Random London Musings:
London is an amazing city full of heaps of things to do, see, and eat. There are tons of neighborhoods in which to stroll and admire the centuries old architecture. I love to get lost in London. But it’s not perfect.
The city is full of amazing museums. I’m not a huge museum goer and still checked out the Tate Modern (housed inside an old power plant on the banks of the Thames), the Victoria & Albert, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum (which boasts the largest covered square in Europe), and the National Gallery. They are all great and the buildings themselves were oftentimes just as impressive as the contents inside. And the best part—they are free. You can just pop in for no more than an hour and not become overwhelmed because of their size because you know you can always go back whenever you want thanks to the no-admission fee.
What is up with the eat-in/take-away differing prices? I don’t find this very fair and frankly don’t understand why this concept is still around.
All the pubs, bars, and restaurants have gone ‘smoke-free.’ I have to say it is wonderful to hang out in pubs now where it just smells like someone’s living room (not even stale beer smell) and not a smoky den that would make my clothes stink and usually make me leave early due to the inability to no longer breathe.
The London Underground does not run all night nor were there any train or bus services at all on Christmas Day. C’mon people, this is London not Albuquerque (sorry my friends in NM)! London is one of the biggest cities in the world with an incredibly diverse population who certainly don’t all celebrate Christmas and need to ‘move’ on the 25th of December. I mean even New York and Chicago have public transport still going on that day and have 24 hour trains the rest of the year.
I have traveled all over the world and had trouble reading the street names in some places in Germany or Turkey (Can you say: Mecidiyeköy? It’s pronounced Medj-i-dee-ye-kurr), but even though they are in English, some names in London are just as foreign to me. I couch surfed near ‘Tooting Bec’ tube stop. I could have eaten at the very appetizing sounding restaurant chain, ‘Slug and Lettuce,’ but didn’t. I passed pubs with names like ‘The Blue-Eyed Maid,’ ‘The Rat and Parrot,’ and ‘The Hairy Armpit.’ And I could have eaten ‘winkles and whelks’ (snails), but I didn’t.
One night I met Tony, Emma, Nick, and Sara at the Cow, a famous pub near Notting Hill. I don’t often go into bars alone as I usually feel more comfortable going solo at a café with a coffee and a book. But it was damn cold out and when I got there, the friendly, unintimidating atmosphere beckoned me inside for a quick pint. This surprisingly turned into a few pints and dinner.
The Cow was a nice corner pub (not really sure if it is on a corner though), not too trendy and not too ‘over done’ fake British. I was at a small table just across from the bar partaking in a pint and reading my trusty guidebook (Lonely Planet) just minding my own business. That is, until I started eavesdropping on the conversation next to me between two guys (one of whom had an American accent) and two gals. Their conversation had turned to Americans and how easy it is for them to find ‘legal’ work in Britain. This sparked my interest and my nerve to jump into their chat. I was feeling a kinship with my fellow American and, as always, was curious to hear his story.
I finally blurted out in my tell-tale American accent, “Please tell me where to find work because I’m an illegal American always looking.”
They laughed, introduced themselves, and in literally seconds were inviting me to join them for dinner. Tony was a documentary filmmaker in New York, Emma was an Artist. Oh, and she used to be married to George C. Scott’s son. It turned out to be another fun night and quite typical of the solo traveler who may not be alone enough to even use the word ‘solo.’
I spent the rest of my rainy and damp days in London strolling around picturesque ‘hoods like Chelsea, Hampstead, and South Kensington catching up with friends I had met during my travels around the world: a late ‘English’ breakfast with the fun English School owner I’d become friends with in Istanbul, lunch with the sweet British law student I’d cruised down the Danube with in Budapest, dinner and drinks with the charming Airline CEO I’d met years back at the British Consulate’s house in Chicago, sleeping at the flat of a cool chick I’d met on a tour of Turkey, wine and feasting with an Australian Couch Surfing Host and her cool Tasmanian friend, beers with a cute chap and fellow Crisis volunteer, dinner with a Sri Lankan/Australian I’d also met in Turkey who lives in London, and a partridge in a pear tree…