Literary City Guide: London

London perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play and a story and a poem, without any trouble, save that of moving my legs through the streets… To walk alone through London is the greatest rest.
— Virginia Woolf
  Photo by Elena Bowes. See more on  London's Literary City Guide .

Photo by Elena Bowes. See more on London's Literary City Guide.


Shortly after Eat This Poem began in 2012, I told you about a trip I took to London. It was a nostalgic trip for me, walking familiar streets (and sitting in the same squares as Virginia Woolf), seeing favorite museums, and stopping by the building where I took most of my classes while studying abroad. One thing was certain: I loved the city just as much as when I left it. 

Just over a year ago, I visited London again for the first time in eight years. Except for my favorite cafe in Bloomsbury that had closed, the city hadn’t changed. There was still soot on the churches, black cabs darting through narrow streets, a hint of gray light as the sun starts to set. This time, no longer on a student’s budget, we had afternoon tea at the Dorchester. It had all the pomp and circumstance you’d expect like perfectly tender scones and smoked salmon sandwiches. But what I love most about afternoon tea is the state of mind.

There’s something about it, isn’t there? Pausing from work from 3:30 to 4 pm each day, brewing a dark cup of tea, watching cream swirl in the teacup, taking that first, hot sip. It truly helps you relax and ease into things. It’s the perfect time for a mental break, too, when you can let yourself wander, mull over a creative project, or daydream. I wish we took this ritual more seriously in America, that it was part of our culture so that not having tea would seem, well, uncivilized. A girl can dream.
— from "Simple Scones," January 30, 2012

These images are from my 2008 trip, and when fellow American and long-time London resident Elena Bowes got in touch with me asking if she could put together a London literary guide, I couldn't wait to host one of my favorite cities on Eat This Poem permanently, and revisit some of my favorite memories.

Elena is from San Francisco, but moved to London in the late eighties and has never left. She brings a thoughtful perspective to the guide, from her favorite local coffee shop to the best way visitors can follow in the footsteps of London's famous writers. 

Brew a cup of tea, then take our next tour!