Monday, January 25, 2010

London Calling

Ladies and gents, I'll be frank. While I have not forgotten anything about Europe, there remain things I will have to leave out in order to keep to the main points. I went to London for two reasons. I wanted a good ‘ol fashioned European vacation since I had never been to the continent before, and I wanted to visit someone I was in a relationship with at the time. Since things have changed since then, I will do my best to recall only the relevant information.

was an incredible beginning to the trip! I had never been so happy to see a beautiful, rainy landscape before my plane descended through the clouds over London. I have been on a plane many times before, but this particular decent was spectacular. It was difficult to comprehend I was finally in Europe even as the pure green pastures quickly turned into the busy streets of London below me. I even made an audible, nonsensical noise of excitement when I saw the vehicles on the lanes of the road reverse to those of the Unites States.

The transit from Heathrow Airport to my hostel was an easy one. If you have to stay in a hostel, I recommend St. Christopher’s Village near downtown London. Of course, I didn’t spend a ton of time there because I greatly took advantage of exploring the city. That first night I went out on the town and instead of eating traditional English food, went for an Italian ristorante near Trafalgar Square. Don’t scold me just yet, I got my fill of fish and chips, bubble, beer and all that jazz! The days at this point all kind of blend because it has unfortunately been a while since the trip. I know I was in London for five and a half straight days, went to Paris for two, and returned for another three days.

Those eight days in London were incredibly memorable. Museums, plazas, cathedrals, landmarks and pubs, you name it; I saw it. Public transportation was amazing, and it was easy to get from one place to another by use of the Underground or the classic red double-decker buses. If and when you go to London, make sure you bring an umbrella. You will need it. It rained a good majority of the time, and while some entire days were rainy, many times it was only the mornings that were overcast. Even when sunny, it was quite cold in November, and I had to buy a scarf before walking along the Thames River. My pea coat helped in unimaginable ways between the material and collar. Oh, and how could I forget about CCTV? Basically the government had cameras everywhere. Like Big Brother. In one case, I even witnessed two rather large men crammed in a Smart Car sitting on a side street for hours with a CCTV camera attached to the top. Strange to say the least.

There really is a lot to see from the Thames, and while I did not spend a lot of time alongside it, most places of significance I visited had a clear view of the river. The Houses of Parliament (Big Ben and all) was an amazing sight at night, with the London Eye directly across the Thames. The London Eye is similar to a large Ferris wheel with large capsules in which people can move freely and take pictures. It was difficult to get clear shots with a camera at night, so try to figure out your settings before excursions. Big Ben was a lot smaller than I thought it actually was, but I suppose you could blame “The Great Mouse Detective” on making it seem gigantic. The architecture was amazing, and the detail that went into even the most basic surfaces of the towers and walls is clearly visible. Buckingham Palace was no exception and was quite a sight to stumble upon coming out of Green Park (I know, such an original name). The skyline of London was filled with cranes and construction rigs because the city seemed to be growing constantly. It was also interesting to see the many types of bridges across the Thames as well, including London Bridge, Millennium Bridge and the famous Tower Bridge.

Now I am very interested in art, and if you are too you can relate to this next bit quite well. Coming out of the London National Gallery, I felt as though my mind and soul had expanded exponentially every few minutes I was inside. Full of original Van Gogh’s and Monet’s among Flemish era paintings and Renaissance portraits from around Europe was awesome in the true meaning of the word. As astounding as that was, I was literally speechless when it came to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I feel confident in saying St. Paul’s was my favorite sight in London. It looks amazing from the outside, towering above the neighboring buildings and lit up by night. But the inside is just mind-numbing. I took no pictures because it is something you just have to see for yourself. The dome is surprisingly high and I wondered to myself how the artists actually did work on the seemingly impossible places to reach. Traversing the steps to the very top is a chore (you may actually die, there are so many), but the view is so worth it. Here is a view from one of the outer levels.

Before I left on the trip, someone had told me that food in England is virtually none and they serve you nothing but cucumber sandwiches and tea at every meal. I was pretty sure those in the UK were human and needed food just as much as anyone, so that idea was out. Sure enough, I was able to partake of many kinds of food including, but not limited to, pasta and white wine, pork burgers with mustard that will clear your sinuses, fish and chips with a pint of Guinness, two pound meal deals, and a traditional English breakfast. Yes, I was serious about the mustard, that stuff will rid you of sinus problems forever it’s so spicy. Two pound meal deals are the way to go if on a tight budget. Two pounds you get a sandwich (or pasta), chips and drink of your choice- available at most grocers. The English breakfast was a far shot from cucumber sandwiches and consisted of [inhale] eggs, mushrooms, a couple cooked tomoatoes, four pieces of toast, beans (for the toast), a sausage or two, bacon if ordered, and bubble, which consists of potatoes, carrots, cabbage, corn and other vegetables mashed up and cooked like hash browns [deep breath]. As you can see by the picture to the right, some items in the market were not particularly appealing. Not repulsive enough to make me skip the pork sandwich though. I also had the opportunity to try some seasonal ale at a pub: Doomsbar and Broadside. The former was delicious while the latter was a little too much to handle on the tongue. There are so many options when it comes to food and dessert if you go to a market. I had the most delicious steak burger EVER at the local market by the hostel. The markets at Brick Lane also have a lot of food, candies and cool clothes if you’re in the shopping/walking aimlessly mood. You’re bound to run into something or someone interesting.

Speaking of interesting people, I’m going to be completely honest in my observations here, okay? I know people say the British are, for the most part, some of the most unattractive bunch you’ll ever cross paths with. And well, it’s … mostly true. I’m sorry, I mean everyone has a different taste I suppose, but really attractive people must have been very few and really far between. However, they all had amazing style. They will completely blow you away when it comes to style, I don’t care if you’re Tim Gunn. Well, maybe not, but you take the most nerdy, most underdressed clown in London and compare him or her to the best dressed American and you still may have a hard time calling it even. Stylish though they were, most people in London seemed closed off and rather cold to interaction. It’s almost as if most people had business to attend to, and didn’t want you to be any part of it. That mostly was apparent on public transportation and other areas by the financial districts. But I guarantee you, if you go for a good time, you will find it. The nightlife seemed pretty active and most cafes and landmark areas seemed friendly as well. I will undoubtedly be making a trip back there, and have added surrounding areas to the list of must-go places. I am definitely going to be planning trips to Ireland, Scotland, and other cities in the United Kingdom over the next couple years. I’m actually already thinking about Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day 2011, so if that sounds like something you may want to take part in, contact me!

In the meantime, feel free to discuss London further with me, as I’m sure I didn’t cover all the ground in this post like I did while actually there. Feel free to check out more pictures at Coming soon will be more on the beautiful city of Paris, so stick around and be amused! If you are not amused, suck it up and go there yourself! You’ll have a great time, trust me.

1 comment:

Diego Hernandez said...

Awesome overview my friend; I really enjoyed reading that.