So, after much delay, here's my London trip blog. I carried around my journal with me all last week hoping to reference it to put this together, but never had time. Now I am journal-less, so here is your from memory, incomplete but hopefully still illuminating and amusing tale of my trip to the motherland.
I've spent a lot of time in London before this trip, so the touristy stuff was already taken care of. This trip was more about seeing what Liz's life of a person actually living in London was all about. And it was great! Expensive, but great!
Liz lives in Newington Green, a neighborhood in the north eastern part of the city. No tube stop, but it's close to Angel -- the neighborhood where Andrew lives and she hangs out the most. No tube meant we spend a lot of time on the buses. I am incalculably impressed that Liz has been able to interpret the bus system's density to be able to use it all the time. There are about a bajillion different lines, and the maps -- while great once you get the hang of them -- are about as clear as a Magic Eye puzzle before you know how to look through them or whatever. I think the best exposure I had to London people was on the buses. The "stereotypical London trash" (not my phrasing, but I really can't think of another way to put it) with their ridiculous accents that sound as though their tongues are 8 sizes too big for their mouths and using "f" sounds where so many other consonants would have been correct, and their pit bulls and bull terriers and their stolen DVDs poking up out of their pant waists. The children -- who ride both the buses and underground for free -- who get on in gaggles and always seem to be eating candy. And wow, I can't imagine having a baby in that city. Everyone lugs their strollers (buggies?) up onto the buses and down the super long escalators in the tube all over the place. Pregnant women must spend a large part of that preparatory 9 months lifting.
Whoa that was a long paragraph.
We revisited Regents Park, where I lived when I studied over there. It's as beautiful as ever. We also went by my favorite pub, the Hobgoblin, though didn't make it there during the window time where they're serving their delicious Thai food. I did, however, eat Indian food on Brick Lane. I've always had an aversion to Indian food -- mainly because I don't like yellow curry, I don't like safron and I'm not wild about the other flavors I'd had involved in whatever had passed for Indian food previously in my life. Andrew took Liz and I out and ordered a feast and ever last bite of it was unbelievably good. I am now an Indian food convert. Brick Lane is really cool -- all these Indian restaurants on this one narrow little street, with all the hosts and proprietors jumping out at you to try and convince you to choose their place. Offers of free drinks, discounts, bottles of wine abound. You basically stroll back and forth till you find the deal you want. Pretty sweet.
That same night we went to the Ten Bells, the pub where Jack the Ripper supposedly found his victims. If he were in that business still today, his victims would have thick black eyeliner and big tall combat boots, combined with an unexpected love of Nickel Back and Whitney Houston.
I really wish blogger had page breaks. Anyhow. We also saw a really stupid art show while we were there. The conceit was, what if Martians found earth and interpolated things about our society from contemporary art? It was all very self-serving of the curator ("Look how clever we were to write up these signs in the Martian voice about "terrestrial" society! You see that panel about communication? Isn't it clever that we wrote it all in "Martian" symbols?!?") I didn't like it much. Some of the selected works were interesting, but for the most part, not worth my 8 pounds.
Also, I got to sample just about every kind of weather London ever has. My first day there was high 60s, sunny, gorgeous. Second day -- rainy and cold. Sunday? Woke up to SNOW. A lady on the plane back told me it's the first time she's seen accumulation like that in London since the mid eighties. Of course, it melted by noon or so, but was still neat to see.
I got to get a taste of London's music venues too! We went to Scala to see Thee Silver Mount Zion Orchestra and Tra La La Band (uf) on Monday. Their songs are about 10 minutes long each, so they only played about 8 of them, but it was a good show. And the venue was so cool! From talking to Liz, Andrew & Dan about it, it seems that most of the venues were old churches or theaters, so they all have several levels of balconies and really high, ornate ceilings. The Scala was no exception to that. Still a small club space -- the floor was smaller than the black cat or 9:30's -- but high reaching. Very cool. Oh, and the sound was perfect. And the audience wasn't rude. It's really refreshing to go somewhere where the crowd doesn't chat the entire way through a performance.
And in summation... I ate lots of great food, stocked up on British sweets (digestives, milky bar buttons, etc.), drank many pints of delicious beer, played scrabble in a really cool bar with a free jukebox, walked around a ton, took about 85 naps with Liz, hung out with Russell (the latest Vienna-to-London transplant), reinvigorated my crush on Andrew (move back to D.C.!), ate fish and chips with mushy peas (mushy peas: exactly what you'd imagine they're like, only with a little less flavor), experienced a couple instances of pure, unadulterated Liz (unconsciously putting a half-full cup of coffee in her purse, and losing her Oyster -- home to her tube and bus passes, her key card to her apartment, her library card, her student ID, etc. -- on the bus), witnessed a child of about 6 call a child of about 12 "mommy", saw what I'm pretty sure was a bandage covering a recently removed vestigial tail on a barrista, and felt very good about my recent binge on Doctor Who just in time for my trip, because those people LOVE them some Doctor Who. Everywhere I went, Doctor Who mania. Oh, also, filtered coffee is damn near impossible to find over there. And when you can find it, it's kind of gross. Stick to tea and lattes, but steer clear of Americanos. Boy oh holy crap they were not good. I was also happy to discover that Virgin Atlantic still gives you the little pack with socks, a sleeping mask, toothpaste and toothbrush for your journey. And really happy that I hadn't booked on British Air while they're having their Terminal 5 crisis