15 September 2011

foggy london town

"You sound like you're from London!"
-Paul Rudd in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Panic hit me as I waited for my train in Milano Centrale. I had heard that there were riots happening in London, but as I connected to a wireless network outside of Burger King, I found that things were really getting out of hand. A couple of my British friends were even urging me, via Facebook, to forget about the plans I'd made and not fly over.

But what are you gonna do when Baiardo's been closed down for a few days and the tickets to London and the hostel there are bought and paid for? So I took the fast train to the airport and flew into Heathrow. That was uneventful. Then I had to take the Tube (do you capitalize that? I'm going to, just out of respect) to King's Cross/St. Pancras, and then a cab the rest of the way to my hostel.

Cue reunion with Les. It was just about midnight when I arrived, so we only had a couple of hours to catch up over beers in the hostel bar. We attempted to keep the night going by wandering out to find greasy food after that (if I weren't a vegetarian, I think I would have wanted a burger), but hostel security warned us to stay inside. The only people out on the street at that time were rioters. You could tell them apart from regular people by their all-black attire as well as the fact that no one else was stupid enough to be out that late while there were riots happening.

The next day, we embarked upon a whirlwind tour of London. First, we had lunch at an Asian place where everything, even the 'meat,' was vegetarian. (Les hated this.) Then, in rapid succession, we saw: London Bridge (overrated), the Eye (been there, done that), the Houses of Parliament (boring), Big Ben (not a misnomer), Westminster Abbey (not tryna stand in line for that), Buckingham Palace (okay cool, what's next), Hyde Park (so many squirrels and pigeons!), Piccadilly Circus (is that it?), Leicester Square (see: Piccadilly Circus), Trafalgar Square (actually pretty sweet, with all its columns and lions and buskers), and the National Gallery (I thought it was amazing, but Les got bored). I think there were actually a few other places thrown in there that I can't remember, but that's the long and short of it. And it was exhausting. We hit up Tesco on our way back to the hostel and picked up some sandwiches/cheap samosas and ate them for dinner in the common room while watching terrible music videos. I was so tired, I didn't even try to find a microwave to heat up my half-frozen Indian appetizers. Lazy? You betcha.

My third day in London was a rainy one. Les and I got out our umbrellas and went shopping on Oxford Street for a few hours. Because I'd been wearing the same black dress to tutor dinners for the last few weeks (and Jeremy had started teasing me about it) I ended up getting a floor-length blue dress at River Island. Then I picked up a couple of cute tops at New Look to try and mix up my wardrobe a little bit. And then I felt kind of guilty for not seeing all of the great things there are to see in London, so we got lunch at Pret a Manger (I went with gazpacho and a wrap) and then ran on over to the British Museum for a couple of hours.

The British Museum was a little more Les' speed. I mean, it's only one of the greatest history museums in all the world (probably because most of its stuff was stolen or acquired shadily). And I get really excited about ancient treasures too. Even though I sometimes felt like I was drowning during my college Art History classes, it was so amazing to be so close to some of the world's greatest artifacts. Rosetta Stone? Check. The Mausoleum at Halikarnassos? Yep. Temple of Artemis? Yeah buddy. Those part-human, part-lion/bull things that used to stand next to gateways. Yes. The Elgin Marbles? Oooooh yeah.

When the museum closed, we went back to the hostel and grabbed a pint at the pub across the street. Then we did what I'd been hoping to do from the moment I arrived in the UK--we found an Indian restaurant and I ordered a vegetable curry. The restaurant didn't have a liquor license, so Les ran out to a shop and brought back some beer and wine, but that was no indication of how good the food was. It was actually really amazing. Pilau rice and vegetables in a lovely curry sauce, with lots of cilantro and so many incredible spices. . . I officially love Indian food. Then we had a little dessert before heading back to the hostel, where we crept on a tour group and had paper airplanes thrown at us by a German girl, a French girl, a Norwegian boy, and a guy from New Zealand.

The next morning, I got up early and went back to the British Museum. There was still so much I wanted to see, and Les wanted to sleep in. This time, I checked out a whole different section of the museum, starting with the Americas, going through Africa, and then Asia. I think I found some inspiration for when I finally return home and start painting again.

Back at the hostel, I finally watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with Les. It was pretty exciting to be right down the street from King's Cross Station while watching it. We went by there afterwards so I could take pictures at Platform 9 3/4. Les was a good sport about it even though he could not have been less interested. Then we took the tube (too lazy to capitalize it a second time) to St. Paul's Cathedral, which is so much more massive than it looks in pictures. We capped off this lazy day with burgers and fries (and the worst barbecue sauce I've ever tasted), and I fell asleep early.

Saturday was my last day in London. I had seen just about everything I'd wanted to see, so I went shopping early, ate some more Indian food with Les (I'm obsessed), and then watched my first three episodes of Mad Men ever (also obsessed now). Then it was off to Heathrow, which would be my hotel for the night. If I had a dollar for every night that I've spent on the floor of an airport or train station. . .

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