I’ve celebrated at least two other birthdays in London (#19 and #43), wonderful in their own ways, but this one (#54, yikes) was magical.
Alekka has been my daytime sightseeing companion this week while Andreas attends an American School of London teaching workshop. Our routine starts off the same each day, with a fortifying English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, marmalade, and milky tea at our hotel.
Then – because we are Americans and tea doesn’t quite do it for us in the morning – we pick up lattes to go from the Costa coffeehouse on our walk to the West Hampstead tube station. From there, London is our oyster.
Today our morning destination was Camden Town, where there is a huge open-air market and lots of interesting high street shops. Sunday is the big market day, and I wondered how many stalls would be open on a Friday, but the shopping turned out to be even funkier and more fun than I remembered from last time I was there (30 years ago). I bargained for a great price on a Nepalese jacket, a fleece-lined one that ought to be useful in Scotland next month.
In the afternoon we headed out to the Docklands, an area of the city I’d never seen before. It used to be just what it sounds like, warehouses and shipping facilities along the Thames. Urban redevelopment incentives in the 1980s and 1990s transformed it into a business and financial center that is also home to restaurants, shopping malls, parks, and performance spaces. It’s adjacent to the Greenwich peninsula, where the Millennium Dome – now called the 02 – is located.
Alekka and I had an early dinner at Wasabi in the 02 complex. It’s a chain, but it’s good. In our short time here, we have visited either Wasabi or a similar place called Abokado every day – we’ve been seriously deprived of raw salmon in recent months and need to make up for lost time.
Andreas came out to meet us after his conference and we all went for a walk along the Thames, ending with a slice of birthday cake and coffee.
Then – the evening’s main attraction – a Leonard Cohen concert at the O2 pavilion.
Leonard put on a fantastic show. He was on stage for three hours, with only only one or two songs turned over to his band members. He looked and sounded great, The tour promotes his newest album, Old Ideas, but he sang all the previous greats, too: Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne, Hallelujah, Chelsea Hotel, I’m Your Man, Bird on a Wire, So Long Marianne, Everybody Knows, The Partisan, Tower of Song. There are so many, which I guess makes sense as he’s been making albums for almost 50 years.
It was an excellent birthday. I’m already making plans to spend #56 here in 2015.