eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

My Photo
Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Twitter @nikonjunkie

17 June 2005

30 May 2005 :: London

Monday morning we went downstairs and were pleasantly surprised that the breakfast eggs had taken on a rather normal yellow color. In addition, the "bacon" was somewhat more cooked. After a leisurely breakfast, the group embarked on a coach tour of London with Joey narrating.

Trafalgar Square. I'm sad I never found the Texas Embassy.

Most of the sights we passed, I'd already seen/heard about on my River Cruise, so when the bus stopped to let us off, I already had an agenda. Basically, this was my last full day in London, and I was hell-bent on doing certain things. So, I ditched everyone and set out with my camera when the bus stopped at the London Eye. My first stop was to run across the bridge from the London Eye toward the Houses of Parliament - quite a long distance in my normal lazy American life, but hey, when you don't know how to work the bus system, it's close. Big Ben is quite impressive up close. (OK, I know that's the name of the bell and not the tower, but nobody knows the name of the tower, so it's Big Ben.)

Westminster Abbey is also quite impressive up close.

You're not supposed to take photographs or video inside, but that didn't stop me.

After I took an exhaustive tour of Westminster Abbey with the audioguide blabbing in my ear about the history of each and every room, I decided it would be quicker to walk to Buckingham Palace than to take the tube. This is one of many mistakes I'll make today. Once I left the Abbey, it was sprinkling. Thank God Nena convinced me to tote along my umbrella ("But my bag is so heavy." "Would you be pissed if it started to rain today and you didn't bring it?" "Good point.").

Now, my handy-dandy London pocket guide has detailed street maps and a compass, but this didn't stop me from panicking after I'd been walking for a good half hour and still came to no cross streets I recognized. I knew I was at least in the right city (Westminster), and despite the fact that I spoke English, I was too embarassed to ask anyone. ("Say, can you tell me to get to Buckingham Palace?" "You're standing right behind it." "Oh.") Finally, a throng of kids headed in one direction clued me in. Coincidentally, Memorial Day in the U.S. is also a bank holiday in the U.K., which means everybody and their entire family was out sightseeing. My lucky day! Serendipitously, I turned a corner and found I'd arrived just in time for the Changing of the Guard.

If I learned one thing today, it's good to be tall. With a crush of humanity jockeying for position at the gates, I found I could either shove people aside or just photograph over their heads. Sorry for the bad focusing on some of these - I was literally holding my hand outstretched through the bars and snapping shots. Basically, the old guards line up in formation on one end of the courtyard and march to the center.

The crowd in front of the palace is parted, and down the street comes the new guard, led by a guardsman on horseback. Then something happens inside the gates, the guard is changed, yada yada, and the old guard leaves. It's all very British, pageantry-filled and much more impressive than that, but you had to be there.

Once it was over, I decided it was time to shop, so I consulted my map and found the nearest tube station. About halfway past Green Park, I concluded this was yet another boneheaded move, as the nearest tube station in the direction I needed to go would've been a good cab ride away, but here I am, walking it in the rain.

Now cursing myself for not knowing how to read the bus lines, I finally arrive at the tube station and ride towards The Promised Land - otherwise known as Harrods. The Knightsbridge tube station pops you right out into Harrods, and (*angels sing*) I made it.

Now, I admit I've been mildly obsessed with Harrods ever since I'd visited their website and learned you can buy nearly anything there. They aren't kidding. If they don't sell it (and there's a good chance they already do), they will get it. Sorry I only got a couple of shots in the store - flashless, no less (didn't want to be the uncouth American escorted out of the store). I was starving by now, so I went off in search of the food halls. OK, if you have never been to Harrods, trust me in that you have never seen anything like the food halls.

This place is world-famous for a reason. Only slightly easier to navigate than an Egyptian pyramid, they're endless. You can find anything there, from guinea fowl to petit fours to sushi. Since I was too confused to look around more, I stopped at the sushi bar and had perhaps the freshest sashimi ever. And green tea, naturally. Cost me £20, but it was worth every penny. Er, pence. :) After filling up, I made a quick jaunt to the luxury loo, cruised the women's clothing and loaded up on Harrods souvenirs.

Somehow I was catercorner to Harvey Nic's, but I'd be damned if I could find it, so I hit up H&M (the el cheapo shopping mecca Jo and I have been trying to visit in NYC) and was somewhat disappointed. Maybe it was picked over, but I left the store with a belt, some lipglosses and not much else. :/

Since it was getting late in the afternoon and everything in Europe seems to close at 6pm, I headed over to the hotel to drop off my loot and walk to the nearby British Museum. By now, the backs of my knees feel like they could be bruised like 10-day-old bananas, the knee joints feel like I'm rubbing bone on bone, and my feet have somehow grown about a size because they're not fitting in my Pumas anymore. Still, I trudge on. You can't stay within a half mile of the British Museum and not go, and we're leaving to Paris tomorrow.

Here's a Mercedes A-series I saw on the way to the British Museum.

That fella walking in the picture stopped with his girlfriend to ask if we had those in the States (gee, how'd they know I was American??). I laughed, said no, and said the people back home would think it was funny-looking. Right then, the girlfriend pipes up with, "My mother drives one." Still, they were quite friendly and chatty, even after I insulted the woman's mom's car and all. The lady said she'd always dreamed of moving to Texas! By now I was really in love with London - long walks aside - so I thought she was nuts but anyway, very nice people.

Tada! The British Museum. A hella big monument to all those dastardly imperialists (no, not us - the Brits) pillaged from the rest of the world. Filled with antiquities, artifacts, mummies (even mummified cats), priceless treasures - and oh yeah, the Rosetta Stone, one could spend days wandering the halls. Since I could hardly walk, I gave it about an hour & a half.

The impressive, light-filled atrium of the British Museum:

The Rosetta Stone, a major archaeological find that helped translate Egyptian heiroglyphics into the vernacular:

Detoured a few feet into the park at Russell Square on my way back to the hotel. Gorgeous spring day. I'm trudging along, only to stop and call my parents from one of those red phone booths to announce that yay, I now have arthritis in both knees! Somehow on the trip, I managed to set down and misplace the Union Jack flipflops I just bought. :(

After a woefully quick rest (and very hot bath!) in the hotel, Nena and I decided to go out for Indian food before the group journeyed out to the West End's Aldwych Theatre to watch a musical - "Fame." The chicken tandoori was delicious but before I knew it, we were running to meet the group for our "short walk" (damn you, Joey!) to the West End theater. Nena, me, Audrey and Tiffany before the show - I'm looking rather deranged here (I blame the painkillers):

I started to nod off in the first hour, as I always do in the theater no matter how exciting or entertaining the show, but I rebounded and perked up near the end. I'd never been to a Broadway show, and the West End is the next best thing, so I really enjoyed it (once I woke up, that is). Since there was no way in hell we were walking back, we hopped a double-decker bus - a true London experience (and all of us went flying when the bus stopped abruptly). No trip to London is complete without hopping on a double-decker bus!

It seems my family name hails from the good ol' U.K., and you can't turn a corner without seeing it. EVANS, EVANS, EVANS. Besides the venerable Harrods-rival department store D.H. Evans - and apparently a car dealer named something-or-other Evans, here were a few random pictures I snapped:

Today's Lessons:
1. Eating out in Europe is an experience (read: allow twice as much time as you would in America).
2. Always carry an umbrella in London.
3. Objects on the map may appear closer than they actually are.
4. Things in Europe close early, so plan on your major sightseeing/shopping to end around 6pm, not 9pm. On the plus side, you will most likely be out of money by this point anyway.
5. Food in England is pretty damn good - if you know where to look.

Home | Next day >>>


Post a Comment

<< Home