Mind the Gap
A return trip to London reveals subtle differences between American and British culture.
The Tower Bridge
Sandwiches at Harrods Food Hall
“Mind the gap,” I heard a voice warn me as I waited for the approaching subway. It was 2000 and I was visiting London for the first time. What were they talking about? I never expected London to be so different. I pictured London to be similar to large American cities, like New York City. After all, we share a language and culture! But that is the great thing about traveling—you are always surprised.
I have now been to London 3 times. I continue to find new reasons to come back and new surprises around every corner. Plus, I have a pretty canny British accent at this point! The usual tourist stops are a must-see on any trip to London. The Tower Bridge is a great architectural gem and commonly mistaken for the London Bridge, a less impressive (but older) sister bridge down the Thames. The Parliament Building (with Big Ben) sits further down the Thames and is a massive reminder of the reach of the British Empire. Then there are the lovely palace gardens at Buckingham Palace and outside Kensington Palace. The constant activity of Picadilly Circus is reminiscent of Times Square, but decidedly unique at the same time.
Apart from the usual tourist fare, I recommend spending at least half a day at Harrods, the incredible monument to consumerism in the heart of London. Harrods has everything and is unlike any American department store. The food hall alone is worth a flight across the Atlantic. If you can’t make it to a good pub, the fish and chips at Harrods will still satisfy. Since this is a pharmacy blog, I also have to mention the large apothecary inside Harrods. It makes you feel like you stepped back in time into Dickensian London. London also has a “Boots” on every corner, a high-end pharmacy chain whose products are slowly making their way to the States.
If you are thinking about traveling to Europe, but want to start off in a more familiar place, London is the place for you. You will quickly experience a different world but won’t have to struggle with the language. Well, at least not after you learn to “mind the gap.”*
* “Mind the gap;” For some reason there’s a gap between the Tube platform and the train! Look down! Just one of those English quirks.
Cucumber Sandwich Recipe
(My Mom would make these growing up and they are fit to serve alongside any cup of tea!)
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly
3/4 cup soft butter
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
20 pieces thin-sliced bread
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pepper to taste
Lightly salt the cucumber slices and place them in a colander to drain for 1 to 2 hours.
Combine the butter and garlic and apply to one side of each slice of bread.
In a small bowl, stir together the lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Add the cucumber slices, coating them well.
Arrange the cucumber on 10 of the bread slices, top with the other 10 slices, remove the crusts, and quarter.
Makes 40 tea sandwiches.