London was fantastic! One of my favorite things about traveling is that through the miracle that is Facebook you can keep in contact with cool people you meet along the way, and then one day visit them in some other exciting location. Such was the case with my London weekend: I made a friend from New Zealand while on my cruise last May in the Galapagos, and since he is now living in London but was soon taking off to head back home, I took the opportunity to hop over the pond for a weekend.
I took the world’s noisiest flight full of chattering Spanish teens, and finally learned who actually buys the smokeless cigarettes that RyanAir incessantly advertises. Arriving at the airport I immediately saw the contrast between Spain and England, I’m not really sure how to explain it, but England just seemed so quiet! British people spoke almost in whispers in their extra polite sounding (at least to my American ears) British English… I mean the man who checked my passport was wearing a matching pink bowtie and vest. The definition of dapper. I kind of liked it, but all that being civil and proper takes time, and in my rush to catch the bus I felt very much the American, sighing and shifting my feet while waiting in line.
Anyways, I did end up making the bus, and was fascinated the whole ride by how the cars all drove on the opposite (wrong) side of the road. Madrid is a major world city, but arriving in London, I felt like the little country mouse. There were people from all over the world bustling around, and just sitting on the metro you could hear 10 different languages being spoken. I found it entirely impressive/ overwhelming. I also hadn’t realized how much I missed hearing English, it was nice to be able to understand the conversations around me, because here unless I activate my Spanish switch it’s pretty easy to tune out everything into white background noise.
The rest of the trip was spent seeing sights and eating, pretty typical. It was freezing the whole weekend, but at least not raining, so I walked a lot and saw a lot of the main tourist sights, including Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, the London Bridge, Harrod’s, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, the London Eye… writing this I’m realizing I saw a lot more than I thought, and yet still barely covered even a fraction of the city. Most of the museums in London are free which is just amazing, although I only had time to visit two, the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs, raawr!), and the Tate Modern, which was, you known, modern. Of course one of the highlights was a pilgrimage to Platform 9 and 3/4, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t the only dork with that same idea, there was actually a line to take a picture.
I´d heard terrible things about English food, but I loved all the eating I did, there were so many options! I have to say, it was pretty thrilling to see Starbucks on every corner again, I never thought that would be something I’d miss. I tried Cornish pastries for the first time and I am now a big fan. I also really liked the weekend markets, at Camden Lock you can browse through the clothes/art with the other hipsters, but there is also a food section with stands from all over the place, Mexico, Japan, India, Italy… I was in heaven. Plus, once you order you can sit on these little fake motorcycles while you eat and watch the ducks swimming around the lake, fun. I made it over to one other market by the Thames that was a bit more posh, I saw a stand serving ostrich burgers, unfortunately I did not partake.
And that more or less was my trip! I think I need to figure out a way to live in London some day, it’s a pretty incredible city. As for what I’ve been doing the past few weeks, same old thing. Yesterday it snowed while I was hiking, wah wah. Meanwhile, my family/friends back home continue to tell me all about how they’re wearing shorts and going to the beach. I’m pretty excited to head off to the Canary Islands this weekend, so I can finally stop feeling jealous and escape from the cold. In other (breaking) news, Radiohead’s new album comes out Saturday. Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.