The Street Performers Of Covent Gardens Market

Our London apartment is in the Covent Gardens neighborhood, just off the Strand. It’s part of old London, centrally located and within walking distance of just about anywhere you’d want to go.

003The heart of Covent Gardens is the Covent Gardens Market. At one time it was a large food market; now it’s ringed by high-end shops, with food, antiques, and crafts sold from little stands in the market building. It’s also a place where you can easily find some talented street performers — be they jugglers, or magicians, or acrobats.

The performers put on their acts in the market building and in the surrounding squares, which form natural open-air theaters. Today Richard and I watched a guy balancing on a board who juggled two knives while also juggling and eating an apple. When his act was completed, we moved a few feet away, where another street performer balanced on a rope while tossing his hat from his foot to his head, then mounted a unicycle, road it back and forth on the rope, and juggled some knives before dismounting. Both performers kept up a snappy patter with some vintage jokes, involved members of the audience in their shows, and made heartfelt pleas for contributions when the act was ending.

Vaudeville isn’t dead, it’s just moved east to central London.

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Our Saturday Night Pub Crawl

040When it’s Saturday night and you’re in London, you’ve got to visit a local pub — or maybe two or three. Come to think of it, though, I’m not sure that it makes a difference whether it’s Saturday night or any other night of the week. Sharing in the pub experience is a crucial part of any visit to England.

042Last night the Webner men decided to take a little pub crawl, experience some of the nightlife in the Covent Gardens area, and sample some of the local beer offerings. We began our quest at the Lamb & Flag, which opened in 1623 and is reputed to be one of the oldest continuously operating pubs in the Covent Gardens area. It’s found down a twisting side street and, perhaps because its off the main drag, it was filled with locals rather than tourists.

The Lamb & Flag is just about the perfect pub. It’s small and snug, warm and welcoming, with pictures of long-time customers and perhaps former bartenders on the wall and bright holiday decorations hanging from the ceiling. There were no TVs to be seen, and no music was playing. Conversation therefore was the order of the day. We sat at the rear of the bar, chatting, and I drank an excellent Fuller’s ESB, which was my favorite beer of the night. We drank in the atmosphere, too, and spent some time talking to two friendly Brits who sold soap and crafts at the Covent Gardens market.

041Filled with good cheer and warmed by our beverage, we then struck out for a roundabout stroll that took us to the White Swan, the Angel & Crown, and the Round House. All were filled with Saturday night revelers and people leaving the Opera House and some of the playhouses in the area. Some of the pubs had TVs and music playing. I sampled a number of the seasonal brews recommended by bartenders, we munched on peanuts and crisps, and Richard, Russell and I enjoyed broad-ranging conversations about topics like the role of China in the modern world and the economic significance of the development of the concept of a limited liability corporation under British law. (Seriously!)

We ended the night back at the Lamb & Flag, for a final Fuller’s ESB and then wandered home. It was about 11 p.m., and the Covent Gardens area was just starting to celebrate the interim holiday weekend.