In London, pubs for the British are the equivalent of coffee shops for Americans. Each has its own personality, and the doors are open for anyone who wants to relax and socialize. I wanted to go where the average Brit would go. Museums are great for history, but pubs are where I went to observe culture and a new way of life.
From the outside, The Marlborough Arms looks like the office belonging to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol. In reality, it is a British pub and a perfect location for late-night socializing with our small bed-and-breakfast right around the corner.
When the seven American students walk through the door into the neighborhood pub, it is obvious that we are new to the area, but the bartender is gracious. It is 4:30 p.m. We order a round of espressos and cappuccinos to sip as we wait for the kitchen to open at 5.
Next to the entrance are two slot machines trimmed with dark mahogany wood to match the decor of the rest of the small building. The lighting fixtures are low-hanging lamps; single bulb with curved lamp shades and hanging tassels. Liv, one of my companions on the trip, critiques the lighting. “Those lamps look like hookers,” she says.
As the night goes on, the pub gets busier. Everyone who walks through the door is greeted by either the bartender or one of the two waiters. At the bar are a group of men fresh off of work, sipping pints of Heineken. They converse in between the major plays of a rugby game being played on hanging TV’s. In the corner are three college-aged girls sipping glasses of wine and working on a film project. They lean over a laptop as they write the script. Their blunt-cut bangs and bohemian dresses seem to glow in the dim lighting of the room.
I nurse my first European espresso and enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the place. In the corner is a couple tucked into one of the black booths. They want privacy, and they get it. The only nosy people in the room are the Americans with their journals at the ready, hoping to catch culture on their pages.