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While there may not be a shortage of trendy new places to drink at in London, there’s something to be said for a good ol’ fashioned pub. Samuel Smith’s is a chain of pubs all over the U.K. (with dozens in London alone) that offers just that: a hearty pint, often drunk by the fire in an old Victorian building.
Pub culture is huge in the U.K. and it’s one of Gaurav and my favourite parts of living in London. We never grow tired of finding old pubs where we can while away an afternoon with beer and good conversation. Samuel Smith’s pubs are some of the ones we love the most – not least because of the no phones/laptops/electronics ban inside AND the fact that they only serve beers from the Samuel Smith’s brewery! So come along on a pub crawl with us of these 6 amazing Samuel Smith’s pubs you should be sure to check out when in London:
1. The Lyceum Tavern
(354 The Strand, WC2R 0HS)
Your first stop on your Sam Smith’s pub crawl is the Lyceum Tavern! Located just across Waterloo Bridge, this fantastic little pub is centrally located and the perfect stopping off point once you’ve hit one of the many cool brunch spots nearby. What’s so great about the Lyceum Tavern? Well, it has your standard, reasonably priced variety of Samuel Smith’s beers, beautiful wood panelling inside, and cute little nooks for getting cozy on a winter’s eve.
2. The Chandos
(29 Saint Martins Lane, WC2N 4ER)
The Chandos is one of the liveliest Samuel Smith’s pubs in the area – mostly due to its proximity to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Featuring multiple floors for drinking and eating (with a bar on each level), beautiful coloured glass windows, and lots of cozy seats, this is a favourite among tourists and locals alike. Be aware that the pub gets quite crowded after 1pm on the weekends, so if you’re looking for a quieter experience, try popping in before then!
3. The Angel
(61 St. Giles High St., WC2H 8LE)
A 10 minute walk further into Convent Garden will bring you to The Angel, one of the busiest pubs in the area due to its spectacular location. The Angel has a couple unique features you’ll notice in some Samuel Smith’s pubs: the first are the signs and beer coasters everywhere warning patrons against getting out their phones and other electronics. That’s right, this pub is an electronics free zone! The second is the multiple entrances that will lead you to separate parts of the pub. Supposedly, this is a throwback to a time when men and women were segregated from one another because it wasn’t proper to drink together (though it’s hard to imagine it being proper for women to be in a pub at all back in the old days). These days it’s just a fun quirk that makes deciding where you’re going to sit a bit of an adventure!
4. The Bricklayers Arms
(31 Gresse St., W1T 1QS)
The Bricklayers Arms is a bit of an odd pub. On the outside it looks like your standard old Samuel Smith’s pub, and indeed when you enter the ground floor this perception holds. However, if you head upstairs to the second floor you’ll find a newer set-up complete with minimalist sofas around a shiny modern fireplace. This doesn’t take away from the charm though; this is one pub that enforces the ‘No electronics’ rule and, due to its out of the way location on a quiet back street, tends to be a very chill place to hang out.
5. The Fitzroy Tavern
(16 Charlotte St., W1T 2LY)
The Fitzroy Tavern is one of those rare beasts that tends to get busier during the week than on weekends. This makes it the perfect watering hole for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon Samuel Smith’s pub crawl. The main level is just the sort of dark wood panelled, slightly scuffed pub spot that makes you think of drunk poets, writers, and musicians hanging out in dim corners. In fact, it’s rumoured that George Orwell used to drink here, so the Fitzroy has a bit of celebrity sheen to it!
6. The Champion
(12-13 Wells St., W1T 3PA)
You won’t have to go far to hit your final stop (which is probably a good thing if you’ve had a pint at all the previous Samuel Smith’s pubs) – a 5 minute walk will bring you to the beautiful stained glass doors and windows of the Champion. This is one of those Sam Smith’s pubs with multiple entrances. Door Number One (on the left) will bring you to the section of the pub dedicated to cricketer WC Grace, while Door Number Two offers you entry into a part of the pub where Florence Nightingale is the focus! Choose wisely, as your decision will define you…just kidding, if you’re like us you’ll want to try drinking in both sides!
Are you up for a Samuel Smith pub crawl in London? Tell us in the comments section which pub you’d like to visit!
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When my American mother turned 18, her parents gifted her a suitcase.
It was a symbol of her new independence. She was old enough to go out into the world and make her own way. And she did, eventually moving to Mexico and building a life there for more than 20 years.
When Gaurav’s Indian father was of age, his parents begged him to remain in India. Who would take care of them in their old age? They asked. The decision he made to stay was a symbol of a debt repaid: his parents had born him, raised him, and sacrificed for him, now he needed to sacrifice in turn.
Though that concept might seem outdated and difficult to grasp for a Western mind like mine, it still persists on some level today. Indian families are close-knit in ways that can be hard to understand, and it’s always fascinated me how Indian adult children juggle expat life with the needs of aging parents living on the subcontinent.
There are definitely more pressures placed on Indian children to look after their parents once they reach a certain age. And these days, with people moving around the globe at a faster and easier rate, looking after parents from afar is becoming more and more common amongst Indians of our generation.
It could be said that there is a brain drain of sorts going on in India as some of the best and brightest pack up and seek opportunities overseas. In fact, India is the top country of birth for immigrant scientists and engineers. And while I can’t think of a single person I grew up with who has moved and stayed overseas, Gaurav doesn’t know any childhood friends who haven’t. The majority have settled in the U.S., though many have gone to the U.K. and Canada as well.
Which begs the question, how do they balance the cultural demands to take care of parents with their ambitions and desires for a life abroad?
When Gaurav’s mom passed away three weeks ago, it brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings that had been simmering beneath the surface for a while. We’ve wondered if we did enough, visited enough, called enough. And we’ve also asked ourselves what is considered ‘enough’?
Gaurav and my approach to being expats with aging parents is as diverse as our differing cultures. Even though I grew up in Mexico (where families are often just as close-knit as those in India), my mindset tends towards American in this regard. My parents have often told me that they don’t need me to look after them. And I’ve always viewed them as independent adults who don’t require any meddling on my part.
Gaurav, on the other hand, has been intimately involved in his parents lives—from bills, to booking travel, to doctor appointments, he knows it all. I don’t even know the names of any medications my mom might be taking, not because I don’t care, but because our dynamic lends itself more to the idea that you don’t tell people these things unless you absolutely have to.
Gaurav manages living abroad with daily phone calls home to check in, while a phone call a week is about average for me. It’s a huge mystery to me what Gaurav could have to talk about to his parents every day, and the idea of trying to hold a conversation when there’s nothing to tell is anxiety-inducing. But then Gaurav and his parents are well-versed in the art of mundane daily chit-chat, while I and my parents feel the need to have ‘something’ to talk about.
Watching Gaurav and other Indian friends work hard at being good expat kids—from phone calls, to sending money, to having parents come stay overseas with them for months at a time—has definitely been an inspiration to me. I pick up the phone a lot more often now to call my parents, and I’m learning more and more how important it is to prioritize the people I love.
And after witnessing Gaurav go through losing his mum, I think we’ve both learned a hard lesson: our parents won’t be around forever, so why not pick up the phone and talk to them whenever we can?
It will always be a difficult line to walk, that feeling that we’re sacrificing time with our parents for a future and life abroad. I have to keep reminding myself that our happiness matters too and that quantity of time doesn’t always equate to quality. And, I’d argue, children who live abroad often go the extra mile for their parents because we’re working to make up for not being nearby.
Even then, as expats we’re left with the sense that it’s never enough. Never enough phone calls, or visits, or trips together. There’s always going to be that guilt that you didn’t do enough.
Grief is funny that way, isn’t it.