had our fill of coffees, breakfast pizza (which they also sold!) and cake, we headed towards the Thames on foot.
D wanted to take me around Tower Hill as I’ve only ever seen it from a distance, and turns out we choose a great day and time to do this. It was bright and early so the tourist-hoard situation around the Tower was still relatively bearable. We just skirted around the moat and across Tower Bridge in the crisp sunny morning, taking in the views up and down the river, then headed along the promenade, back over London Bridge and eventually to the Monument to the Great Fire and Pudding Lane.
Have we had more time, we might have walked further into the City, but we needed to be in Bethnal Green by lunchtime. The easiest way to get there proved to be the Tube – ultimately I don’t really mind it, it’s so easy and logical compared to figuring out buses; but then again I never tried getting around in rush hour, so who knows.
I certainly love all the stops with round platforms though. The train rides in around that curve like a high speed bullet. I know it’s the kind of thing that you get bored of very quickly when you live there but as a visitor it just looks really cool. Whoosh! Mind the gap.
At the end of Paradise Row is a delightful line of railway arches, all plugged with grill and craft beer venues for as far down as I could see. Trains occasionally rattle past overhead, making everything shake, but people just carry on drinking like it is the most normal thing in the world. So we did the same.
We sat around nursing our hangovers for a good three hours under sunny clear skies (it got rather cold as soon as the sun turned away but we persevered), letting the nearby outdoors food smoker engulf us in its woody charcoal smell. My hair still smells of it today, after several days and two washes.
We chatted away with a good South African / Londoner mate who came out to see us, and shared a pretty decent beef roast too. Plenty of opportunities for peoplewatching like this guy with his hot dog grill built onto a Harley:
Before long it was time to leave. Headed for the tubes again and straight out to City to catch our flight. By this point an extreme tiredness hit me (as it usually does after an evening of red wine), which usually manifests itself in incoherent speech, leaky eyes and staring into space. I have very few memories of how I got all the way to Edinburgh and into bed, as this is where my photographic documentation ended:
I must say in retrospect though, East London has been exceptionally good to us. We’ll be going back.