Day 79 of 80 — Quiz Night

Around London in 80 days: day 79. Of all the pub-related entertainments I’ve discovered on this side of the channel, “Quiz Night” has made the biggest impression on me.

Day 78 of 80 — Warmth

Around London in 80 days: day 78. London is often portrayed as a fairly cold city. Big and anonymous, full of socially awkward Brits who don’t talk to strangers for fear of being rude.

Day 77 of 80 — Somerset House

Around London in 80 days: day 77. London is full of secrets — that’s why I love it so. In Westminster there are quite a few hidden treasures, inner courtyards that look private but are actually open to the public.

Day 75 of 80 — Ghost Bikes

Around London in 80 days: day 75.
On street corners, in various of places in London, I spot white bike. Sometimes, a bunch of flowers lays by their side.

Day 74 of 80 — Westminster Abbey

Around London in 80 days: day 74. The first time I went Westminster Abbey, I didn’t like it much. Well I kind of liked it but I thought St Paul’s cathedral was more impressive.

Day 73 of 80 — Elephants

Around London in 80 days: day 73. In Spitafields, there is a “Herd of Hope”, a family of life-size bronze elephants scattered around the market. They used to stand together on Marble Arch roundabout but here they have more space to roam around.

Day 72 of 80 — St John

Around London in 80 days: day 72. As I read the menu of St John in Smithfield, I realise just how unadventurous I am. As far as the culinary world is concerned anyway: I have no curiosity for the world of offel and innards, however much some of my friends recommend it.

Day 71 of 80 — Big Issue

Around London in 80 days: day 71. Big Issue? Big Issue? Eddy sells the magazine on the corner of Neal Street and Long Acre. I don’t usually stop, but…

Day 69 of 80 — Flying Trapeze

Around London in 80 days: day 69.
I’m up for a are challenge, wanna do something different. Two of my friends are in town for the weekend and to make it unforgettable we’ve booked ourselves in for an unusual activity.

Day 68 of 80 — Everyday Life

Around London in 80 days: day 68. In London, people live in tiny rooms. They share their kitchen with eight others. It’s cold and hard and scary at times.

Day 67 of 80 — Phoenix

Around London in 80 days: day 67. There are many phoenixes around London, usually pubs or clubs or restaurants… and of course, there’s the one on St Paul’s, who proudly rises from the lost “old cathedral” with the word RESURGAM. I have a particular fondness for them: a phoenix is a symbol of hope, of resilience, and it’s beautifully fiery — all things that appeal to me.

Day 66 of 80 — Panto

Around London in 80 days: day 66. The villain: *”Oh yes it is”*
The crowd: *“Oh no it isn’t”*
The villain: *”OH YES IT IS”*
The crowd: *“OH NO IT ISN’T”*
I’ve always been fond of the UK’s quirky culture. Ever since I first discovered Monty Python at the age of 14.

Day 65 of 80 — Scones

Around London in 80 days: day 65. “A spoonful of sugar, that is all it takes, it changes bread and water into tea and cakes”

Day 64 of 80 — Cocktails

Around London in 80 days: day 64. Walking back from Old Street with a friend, I spot an old, battered-looking door. There’s scaffolding on the building so I thought it was empty, but there seems to be some light behind that door and even, perhaps, some noise. My friend and I decide to have a closer look. Bingo! It’s a tiny, quirky-looking and quiet cocktail bar. Perfect place to end the night.

Day 63 of 80 — Skates

Around London in 80 days: day 63. I’m skating for the first time in the Olympic Park. It feels like just like skiing. It feels fun, it feels wild.

Day 62 of 80 — From the top

Around London in 80 days: day 62. From the top of the bus you can see everything. You fly through the city, you are high above ground. You are the king of this town.

Day 61 of 80 — Alley Cat

Around London in 80 days: day 61. It’s late and dark, the pubs are closing but the Alley Cat is still open — always is. Max’s behind the bar. He has just packed up the board games that were on the tables: the Alley Cat is about to move from early evening to late night.

Day 60 of 80 — Middle Temple Hall

Around London in 80 days: day 60. I’m walking through the quiet streets of Temple, a few steps away from the City of London. I walk past the church and through the arches, next to the tall statue of the tiny Knight Templar.

Day 59 of 80 — Serendipity

Around London in 80 days: day 59. If I had not been staying with our dear family friends Nick & Monty near Tottenham Court Road I would not have discovered this lovely Apricot café, nor would I have become a regular of Covent Garden…

Day 58 of 80 — Whiskey Mick

Around London in 80 days: day 58. A busy Kentish Town pub. Good beer, good people… and good music! It’s Thursday night, you see, so in the corner, a large table is booked for Whiskey Mick & his crowd.

Day 57 of 80 — NHS

Around London in 80 days: day 57. As I moved to different neighbourhoods in London, I switched surgeries a few times. They were all slightly too efficient, treating patients quickly but not personally. Never got to see the same GP twice. Didn’t know the name of any nurse or doctor.

Day 56 of 80 — Ealing Blues Festival

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I  have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be  my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.
And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 56: Ealing Blues Festival

21st of July 2019 in Walpole Park. One by one, the other members of the band arrive. Important gig today: it’ll be recorded and filmed in the hope of making a good trailer.

The Cosimo Matassa Project comes in different sizes, from trio to sextet. Today, it’s the jumbo version: piano, bass, drums and a brass section: trumpet, trombone and tenor sax.

I’m stepping in as trombone player for the day. I’ve never met the trumpet player but we get on instantly: he shares my enthusiasm for the music we play and he, too, dances between his lines.

It’s a beautiful summer day, there’s music and smiling people, dance and laughter, cold beer and hot sauce*.

*the band doesn’t have an album yet but they are passionate about New Orleans culture so they sell their very own hot sauce.

Day 55 of 80 — Flying MAMLs

Around London in 80 days: day 55. You can grab a shared bike and start to explore, or go on a cycle tour if you’d like to learn more. But whatever you do, you should never forget to keep an eye out for flying MAMLs.

Day 54 of 80 — Hackney

Around London in 80 days: day 54. In my neighbourhood there’s hipsters with piercings and colourful clothing who drink almond lattes in contactless-payment-only cafés.

Day 53 of 80 — Babel Art House

Around London in 80 days: day 53. In Stoke Newington there’s a Turkish restaurant where British people eat Belgian biscuits with their tea.

Day 52 of 80 — Magic

Around London in 80 days: day 52. I really discovered magic in London. It’s on London streets that I made my first magician friends, it’s in a London magic shop that I bought my first deck of cards. Since then I always carry a pack of 52 poker-size cards with me, ready for some impromptu magic practice. And I’m now known to the magic shop people who recognise me when I pop in.

Day 51 of 80 — Piano

Around London in 80 days: day 51. Just arrived from Brussels, I walk briskly through St Pancras International station: I want to get back home asap. But after a few steps only, I’m stopped by a chatty man in a party hat. He holds a bottle of bubbles and plastic champagne flutes. He offers me a glass “won’t you join us? We are celebrating Friday night!”. Intrigued and amused, I say yes and follow him back a couple of steps back to the little crowd gathered around the public piano.