After my first week in London, I've learned the importance of the "take away" or food to go. With a pub on nearly every corner and a cafe in between, it's hard to believe that other options would be necessary. But Londoners love their sandwiches, and so enters Pret A Manger. Pret offers the rare combination of all-natural, freshly made, fast food. It is a Starbucks, a Panera, and a convenience store all wrapped in one. It may be the only thing that rivals the London pubs in terms of the sheer number of them.
The love of sandwiches in London doesn't begin and end at Pret. Many small convenience stores and grocery stores offer a plethora of prepared sandwiches, salads, and fruits. This is a city where people make several trips to the grocery store during the week, often buying just enough for a few days. Prepared meals are also popular with business people, many of them commuters.
I've learned a few things on the pub front as well. For starters, you order everything at the bar (including food) and pay in advance. If you wait for table service, you're going to get awfully thirsty! Next, you don't necessarily tip the staff, unless it's just the change from your bill. They earn a better wage than wait staff in the States. And finally, the beer is just a bit colder than room temperature, and it's served everywhere in London - the train, museums, even McDonald's!