We started out with brunch in a very nice little café tucked so well away that it made me wonder how anyone could find it without a tip. It was a very chilly morning, so a warm start was just what we needed. Rachel had mushrooms and a poached egg on soda toast, I tucked into a savoury pancake mountain.
We set off on full stomachs along narrow streets and past a few recommended parks in nooks and plaques in crannies to the Museum of London. I’ve cycled and walked past it innumerable times, that odd bunker in the middle of a roundabout, but never entered before. The exhibition design isn’t all that easy to follow, but it took us from the days of the hippopotamus wandering around the unpopulated Thames valley, through our hunting the aurochs to extinction, past Saxon and Viking and Roman and Norman invasions… well you get the idea.
A good mix of social history and Great Figures, including a fascinating collection of newspapers, pamphlets and placards from the turbulent early 20th century. I’d never heard of the Green Shirts, a left wing movement who wanted to end wage slavery and free man from the machine so we could enjoy more leisure time!
We then walked via a few other hidden treasures to the Guildhall Art Gallery, an altogether more establishment view of the world. The collection featured the usual heroic battles and religious scenes telling the ruling class version of English history, along with Victorian representations of classical scenes such as a large striking portrait of Klytaemnestra shortly after she committed her gory deed.
Our late afternoon stroll took us to the ruined church of St Dunstan-in-the-East, a lovely little haven and a reminder of the City’s deep and convoluted roots. Built in about 1100, it sheltered black death sufferers, was damaged in the Great Fire of London but saved from destruction by local schoolboys, expanded with designs by Christopher Wren, rebuilt again in the early 19th century, bombed out during the Blitz, and finally turned into a garden in the 1960s.
From here we were advised to take the bus over to Whitechapel for our evening meal and drinks, but having time to spare we kept walking. It was surprisingly enjoyable strolling around an area I’m normally scurrying or pedaling through. The curry, at Tayyabs, was of course delicious, rounding off a fun day out.
The only thing I missed was a street map of the wider area. We occasionally hit temporary road closures, or got slightly confused, or needed the loo, or wanted a cup of tea. Knowing where to nip off to would have been a great help. A tool that could print off a map taking data from OpenStreetMap with just this useful info would be the perfect complement to the guide.