Sunday, October 29, 2006

London On My Mind

Well, the United Kingdom managed to survive the mania that is Kate the Great.

The fun started Friday night, when we checked D Money's campus bar, called The Undercroft.

The beer was cheap, the conversation was great, and the songs were about vibrators and love sick hearts. It felt just like home...

Then Miss D took Southern Son and me to the nearest village, a quaint little spot called Harrow. We went out to a local pub called O'Neill's. It was crazy - a total pub just like what you would see in the States, but the music was only techno/house music.

As you can see, we fit right in with the locals...

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.

Yes, I know it looks like my boob is about to pop out of this shirt.

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.

Then I moved out to the front steps to watch the crowd, the bustling streets nearby and do some journaling.

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.

From there we walked to nearby Kenton for a vegetarian Indian restaurant in my guide called Ram's. It was voted several times as London's best Vegetarian Indian restaurant, and I'd concur

The food was excellent, spicy and filling.

We went hopped on the Tube to go in to London to the bar at the International Student House, or ISH, as it's called by folks familiar with its whereabouts.

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.


Denae said...

Several of my flatmates are asking, "where are your friends?" We all miss you. Love the account of the trip! My pic of your singing didn't turn out so I'll have to get it from you. How did the unmentionable items make it across the pond? Have you talked with any other friends since leaving?

Kate The Great said...

Hello my sweet! OHH HOW MUCH FUN I HAD! I miss you so much... The dude at Covent Garden was spot on with the directions for the unmentionables... Of course, Customs asks you to fill out a form and declare things and well, you know how, ahem, forgetful I can be about what I spend my money on.

I haven't heard from any of my friends from abroad. But I would love it if you emailed me any fantastic pictures you may have taken that I don't have in my camera...

Please tell Max/Kristin/Yanni/Thabbi/Richard/Nick/Rachael and everyone else that I had a wonderful time talking to them and I hope they drop by the blog sometime so we can stay in touch!!

PS- Is your address still the current address posted on your blog?

The Notorious N.A.T said...

Four words:


Sounds like you had a blast - and what a wonderful trip full of memories. I myself am trying to figure out how to get a little European vacay. Hell, I'd settle for anywhere right now.

Glad you are back, and thank you for sharing your trip!

NB-C said...

I'm booking my flight as I type! No, not really, but I am so envious! You really should get a job at Frommer's! Glad you're back!

spydrz said...

Is it true that fish-and-chips is seven pounds now??

Michael Hickerson said...

All the way to London to watch Tennessee rock.

That may be the most awesome thing I've read all day.

Kate The Great said...

Nat- Any time you want to cross the pond, I am up for the journey...

NB-C- you have just mentioned my dream job. If I could get a paying gig to travel and write about it, I totally would.

Spydrz- Yes that sounds about right. I think after I got my fish,chips and soda it came to about 9 pounds. Highway robbery for fried fish...

Michael - Yes. I obliged the Vols fan in the group. But then there really was no competition - Kentucky doesn't have a football team.

Did I say that?

Jeregano said...

No it is true, Kentucky doesn't have a football team.

Jeregano said...

The first comment didn't go. Love the pictures and discriptions. So much squeezed into one week. Sounds like an awesome trip. You must have gotten up very early every morning.