Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Birthday Pub Crawl

I was rudely awoken at 7am on Saturday. 7am wasn't the problem. It was the fact that it was Saturday and it was my birthday. Luckily there was good reason for the rude awakening- a long overdue sports massage at the only slot available. So after the myotherapist had a field day on my twisted leg muscles, I was offered an amazing breakfast, some spare time and then a trip into the city for a tour of the pubs I've been meaning to see for ages: the oldest in London. I've wanted to visit the pubs with literary associations or where notable figures were regulars.

Deneil and I started the day at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese in Fleet St.

Rebuilt in 1667 after the great fire, the vaulted cellars are thought to be part of a 13th century monastery. Goldsmith, Tennyson, Doyle and Dickens used to hang out there in their respective times but there's no proof that Johnson did, despite his crib being 200m away. With detective work Doyle could have used, I came to the conclusion that Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was a dump back in the day. If I lived that close to a pub but didn't frequent it, it must be crap.

Unfortunately that's as far as my Sherlock Holmes ability went. When Curty and Eva appeared at the bar I thought of it as nothing more than coincidence. But when Brett also 'coincidentally arrived' I was onto it. Deneil had organised a surprise pub crawl.

After Wendel and Seabrook arrived we moved on to the Cittie of Yorke.

There has been a pub on this spot since 1430 but the building was rebuilt in 1920. Its a huge hall with tiny cubicles on the side, which are rumoured to have been used by lawyers for consultations.

After Clare arrived we moved onto the newest looking pub, which claimed to be 'the oldest licensed premise in London'. The White Hart.

Apparently the White Hart was first licenced in 1216, and being so close to the Old Bailey it has been the final stop for those about to face the noose. The website mentions Dick Turpin as a patron just prior to his hanging- mildly misleading given he was hanged in York after over a year of living up there. Regardless of the history, the present was amazing as another 10 or so friends were waiting there for us. We had some food and moved onto one of the first pubs I went to when I got to London, the Lamb and Flag.

Apparently over 300 years old, this used to be called The Bucket of Blood because of the bare fist fights that took place here. In 1679 John Dryden was attacked in the alley way and now one of the rooms in the pub is called the Dryden Room. Once again, thanks to Deneil's immaculate planning more friends arrived. By this stage I was able to spend a good amount of time with people as their arrival was staggered throughout the day. The last stop for the evening was one of the most revered bars of London- Gordon's Wine Bar.

Established only in 1890, it is thought to be one of the oldest wine bars in the world. Before becoming a wine bar, the building was the residence of Samuel Pepys. The inside was very busy so we managed to get a table outside. Great bar and great cheese, and with all the excitement I managed to sip on a white port. There you go mum, there's hope for me yet.

On the way home, inspired by local history, Deneil and I took the long way and checked out a few laneways in Chiswick.

I don't know the history of them, although with the amount of reading and exploring I did in Chiswick when I wasn't working, I would certainly like to find out.

Thanks very much to everyone who came along. It was an awesome surprise. I had no idea this was being planned. Incredible thanks to Deneil who knows me so well, I fear her impending boredom as our lives progress! Thanks also to Wikipedia- you didn't think I wrote this blog off the top of my head, did you?

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