DAY 0: LONDON

Day 0 -1-w1000-h1000

In the days before we leave home for the tour of Britain, Passepartout and I cram as many London-centred things in as possible.

Pie and mash at Goddards in the East End. An afternoon tea at the Corninthia Hotel in the West. Fry-up from the Regency Cafe in Westminster.

We visit the British – and the very good but sadly often overlooked, Day 0 - 3-w1000-h1000London – museums.

We wander each chartered street.

Traipses around Hackney and Lambeth, past the windmill in Brixton.

Down the whole of the Regents Canal from Paddington Basin to pubs backing onto the Thames at Wapping and Limehouse – behind which Walter Raleigh took off to find the New World.

We watch a slow county cricket match (the Greek utterly perplexed) in cool silence at the Oval in the middle of the seething city, as the working week went on, a distant hum, outside.

Then to Tate Britain to take in all the landscapes big and bare and painted in oil. To see The Resurrection in Cookham and the moral tales of Augustus Egg.

The stone dinosaurs of Crystal Palace and the stuffed walrus, musical instruments and totem pole of the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill.

We visit Hogarth’s House in Chiswick. We visit the cemetery which hangs on Highgate Hill.

William Blake’s tomb in the sanctuary garden of Bunhill Fields in the middle of the heaving Square Mile.

A drink in the Mitre Tavern with its withered tree trunk which Queen Elizabeth the First danced round as a little girl and which, as it was built on land belonging to the Bishops of Ely is, so some say, technically in Cambridgeshire.

Stories are told of villains robbing Hatton Garden jewellery shops and fleeing into this pub as London police had no jurisdiction there and so would have to call the Cambridge police to come and make any arrest. As with most stories I hear on the Britain tour, I wish it true.

We visit in turn all six of Hawksmoors’ London churches, from Greenwich to Spitalfields to Bloomsbury, following the lines between each one and wondering if the really did make some Satanic pentagram-type pattern.

Sit a while in the quiet, sad, moving, Postman’s Park round the corner from Little Britain, and St Pauls Cathedral, where everyday, ordinary, forgotten folk are commemorated on a tiled wall for their heroic self-sacrifice saving others at risk of injury and death, just in the routine course of their everyday lives.

We amble past the fake fronted houses of Leinster Gardens; look for the lopsided Ladykillers’ house in Argyle Street in St Pancras and a pint in the glorious awful/awfully glorious The Boot pub round the corner; and then, before a final picnic on Parliament Hill, I suggest we walk past traveller’s hero Michael Palin’s home.

It’s a house that I’ve read were four different properties acquired over time and knocked into an eccentric-looking one. It would be good to get the feeling of consecration from a fellow voyager.

As I’m round the side thinking “Oh, so that’s what a real traveller’s bins look like”, Palin himself comes out the front door and smiles and waves at my travelling Passepartout, stood outside, uncaring, uninterested, impatiently waiting for me.

Well, at least one of us has a wayfarer’s blessing. And so it’s with that we’re off. Striking out on the road for 28 days of exploring Britain and whatever we might find on the way before we leave for a new life in Greece .

The last chance to see.

Day 0 - 2-w1000-h1000