Sunday, April 06, 2008

Nine

Don't forget (but then, how could you, possibly, with my frequent kindly reminders!) that we're not only going to be in Paris, we're also spending some time in London. And London means pubs. One of our London evenings is scheduled for some pub hopping, something I did not get to do when traveling with my fourteen year old son last trip, something I think Sam, the twenty two year old son who's traveling with us this time around, will enjoy immensely! As will his girlfriend Kyla. As will hubby! As will I!

Not that I plan to do a lot of drinking. I'm not a fan of over consumption. Hand me a glass of wine (or two), a magarita (just one please), a Kahlua and coffee, or other alcoholic beverage, and I can happily make it last all night. I'm also not a beer fan, which is unfortunate since the terms "pub" and "pint" (of ale) are sort of lonely without being used together. I might order myself a shandy, something my friend Kristen familiarized me with on my last trip. Those I rather like.

No, it's not the drinking that is the lure of pub hopping, it's the pubs themselves. We don't really have the equivalent here in the U.S. In our large cosmopolitan cities you have an occasional imported British or Irish pub but it's not the same out of context. That kind of pub doesn't function as a neighborhood hang out for anyone but the few nearby urban dwellers and incoming wannabes. In England, a pub is the hub (hah! I'm a poet, didn't know it!) of the village, town, street or neighborhood it is nestled in.

I can't remember the last time I even set foot in a bar here in America, but William and I had lunch in numerous pubs when we were in the UK. We even stayed in a room above one in Wales. No one takes a child into an American bar, but I felt completely comfortable with William at a pub. We usually saw a sign stating children were welcome until 8 or 9 pm, or had to be accompanied by an adult and had to be dining after those hours. Many pubs had gardens or dining room table areas as well as spots near the bar. Some looked like an older, nicer U.S. bar inside, but a lot more of them were so old and had been frequented for so many centuries that they had a sort of "no sharp edges" feel to them, like one was visiting a hobbit establishment in the heart of the Shire.

I suppose a TGIF or Applebee's Restaurant tries to provide the same combination of food, drink, and companionship opportunities, but they miss the boat somehow. They're too commercial for one, the energy is too high for another. Really the only thing that comes close to an English Pub to my mind, is the Midwestern taverns of my childhood. There was always one or two taverns in every town, no matter how small, and they all had their regular customers. And they weren't called bars, they were taverns. Maybe the East Coast has/had similar places, we don't have the equivalent out here in the West, at least not consistently. (Same thing for what we called "Supper Clubs" back east - not the same as just a "restaurant". Although, I've stumbled upon a few Italian owned places out west here that feel the same.) Hopefully Midwestern taverns still have this same sort of multi -purpose ambience, but maybe not. Maybe they were as much a part of a specific time as location.

In any case, a pub for lunch isn't quite the same experience as a pub with your mates and a few pints for the evening and that's the plan - no children allowed. (William thinks we're evil for a) counting him as a child and b) leaving him behind this time.)

3 Comments:

Blogger GreenishLady said...

Hi! Spending a bit of time visiting blogs I missed out on during One World, One Heart, and find you in the run-up to a big trip! Enjoy it all. My sisters and I are spending a weekend in Paris in May, and really looking forward to it. Catacombs? Really? Will you let me know if they're worth visiting? Have a wonderful time. And enjoy your English pub-crawl, too!

3:53 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

I'm not a bar person, but I could totally get behind that sort of pub experience! :-)

9:41 PM  
Blogger Elaine Saunders www.completetext.com said...

British pubs have never been just about drinking. Monasteries were once the focus of village life, providing a meeting place and care for the needy of the community. When Henry VIII destroyed monasteries in the 16th Century, pubs took over this role. Gossip was exchanged there, jobs sought and wages paid. Local craftsmen, trade guilds and friendly societies met in the pub. So much more than a place to buy a beer. Glad you enjoy them so much.
Elaine Saunders
Author - A Book About Pub Names
www.completetext.com

6:46 AM  

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