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The power of walking
“Is there a felicity in the world superior to this?” Marianne Dashwood of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility said to her sister Margaret as they went for an epic walk on the downs. True, she did fall over and twist her ankle shortly afterwards, but Marianne I FEEL YOU on the walking. Sometimes you just need to go for a massive walk.
We're lucky, Leigh-on-Sea-ers, in that we can walk to the beach, Two Tree Island, along the pier, in Belfairs Woods or the various parks. Walking is easy here, and there's always loads to look at. But going further afield also brings great walking joy.
A few years ago, Jo bought a book in a museum gift shop on 'London's hidden walks' and it gives you guided walks with brilliant facts to read along the way. We've done the Bloomsbury one, Spitalfields and Soho, and we did Mayfair on Saturday. It was chilly - THAT WIND! - but we wore big scarves and woolly hats and Jo led the way, reading out excellent facts, kind of like a much more chill version of Keith Pratt from Nuts In May.
We walked for absolutely miles - firstly around the Charlie Brown exhibition at Somerset House (one of my fave places, pictured), then all the way through Covent Garden and Soho, and into Mayfair. We walked all around Savile Row, watching tailors work furiously through basement windows. We did a huge loop, stopping for a very tiny, French and expensive but DELICIOUS lunch, walking more and more with further facts. We passed a lamp post that was used as a messaging post in the Cold War; spies would chalk a number '8' on it and slip pieces of paper with information written on them through a trap door in the back. We passed the gambling den built by a fishmonger with a talent for a flutter in 1828, still the most exclusive gambling house in London today. Past the flat where Mama Cass, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson all died. Past endless Blue Plaques: Jimi Hendrix, Nancy Mitford, Wendy Richard.
Jo lives by the rule that all decent walks should end up in a pub, so we rested our weary legs with a large glass of Malbec and spot of people-watching in Shepherd Market, a little slice of village life just off Piccadilly. We then walked all the way to Trafalgar Square so we could do MORE walking around the National Gallery where I burst into tears seeing JMW Turner paintings in real life for the first time. Quick sidenote: Turner's paintings are like dreams, and really speak to me - it was one of the most moving experiences I've ever felt (while standing with a thousand tourists craning their smartphones to snap Van Gogh's Sunflowers.)
By that time, we were pretty 'walked out' and hopped on a bus in Trafalgar Square before a quick pit stop for another glass of wine at The Ned in Bank, before getting the train home. It was a tiring day, but walking - my goodness - surely there is no felicity in the world superior to it. Nothing better to clear the mind and stretch the limbs.
Post script: I went to Channy's in Southend this weekend to sample the delicious home cooked Cambodian and Thai food and it did not disappoint. Cafe by day, Channy's serves gorgeous authentic meals on weekend evenings and it's BYO drinks. I'm still dreaming of the lip-smacking massaman curry. One to watch out for.
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