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Eat Like a King at Fortnum & Mason

Eat Like a King at Fortnum & Mason

I walked from Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly Circus after I finished my shift at Benjamin Franklin House this afternoon.  My destination was the flagship branch of Waterstones bookstores, then Fortnum & Mason.  Waterstones is located in the former Simpsons of Piccadilly, a smallish department store that served as the model for Grace Brothers in the long-running Britcom “Are You Being Served?”  The Piccadilly branch of Waterstones has more than eight miles of bookshelves spread out over six floors.  It’s the largest bookstore in Europe.

I spent a couple of happy hours browsing through the travel, cooking, and children’s sections.  I managed to restrain myself and only bought two books.  I’ve only been in London for four weeks, and I’ve already managed to acquire a dozen books.  At this rate, I’ll have to start jettisoning clothes and other non-essentials from my suitcases in order to get them all home.

After my visit to Waterstones, I continued down Piccadilly, past the Ritz Hotel to Fortnum & Mason.  Fortnum & Mason was founded in 1707.  It bills itself as the most luxurious department store in the world, and has two Royal Warrants for supplying members of the British Royal Family.  Fortnum’s is famous for its food halls full of teas, chocolates, smoked salmon, and other expensive fare.  It even has four beehives filled with Welsh black bees on its roof, and there’s a waiting list for the annual harvest of honey from the six-foot tall hives.

If you’re in the mood to indulge, you can buy a Fortnum’s gift hamper for your picnic in Hyde Park.  You can also have one shipped anywhere in the world if you want to send someone a care package.  Prices for the famous wicker hampers marked with the F & M monogram start at around £50.  The more elaborate ones cost thousands of pounds.  Fortnum & Mason’s hampers travelled all over the British Empire during Queen Victoria’s reign.  They even accompanied the first British expedition to Mount Everest.

My feet were starting to give out after running up and down four flights of stairs at Franklin House all day, walking to Piccadilly Circus, and browsing in Waterstones and Fortnum’s for several hours.  I knew it was time to hobble to the Green Park Tube station and head for home.

Now that it’s getting dark so much earlier, I often see foxes darting across the road when I’m walking home from the bus stop in the evening.  Once I even saw one trotting down the sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon.  These are urban foxes, and they’re all over London.  Children’s stories and cartoons are full of wily foxes trying to raid hen houses, but apparently foxes don’t eat cats.  There are plenty of plump, well-fed pet cats wandering around our neighborhood, but they haven’t turned into anyone’s dinner yet.

There was a fox ahead of me as I was walking up Russia Dock Road tonight.  It skittered right past a big fluffy cat sitting on the sidewalk.  Neither the fox nor the cat batted an eye.  I was surprised when it didn’t stop to check out the prospective entrée, but I was glad I didn’t have to rescue the cat.  I assume London cats are tough cookies if the urban foxes don’t want to mess with them!

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