July 1 2009, 10:04 AM
Day 2London is a fashionable city, and especially having confined my walking to the West End, I felt extra unstylish. I only met one person in my 4-bed dorm at the Quest Hostel, where I slept last night--an Italian guy named Flavio who was in London for a week, mostly to shop. In the evening, I was talking to him a little bit, and told him I liked the pants that were in a bag by his bed. He got excited and said that they're on sale at some place called Topman, right outside the Oxford Circus station (where most nice big stores seem to be), and cost only 1.5 pounds. Although I asked him again if he really meant that they cost less than 2 pounds, I think we had a miscommunication, because this morning I went to that store and they were 15 pounds. I still bought them, and also a sweatshirt. That took a while, and I felt silly. I wasn´t due to meet Karl at our new hostel (Palmer's Lodge) until 2pm, so I went to the British Museum for a little bit. Unfortunately, I only had time to see the Egyptian stuff, which was 100% impressive. Seeing really ridiculous stuff like giant heads and winged lions and giant pyramids and mummification made me think about how our culture is also ridiculous with its news shows and CGI movies and cubicles in really tall buildings and plastic surgery. I met Karl, we checked in to our room (a 6-bed dorm), rested a bit, then went to the West End where I walked around yesterday, this time looking for fish and chips. Once again, there weren´t any dedicated fish and chips places, it´s just pub fare. We ended up at a place called White Horse, where I got fish n' chips and a London Pride beer, which was creamily delicious. I think after we walked around a bit more, and then got on a tour bus that took us all around town and showed us how far its glories spread. Karl was nodding off to sleep for some of it. There were fascist obnoxious drunk germans at the back of the bus, and a nice New Jersey family at the front. The husband told us to become federal investigators, because of the pension. I think we just went home and slept after that. Oh, we also went to the hostel bar, but nothing was happening. We also took a surprisingly long time trying to sink two pool balls in. What the English call pool is not what we call pool; that´s billiards. I think at some point in the day we also drank like 15 pounds worth of lemonade because we kept refilling the 1.50 cup before paying for it, and threw a frisbee around. Day 3We got too late of a start and missed breakfast, and the Tube line our hostel is on was undergoing maintenance, so we waited for a while for a bus and then in traffic. We got off at Baker Street (where Sherlock lived or worked--I can´t remember), and spotted a sweet cafe that served Full English Breakfast for like five quid (that´s pounds). A Full English breakfast, advertised in a lot of cafes, consists of an egg, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, and tea. Ours was delicious, and made us feel so full that we just wanted to sit down. Since Karl had to go to some out-of-the way train station (Liverpool) to buy his ferry ticket to Rotterdam, or so he thought, we decided to get on the Tube and go there. Unfortunately, we ran into massive closures and delays, and stations that felt like the intro to Half-Life 2. Finally, we made it there, Karl was given a phone number to call, and I just hung out for a while, and ran into my first pay toilet in Europe. Eventually, we made our way to the West End, and walked down to Westminster Bridge to do a guided walk that was described in a book by Rick Steves, a chapter of which was in my possession. The Houses of Parliament is probably the most impressive building I have seen. It's incredibly ornate--Karl and I pretended to have trouble believing that reality is a powerful enough graphics engine to render it. So to speak! Then, as a detour from the guided walk, which would have taken us by Downing Street and some military buildings and up to Trafalgar Square, we walked over to Westminster Abbey. A terrible affliction beset me here: thousands of tiny fruit flies kept landing on my yellow shirt, seriously freaking Karl out. He eventually freaked me out, and so I had to take off my shirt in the middle of everything and shake it out and stuff. But when I put it back on, they kept landing on it! Thinking that they were coming from my bag, I took my shirt off and went through my bag one by one item, but it was all clean. The shirt meanwhile, was covered by more flies. We figured out that they were attracted to the color, and noticed it on other people and also (unpleasantly) on the hood of my sweatshirt, which I was wearing in lieu of the t'shirt which I left somewhere in Westminster. In the confusion I had forgot the guidebook by the Abbey. So instead of finishing the tour, we just walked back to Oxford Circus to buy t-shirts. Properly clothed again, I was ready to do the next thing on our list: see a play or a musical. There was a sweet Waiting for Godot playing at some theater, with Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, but they didn´t have any non-obstructed seats available. We ended up seeing Avenue Q, which was a silly decision I guess because of how American it is. Then again, all the other musicals they have are also American. Before the play, we ate another basket of fish and chips, and this time I got Guinness and then a Spitfire. After the play, we walked through Soho trying to find a bar or a club or something to go to, but they were all full of people who were a little too old for us, except for one, where they were too young. We just got belgian waffles and a coffee. While we were sitting in front of the awesome theater that was showing We Will Rock You, a Queen musical, this young guy started talking to us. He asked what I was listening to? I said Animal Collective. He said, What the hell is that? I didn´t know what he wanted from us, so I said Electronic. That set him off on a long argument that music needs not only the brain but also the heart. Periodically he threw in that Michael Jackson was a paragon of music, so maybe he was drunk and grieving. He was really nice, though, but we didn´t do anything but agree with him. Eventually, we made it back to the hostel, where Karl was just going to spend the night in the lounge and I was going to hang out a bit and then get a bus to the Luton airport in time for my 5:30 check-in to Lisbon. We met three girls from Florida who just arrived, but they were going to bed. From them I learned about some district called Camden that´s like Capitol Hill in Seattle, except infintely better, I imagine. We wanted to go out there, but by the time we got ready, it was too late for me to make it back and catch my bus comfortably. While I was waiting for Karl, I introduced myself to some girl in the lounge, and for the rest of the night we hung out in the front yard with her and her friend, both from Germany, and a local fox who ate the potato chips we fed it. I don´t get why, but they offered us a place to stay if we were ever in their town. I guess we should have said something simillar, but I don´t think we yet understood how quickly people become friends while travelling. I don´t think I understand it still. At last, it was time for me to go catch the 3:20am bus to the airport.