Saturday morning started with a trip to Portobello Road for the weekend market. Lots of great deals on amazing thinks like silver spoons and antique lace. I picked up an antique "Trio" - that's a teacup, saucer and dessert plate - for 5 pounds ($10 American). It's a set that comes from the 1920s... just beautiful. White base with a beautiful "Kentucky Blue" tasteful pattern and gold rim. I love it so...
Saturday night we high tailed it to Picadilly Circus (which isn't really a circus at all - for those of you afraid of clowns. It's more like London's version of Times Square).
It happened to be Southern Son's birthday, so we headed to a sports bar to watch, what else? Tennessee Football.
Afterwards, we headed to one of one of London's hottest night clubs, Tiger Tiger, to drink -wait for it- Tiger beer from Asia.
At the club, we had our fortunes told by an Irishman who can read palms. He told me I am focused on details, culture and art are important in my life, and something is missing in my life like a relationship. Who knew I'd get such an accurate fortune for free?
I danced with the fortune teller's friend - some other Irish guy whom I had a lot of difficulty understanding. The dancing was easy. Lots of crazy, grandiose movements to some crazy Abba song. And the wild thing is nobody even looked at us like we were weird. That's the thing about London - everything goes, including crazy fashions and crazy dancing. Despite my boobage, I would say I was dressed pretty conservatively for the London scene. Note to self, pack all my out of fashion clothing next time I go to London.
Sunday morning I struck out early to check out Covent Garden and the surrounding streets. Amazing crafts sold under tents by local vendors. Stunning handmade jewelry, beautifully designed handbags, photos from all over London. I walked up to a monument called Seven Dials and found a nearby bead shop to scout out one of my bigger souvenir ideas. Then I met up with Southern Son and D Money for lunch - at an old Covent Garden restaurant called Punch and Judy's.
My meal: prawns (that's what they call all shrimp) in seafood sauce, chips (french fries) and of course - beer.
After lunch we went to the nearby tobacco shop and I cannot legally tell you what I bought there, only because there is a certain embargo that involves a certain country and so that means certain items are not allowed in the United States. Yeah, I think you know where I'm going with this one. Bill Clinton would be so proud...
We walked on to Leicester (pronounced Lester) Square and Trafalgar Square and then decided to check out the National Gallery. Lots of Monets, Van Goghs, Titians (that's Tish-un for you perverts) and Degas. It was a great opportunity to squeeze in some culture.
Sunday night we went back to the sports bar to catch some Bengals action. I didn't have the heart to stay though the whole game and decided to hit the streets of London on my own and check out some of the little neighborhoods. Note: Soho is the spot you want to go if you're a freak and want to buy porn in London.
Monday Southern Son and I set out for our hotel in Kensington. Then we met Miss D for breakfast at one of the world's most amazing and unique department stores - Harrods. We didn't spend nearly enough time in that place, but I've already been once before and know it will always be there for any future trips I take to London (hmmm. August is already surfacing as a possibility).
Then Southern Son and I decided to take the quintessential double decker bus tour around London. A great way to see all the sights you notice in the movies and on the postcards. I took a few pictures of the things you'll most recognize.
Look kids, Big Ben Parliament. Look kids, Big Ben Parliament.
St. Paul's Cathedral - where Lady Diana tied the knot to whats-his-name.
No Fergie, it's called Tower Bridge.
Then Southern Son and I went on to the London Eye - the world's largest "Observation Wheel" (a.k.a. Ferris Wheel). Here's a picture of Big Ben/Parliament from 450 feet above the ground.
Surprisingly the height didn't bother this Nervous Nelly.
Afterwards, we set out to dine at a Greek restaurant I read about in one of my guides about London - Souvlaki and Bar in Clerkenwell. I thought the food was great and pretty damn affordable considering how expensive everything is in London. I'll expand on that in the days ahead.
We caught up with D Money and went on a two bar pub crawl, the second being a karaoke bar. Ahh! I felt right at home. Unfortunately the Brits have either never heard of Janis Joplin or ever considered singing her songs - I was forced to whip out my rendition of I Will Survive. Not the top of my list but a song I've mastered. It seems I impressed Nigel and Ian and Colin and all of the rest of the British blokes in the bar.
Tuesday Southern Son and I jetted up to Scotland - flying on BMI for about 130 bucks American (round trip). Edinburgh was our destination - the mission: to see as much as we could in that 24 hour time period. And go figure - as soon as we were about two blocks away from the Old Town's center, we could literally hear proof that we were in Scotland.
Hey buddy. I'll show you mine if you show me yours?
We walked up to the castle, which sits high on top of a rocky, three sided cliff.
Then it was off to the pub. A spot called The White Hart. It's very charming, with lots of cute little pewter mugs hanging from the black beams holding the plaster ceiling up. I had haggis, neeps and tatties for dinner. It was an excellent meal but kind of gross if you think about it. Haggis is mutton (ground up sheep intestines) and steel cut oatmeal. Very much like Cincinnati's goetta but perhaps a bit more crumbly. I thought it tasted delicious. Neeps are mashed turnips that tasted like a Welsh dish my family makes called Potch. Tatties are mashed potatoes - not a lump in the whole bunch, and yet completely authentic. Scotland hasn't discovered the boxed stuff yet.
Oh yeah, I drank several types of Scottish beer.
For dessert, I wanted to have what every person has in Scotland. Scotch.
Glenlivet goes down really well. Especially with ice.
Wednesday Southern Son and I returned to London, where I got to have a little alone time with my sweet friend D Money.
She and I went out to a Fusion restaurant - The Providores. It's said to be the best Fusion restaurant in London and I could tell - the food and the price tag were both out of this world. Peter Gordon is the chef behind the innovative cuisine and one of the most recognizable chefs from New Zealand. D Money and I stayed in the tapas room (it's so fun to tell people you're going to eat tapas. Lots of times they give you crazy looks like you're going somewhere without a shirt...) and had a great bottle of red wine. D ordered spring rolls stuffed with braised duck, Spanish black bean, feta, coriander and chipotle chili with cumin lime yogurt and feta stuffed hot peppers with sea salt. I ordered a cheese plate (excellent. Harbourne Blue, Monte Enebro and Colston Basset Stilton with oatcakes, fig anise bread and fruit chutney) and salted, steamed edamame.
We went on to two nearby pubs - The Marylebone Tup and Coco Momo. I can't find any pictures or relevant links to the latter, but the bar is at 79 Marylebone High St. in London. I especially loved it - graceful beautiful chandeliers, delicate white paint job, soft lighting and a super hip (or posh, as the Brits would say) bathroom.
Thursday morning I woke up and set out to soak up the last bits of London that I could.
I took the Jubilee tube line to St. John's Wood and one of the most famous crosswalks in the world... the one at Abbey Road.
Where are my Paul, George and Ringo?
There's a big, white wall that surrounds the Abbey Road Studios that fans can write messages on(the picture to the left is not a part of that wall), so I whipped out my Sharpie and wrote "Katy C. says Let It Be! 10.26.06" - complete with a Bengals sticker. The Who Dey nation lives on in London!
I hopped back on the tube and jumped off at St. Paul's. The church is Christopher Wren's most prominent design and has an amazing rotunda that you can go up to for sweeping views of London.
I opted instead to check out a side chapel to light a couple candles.
Getting Artsy Fartsy on the steps of St. Paul's. Not bad for taking it myself!
I was just awestruck, sitting there writing in my journal. Thinking about how I was sitting in one of the world's most incredible, bustling cities - thinking about how my American Made butt was sitting on the steps of one of London's most prominent buildings. It was an incredible, surreal moment that made me appreciate that very second of my little life.
I walked from St. Paul's through the streets of London Town (which is actually only a square mile, and surrounded by the boroughs of Kensington, Westminster and Chelsea - to name a few) to a tube station. My next destination: Tower Bridge.
The most recognizable landmark in London offers great landscape views of the area near the Thames.
The Tower of London is in the bottom right corner , bordered by the bridge.
One of my favorite "archetectural" photos I took on the trip.
After I was done walking across the top catwalk of the bridge, I went back to the river level to get some scenery pics of the bridge.
I wonder how that Bengals sticker got there...
I raced back to Covent Garden to pick up some turquoise, onyx and quartz beads I intend on using for a necklace I've designed. Then it was back to Harrow to D's dorm.
We met some amazing people whom I'll expand about in a future blog.
The evening happened to be Karaoke Night, so I decided to bring out I Will Survive for one more encore in London.
Then we headed back to Harrow, a short night's rest before we had to head across The Pond and back home.
The trip was wonderful. It was so enriching to dig in to the place my good, dear best friend is calling home. I so so enjoyed meeting the people and putting faces to names - learning about other cultures and meeting people who Miss D is getting to know while she is studying abroad.
The trip to London was a priceless experience that did wonders for my soul, tought me so so much about the kind of person that I am and helped me discover what is important to me in life.
And I also realized there's so much more to see next time I go back to London.