whim: an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy

Sunday, May 20, 2012

goal: best reading spots in london

When I read for long periods of time, I tend to get tired of reading in the same spot, so I bounce around every hour or so (or if I'm really fidgety, every 30 minutes or so) and find new spots to settle down in. Now when I'm in Provo, this usually means I go from the couch to the floor to my bed and maybe to campus (where I'll go from the carrels to right outside the carrels to the JFSB etc etc). In London, I've decided to create a master list of the best places to read, so I can bounce around the city and see all there is to see with a book in my hand.

With the blustery, cold, rainy, and altogether uncooperative weather in London thus far, I've had to find indoor locations and save the parks and gardens for later on in the summer (when it will hopefully warm up a bit). [aside: the side of me that loves sunshine and weather above 90 degrees is wilting away.] Anyway, here's a start to my list:

1. Notes Music Coffee is a small coffee shop just off Trafalgar Square. I'd read online that it was a good spot to go, and because of the cold weather I'm determined to find the best cup of hot chocolate in London. So coffee shops it is. Notes Music Coffee makes a mean cup of hot chocolate: it's frothy, not too sweet, and comes out with a lovely design drizzled into the foam. I don't know how they do it; all I know is that it looked as good as it tasted. They also have a fantastic fruit scone. But the food, though important, was not the primary reason I was there. I was there for about 45 minutes, leisurely sipping hot chocolate eating my fruit scone with blueberry jam, and reading Charles Lamb. NMC isn't the quietest place to read, but sometimes I like to read in a semi-noisy place to read because it forces me to concentrate on what I'm reading. There were a couple of people who were, like me, reading, but many of the people there were chatting with friends. They were playing Ella Fitzgerald in the background, and had a fantastic light fixture hanging above the long wooden slab tables. I can only handle reading in a noisy crowd for so long, so I skipped off to find another spot.

Assessment: great place to read if you don't mind the crowd. I was there during lunch hour, though, so I might try again at a not-so-busy time of day. Good hot chocolate, good scones, good music.

2. I didn't have to go very far to find a quiet spot. St Martin's in the Fields church is almost next door to Notes Music Coffee, and as I passed by, I realized that a church would probably be a perfect place to settle down for a bit. I was right. Architecturally speaking, St Martin's is an impressive structure, especially from the outside. The inside is more understated, though, and except for the carved, vaulted ceilings, it's quite simple and plain. Also, the windows are very interesting: there's no stained glass, only paneled glass. The east window, behind the altar, is the same simple paneled glass, but it's designed to look like the image of a cross reflected on the water, so the steel framework is warped and bent around in the shape of a cross, but more of an understated cross. It's very unusual, and I really loved it. I didn't want to be disrespectfully snapping pictures, but you should look it up online.

That's all aside from the point. I was there to read, so I sat down and pulled out my book. There was a string quartet in the church rehearsing for an upcoming Vivaldi concert (it was actually that evening), so I read whilst basking in the glorious silence of the crowd and the glorious music of the instruments. It was perfect, and I took a moment to thank heaven for beautiful music, beautiful churches, and beautiful reverence. I read there for almost two hours, and when I left I was reluctant to get up.

So far, those have been my two favorite spots. Maybe another day I'll tell you about my worst spot. But today, only the best.