Prague and London: Part 9

It was our last day of the trip and last day of 2016!

We started the day with a trip to Portobello road to check out the Saturday market! What a blast we had. It’s fun to wander through and find all sorts of amazing artifacts of the past, from old maps of English counties, beautifully designed metal stamps to Alice in Wonderland illustrated cigarette cards. One stall sold old school boxing gloves and china, while others sold beautiful purses. We even saw some original Banksys that had been covered in plexi-glass, presumably to prevent people from chiseling them off the wall and selling it for millions at auction houses. Around the market, we saw at least two “Unofficial Banksy shops,” which were selling t-shirts and photos of his work. For all we know they could be the real deal or not.  We wandered the full length of the market, watching the goods range from antiques to clothing.We stopped for lunch and had a tasty platter of cheese and tea, a nice break from our wanderings.

Then it was off for a Spy and Spycatchers walking tour with London Walks. I’ve talked about them previously. They are a walking tour company that has 40+ walks covering lots of topics in London, from Jack the Ripper, Harry Potter, to Ghost stories, etc. Each tour is immensely satisfying and reasonably priced. But prepare to walk! We try to do one tour with them each time we are in London. This time, we were interested in spy history and literature. The walk centered around the West End where real life spy history and spy fiction intertwined at times. We learned that one of the pivotal scenes were filmed for John LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with Alec Guinness, was also the place of a pipe shop that Russian agents went to to buy one of the English traitors his pipes and tobaccos after he defected.

We learned the locations of various MI5 and MI6 buildings in the area. Every time they moved, the building was razed completely, presumably, to check for any bugs or any files that may have been mislaid. These buildings would be forgotten on maps but everyone knew where they were any way. We did learn about how an actor named M.E. Clifton James was asked to impersonate Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery as part of British intelligence deception plan. That’s simply marvelous. David Niven left Hollywood to enlist and worked in British intelligence as well!

A delightful tour as always.

That evening we spent at our usual New Year’s Haunt of Sarastro, a Turkish restaurant that is an aesthetic combination of harem and opera house. We wore masks, played with poppers, and drank champagne as we rang out the old year and our trip!

That’s all for now! Next week, I’ll talk about our short trip to Brinsom, Minnesota to go dogsledding!

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