London was calling but it wasn't Big Ben or the London Eye I needed to experience.More Travel for connoisseurs
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PERTH'S SMALL BARS
WHERE TO DINE IN PARIS
While my family visited friends in the countryside I dived back on the train for a final fling in the vibrant capital.
The fine weather had finally arrived, even though it was officially autumn, and as I headed into London I had only one thing on my mind.
I wanted to experience pie and mash at one of the traditional shops. But why was the urge so strong? The answer was simple. In Madrid you try cerveza (beer) and tapas. Dublin tempts travellers with Guinness and oysters. For me, the quintessential London meal had to be pie and mash followed by a steaming mug of tea.
This simple dish has been feeding Londoners since the 19th century and is still the staple diet for many workers in the East End.
My first stop was Camden market for the chance to pick up a memento of England before my imminent departure back to Australia. The temptation to eat while ambling through the cobbled alleyways was hard to ignore.
The smell of freshly roasted coffee beans wafted through the labyrinth of trinket shops from the open-air food court, where eager sellers held out free portions of spicy chicken to entice the hungry.
Leather loungers and low wooden tables were spread out on the courtyard with offers of succulent Mongolian lamb on display. But I held my nerve and headed out of the market into the busy high street.
These days it's harder to find a pie and mash shop, but not impossible. Londoners love to show off their city and a chirpy street cleaner pointed me in the direction of the nearest eatery.
The clientele were a mixture of fluorescent-clad workers and inquisitive travellers merged together around small melamine tables. Workers chatted about The X Factor and played with their smartphones. Travellers talked about Tube trains, the unseasonal weather and the next museum on the list. The common theme was a love of pie and mash.
I savoured every morsel; even the jellied eel sauce smothered over the crisp pastry. By now the lunchtime workers were dispersing and I had the shop window to myself. I grabbed my tea and watched the world go by.
Locals ambled past, businessmen marched past, and lost travellers stopped outside the window to interrogate maps.
Refreshed from the experience, I stumbled into bright sunshine and saw some bikes for hire. They were the legendary Boris bikes, unofficially named after the enigmatic mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
They are free for the first 30 minutes and £1 for each hour. Within moments I was whizzing past black cabs and racing past street signs my children would recognise from Monopoly. I didn't care where I was going.It felt good to be part of London.