Last Days in London and Arriving in New Jersey

My last few days in London were quite fun. On Tuesday night, we made it out to the West End and saw Spamalot. It was hilarious. Most of the script was pulled right from the Holy Grail movie, but there were some lines updated and others changed all together, but in good taste. There were times when I was nearly out of my seat laughing. The seats too weren’t bad for 20 pound.

Wednesday was a fairly uneventful day. I woke up late, watched some TV, walked around the Kings Cross and Chapel Market areas to do some errands then came back to my sister’s pad by the time she was done with school. When she was back, we went down to Waterloo station to catch a train to Egham to have dinner with my cousin. The three of us had a nice dinner at some small-ish place on the Egham high street, then went back to his house there for a while. After hanging out for a bit, we caught the next train back to London and listened to Queens of the Stone Age on my sister’s mobile phone.

While traversing the tube back to Kings Cross, it was a bit of madness with loud drunk Brits stumbling everywhere speaking what could only be guessed to be English. I was reminded more than once of having a clean shirt from Peep Show. We had plans to go out in the evening, but it turned out to be too late when we got back so we called it an early day.

Thursday about noon-ish we left SOAS and went to Carnaby Street to try to eat a bean burger that I’d been raving about for years to my sister and her friends. They’d maintained that the so-called bean burger was a fabrication of my imagination, so I decided to have lunch at a place where I know I’d had one before on Carnaby Street. Alas, it turned out to be true. The spicy bean burger is dead, long live the leek burger. My favorite pub food had been replaced. We’d in fact tried to search them out for dinner on Tuesday before the show in the West End and I’d totally failed. The leek burger, the new veggie burger at this pub, was good, but it just wasn’t the same.

We walked around the area for a while then decided to make our way to Seven Dials. Pretty cool little area and we did some window shopping there, as well as taking some model shots for (look on my pictures site for examples). We started to walk back towards Kings Cross but stopped in to the Grape Street Wine Bar for a bottle of champagne, which was a great idea, then continued back on our walk. We were meeting some other friends at 830pm for dinner, so we went back to get ready.

Our dinner was in the Bayswater area, so we took the tube out there. Unfortunately, our first venue of choice (a Persian place) had almost no veg options (both my sis and I are vegetarian) so we walked a few blocks over to find a Mexican restaurant that turned out to be awesome. We had nachos, chips, salsa, guacamole, margaritas, beers, enchiladas, taco salads, the works. All told between the four of us, we put away over nearly 130 pounds worth of food (no, not “lbs” but “GBP”). Pretty dear, but it totally hit the spot. After dinner, we settled in to a nearby pub to finish the night off.

Then on Thursday, I woke up at 630ish to get ready and finish packing, then went to the Kings Cross Thameslink station to catch a train to Gatwick. The flight to Newark was uneventful and the plane was thankfully not full (altho the seat pitch on the Continental 777-200s is terrible, I could barely cross my legs). I passed out last night at 1030pm unable to stay awake any longer. This week is just going to be about relaxing and doing a lot of nothing. I’ve got plans to make it out to NYC on Monday to meet up with Derek and will probably go again at some point with my family.

The trip is 60% done! Three weeks of five finished, just this week here in NJ and a week in Central America left until it’s back to the real world.

736 Words

Tate Modern, Westminster, Soho

My sister and I made our way to the Tate Modern yesterday afternoon and spent the better part of it there looking at the exhibits and the huge collection they have. When trying to reach there, we took the tube to Waterloo, which, for some reason we thought for sure was on the north bank. Not so much, so we ended up walking along the waterfront for some 20-odd minutes trying to find the building.

The Tate currently has a slide installed exhibit (aka the ones from the park when you were a  kid) that are 5 stories high. You apparently reach 28 mph if you use the highest one and have to wear elbow and knee pads. I didn’t get to try them since there was a half-hour queue to get a ticket to go on, but watching people fly through them was pretty interesting.

We had lunch near the Old Globe and then walked across the Millennium Bridge towards St. Pauls and had a coffee at Paul (i.e. the French bakery) and made our way back to her place afterwards. We ended up going to the grocery store in the evening and bought stuff to make monster nachos, which were in fact monster.

Today I left the house early and went to the Palace Theatre at Shaftsberry to get tickets to see Spamalot tonight. The show doesn’t participate in the TKTS program (along with Wicked and a few others), so I had to buy them full priced and got balcony seats for 20 pounds each. Not terrible, but we’ll have to see how the seats here. After that I walked through Picadally Circus. While walking through the West-end I stumbled upon Chinatown and found a 中国银行 branch! I stopped in and asked the teller if I could use my mainland China issued card to buy GBP. She got a big laugh out of the fact that I had the card and said unfortunately, no.

After walking through Regents Street, I cut past Carnaby Street and got to Soho in order to make my way to the Microsoft office here in Soho. For a while I was quite lost in the area since a lot of the streets looked the same and it’s been two+ years since I’d been to this office. I finally found my way when I stumbled upon a street where there were a lot of sex shops and the like (as the office is a block from there), which is the legacy of the old red-light district that Soho used to be. I plugged in my laptop (pictures are finished syncing now) and got lunch with an friend from the office here.

It’s after lunch now, and I’m heading back to Russell Square to meet my sister’s friend until she’s done with school. After that, it’s on to Spamalot!

477 Words

Holi in London

Yesterday here, near Russel Square, at SOAS housing, I was splattered in reds, yellows, greens and oranges. Yes, it was Holi in London. A couple of my sisters friends had thrown a party where they cooked food and imported colors from India. I was smattered and looked like I was had gone thru some college football fest. In the last few days here I’ve pretty much been in India, been seeing brown folks, hearing Hindi and eating Indian food. Did I ever leave?

83 Words

Stratford upon Avon and Coventry

Early morning (read: 10am) yesterday we took a bus to the Euston station to pickup a rental car from the Avis near there. The plan, as decided when we went to bed about 6 hours earlier was to go to Stratford-upon-Avon. We got the car and realized we had (a) absolutely no idea how to get out of London and (b) absolutely no idea once out of London where Stratford was. Well, let’s backup a bit. First, I walked up to the car and realized what they’d given me was a boat. Then, I remembered that this is a driver-on-the-right country and I’ve never driven on that side of the car before. Uh-oh.

When I got in the car, it was really awkward trying to use the clutch and the shifter for a while and by instinct I’d throw my right arm out when I needed to grab the shifter. Needing directions we went Russel Square to the SOAS lab to find directions. As I pulled the car out of the Avis parking lot, I nearly hit the left side mirror and driving the narrow narrow streets of London turned out to be a huge problem.

While waiting for my sister to actually get them at SOAS, we did a few loops around Russel Square and drove past the British Library. En route, I managed to get lost in one dead end, hit the side view mirror of another car to the left of me, stop to avoid hitting a bicycle and end up having him hit the car and kick it. Lovely. Driving in London, I highly recommend avoiding it.

I finally made it back to Russel Square with nobody else injured (except the aforementioned) and we headed to make our way M40 to head north. After about 30 minutes we managed to get out of the craziness of London streets and on to the Ring Road which was a lot more manageable. We drove for about 2 hours up north and made it to Stratford. The town is very cute and the Avon river that runs through it made for some very picturesque scenes. We saw Shakespeare’s House and walked around a lot of the other buildings that he or his family was involved in the area.

The skies were really blue but it rained intermittently so whenever it started to rain we ducked in for some tea or some food, but when the skies cleared, they left a silver lining to the ground and water which made for some amazing pictures. My photos are still syncing from my laptop. In fact, the sync hasn’t even gotten to the pictures from India yet (it’s still on a bunch from Shanghai) and I doubt it’ll finish this week.

After doing the Stratford thing until about 5:00pm, we decided to venture further north to see the bombed out cathedral at Coventry, so we continued north once we met up with the freeway. Coventry was a crazy city and for half the time we thought we were going to die. As seems typical it had tiny streets and crazy drivers. The cathedral was very cool tho. Given that we got there at 6:30pm or so the gate was closed so we could not get inside but we were able to walk around the grounds which was cool. The rest of the architecture around the city seemed very post-modern, especially around the uni and given that it was dark already made for an interesting (if not a bit spooky) visit.

We left Coventry at 7ish and made our way back via M1 to London (because we missed the M40 interchange). People driving on the freeways in England are nuts. I was driving ~80mph and getting passed left and right all morning and night. I started to get up to like 95ish and was still getting passed. Perfectly crazy, British drivers. Once back in London, it took us a long time to find a petrol pump but we finally did and dropped the car back off, took the bus back to home and finished our day by ordering a pizza.

685 Words

In London

The last few days I’ve been in Santa Cruz eating, eating and more eating. Did I mention that I was eating a lot? Well, I was and it was fantastic. I’ve been spoilt senseless by good good food.

Yesterday I flew from Mumbai to London on Virgin. I left around 11:30 from my grandma’s house and we had a really hard time getting transport to the aiport. Rikshas and taxis refused to go for who know what reason, but we finally found a riksha that would take us. In true form and fashon, two thirds of the way there it broke down in the middle of the street and we had to find a taxi to complete the trip.

The flight was uneventful, if a few hours late. I toke the Picadelly line from LHR all the way to Kings Cross (nearly an hour) and then met my sister ouside the station. We went back to her flat where I put my stuff down (all 20 kg of it) and then we headed out to a part of town nearby called Angel for a few pints at some of the pubs. I quickly picked up a pint of a bitter (called Pedigrie) and smiled, amused that I’m in London again.

Today we’ve booked a car out of Euston station and we’re heading to Stratford-upon-Avon for a day trip and will try to see Twelth Night there if they have any seats available.

240 Words