I wish I could say that the song ‘London’s Calling’ by the Clash was playing and I dropped everything I was doing and rushed off to the vibrant capital of what I believe is the best country in the world…BRITAIN!
Having been obsessively planning my 2012 travel plans for the last 2 months, I started to feel drained so there’s one remedy for that…travelling in the UK!
I really wanted to see one my my very good friends, Jennifer, in Southampton but due to outrageous increasing train fares and petrol rises, it was looking not really feasible.
However, catching the funfare section on the National Express website, I managed to get travel tickets to London and encouraged Jennifer to do the same. She did. Check out my experience on the National Express Coach.
However, as she could only come for the day, I decided to kill two birds with one stone by seeing my London based friends as well and I was determined that they should take me to the real London…not Tourist London. I’ve waved at the Queen in Buckingham Palace too many times to remember and hung around Covent Garden checking out all the street acts that you cannot really avoid to bump into!
Arriving in London Victoria dark in the night, I traipsed forward to the Underground station to one of the many London Hotels and realised that looking down on my myself, I positively screamed tourist…I was wearing a thick woolly jumper, outdoor trousers, clunky boots, a very bright silly hat and a big massively backpack on my shoulders. Hmm, prime pickings for any scammers! I certainly felt out of place as I surveyed all the beautiful and very well dressed people rushing around seemingly with a cup of coffee welded into their hands and animately chatting on the phone with their other hand.
But moving quickly into the Underground, I smiled. I’ve yet to see a quiet Central Underground Station. This was absolute carnage. It was 10pm and there were still people rushing around, people looking lost, people screaming at the ticket machines. Ah, nice to be back in London.
Remember guys, to get the best out of the London Underground if you are staying for more than one day, get yourself an Oyster Card…why it’s called an Oyster I don’t know…it neither looks or feels like an Oyster, but that’s beside the point. Get one from the ticket booths and using it will give you the cheapest fares on the Underground.
Jumping on the Central Line from Oxford Circus, I brought out a book. You need something to entertain yourself on the tube if you are going to be travelling from one end to another unless you’re quite happy to make eye contact flirting..unfortunately for me, there were no one. Sad face.
Soon, I pulled into my arrival tube station, and as I climbed the stairs, Ann (of the Paris Hitch-hike fame) came round the corner and bumped into me. Hey! Yes, I would be staying with her at her pad for the weekend. Very grateful that she has decided to put me up and put up with me for 3 nights. Thanks chicken! After a good old catch up, I slept on the couch. You can say that I was Couchsurfing! (Those who don’t that term, watch out for a later post).
Waking up on Friday, Ann decided that she would take me to a regular haunt of hers. She took me to Southbank (the term to use when describing London south of the River Thames) and in we walked in what I believe is an absolutely gorgeous French cafe – Pain Quotidien. Check out the photos below!
As you can see, I treated myself to a Danish Pastry and a ‘bowl’ of Cafe Mocha. Yumminess!
Afterwards, we spotted an International Market just behind the Southbank Centre…woo woo! Embellishing my role as a backpacker, I decided to look into greater detail of what they would be selling. Check out the pics.
But I couldn’t hang around for too long as Ann had to go to work…it’s a Friday! And also I had to hightail it to Holborn to catch up with a good friend I hadn’t seen in ages, Dan.
But after a quick discussion with Ann about how I could get there by Underground or bus, I knew it was a gorgeous day and decided to walk it and go across one of the London Bridges. It was absolutely bright and the water was dazzling. Check it out!
I must be Superman otherwise I wouldn’t have got to the meeting point early but I decided to get snap happy at the things I feel resemble London. You may remember one of these pics on the Funky Friday Photo Post.
As it was his lunch break, Dan took me for a burger in Canada…no I jest, he took me to a Canadian Pub – The Maple Leaf. You can’t miss it in Covent Garden with a huge Canadian flag flying in front of it! Entering in, I was struck how sporty it was, cricket on one tv, ice hockey on the other and general footy and the final tv. But my eyes were for the barmaid. Happy face.
Wolfing down the burger, Dan and I caught up quickly and he gave me really useful advice about how to develop this travel blog. He’s pretty nifty with website design and graphic design. Check him out! Dan Voss – the amazing Website and Graphic Designer!
With a few mins to spare, he told me to check out the Australia Shop. It was pretty gnarly (I used your word Ryan! JustChuckInIT) and it full of Aussie Goodness. Check out the pics. I was pretty tempted to buy a pot of vegemite but I decided against it as I would rather eat it in the true country itself.
I spent the rest of the day tracking down travel shops around Covent Garden but one really impressed me most..Stanfords. It has all the guide books you need, all the gizmos to try out and especially everything travel related! So you can imagine I spent the next 3 hours pouring over the books, maps and testing out the gizmos. And especially marvel the price of this globe!
After a confusion with Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds, we realised we had the day wrong to meet so I was left with a loose end. So off I went into the Apple Store in Covent Garden to ask about iPads for my travels. I need need need either an iPad or a netbook. Coming away with lots of info and also annoying the store supervisor by changing all their test iPads’ home pages to this blog 🙂 (got the idea from Four Jandals – Cheers guys!),
I went to the London Transport Museum for a drink.
Now, I passed this earlier and as I couldn’t afford the entrance fee, I was enraptured by their gift shop, which has a proper working traffic light installed in the middle, and also their cafe! Check out what the drink options were!
I went for the District Line. It was delish!
Time to go and meet my friend, Becci, in Russell Square. But again, I’m sure I must be Superman as yet again, I got there early! So I plodded myself down in the small bar of a great old fashioned pub – the Queen’s Larder. Luckily, there was a plug socket next to me so I brought out my charger for my iphone and settled down with a pint of old Greene King Beer and read my travel magazine I bought earlier until a shadow passed over the pictures of the magazine…
I looked up, a grinning man stared at me and pointed to the iphone…oh god, was he gonna nick it?..
‘suse me, I’m wondering whether I can use your charger..my wife…she keeps trying to call me and I have no battery left on mine, could I charge mine on yours?’
I was still in shock because an actual Londoner spoke to me. Why am I shocked? Never have a Londoner stranger spoke to me in my entire life. London is famed for its inhabitants that rush around and not make the time of day for anyone…let alone smile. So I was pretty floored when he did speak to me.
‘…sure’ I spluttered out and he charged his phone on my charger and left me with his iphone and walked back to the other side of the bar. He was trusting me to look after his iphone? This is good news. That means I have an honest good guy face 🙂
But even more surprising, he came back with a pint for me to say thank you and off her went with his partially charged iphone. Nice! But this opened the floodgates. Many people who saw this decided THEY wanted their iphones charging and an hour later with 4 pints in me with no dinner, I wavered as I stepped outside of the pub to meet Becci in a different pub just up the road. Getting there, I got another pint..why? We British love our pints.
Catching up with Becci and her workmates resulting in a total weirdo following us onto the Underground as we went to Finsbury Park to meet her boyfriend and fellow friend of mine, Edd. I don’t know what the hell he was talking about but his glares to me felt like he was interested in Becci. Luckily, he got the message as she’s my ex-wife. ‘Ex-wife?!’ you may scream. Why haven’t you been informed? Sorry I mean in a jokey way. I knew Becci and Edd before they got together and Becci and I used to look after kids at summer schools every year, thus joking that we were husband and wife. Unfortunately, things took a bitter turn as she met Edd…a messy divorce later with me getting the kids and her getting the house, we’re back to being good friends 😛
Meeting up with Edd, we finally got some dinner and after a few more pints and a good old rotten catch up, it was time for me to go back to Ann’s and rest my sleepy head. Tomorrow was to be an exciting day 🙂
What do you think of Londoners?