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London: Day One (Official)

Ready? Okay let’s go. After my hysterical post yesterday, I collapsed into a 3 hour nap. Our hotel is completely ringed by office buildings (all looking very NYC dotcommy circa 1999), so I closed the shutters, put my head in a blanket, and spent my first few hours in London sound asleep, with some kind of MTV UK all-day Paris Hilton event running in the background. Woke up around 3:30, and realized that I was losing the day, sleeping in another country, and headed outside for another solo-walking around mission.

…Aaaaaaand got almost immediately lost. However, in the course of being lost, I found the place where I was lost the FIRST time, so I think that one gets cancelled out. Walked around and around, noting all the amazing Brit stuff…a bicycle gang, 40 members strong…tons of amazing pubs that I thirsted to have a pint in…directional arrows at each crosswalk, telling you which way to look (since traffic seems to come from all directions at once)…a sign advising me that there were humps for 150 meters…a sign on a door that read “Under absolutely no circumstances is rubbish to be placed in front of this door” (so much more elegant than “NO DUMPING”)…and many more quitely pleasureable sights.

But, my stars, Matt was due to arrive! So I finally found my way back to the hotel, opened the door, and there was my buddy, suited up and looking as fresh as the day God made him. A litle chitchat, a little of Matt’s new hotel room rituals (he actually uses the closets and dresser), and it was time to strike out on the town. It was a relief to have someone guiding me at last…I had reached the limits of my “all alone in a new place” joy, and was ready to be led around by the hand.

We started with one of the best middle eastern meals I have ever had. I have never really been a fan of all that hummus and pita shit…it makes me feel like a hippie and gives me incredible intestinal discomfort. Each and every thing we ate here was absolutely exquisite, served in a dark, candlelit, smoky setting. Not just good middle eastern…just incredible food, period. We started with barbecued chicken wings (natch), some kind of deep-fried phillo and feta cheese affair, and hummus. This hummus was unlike any of the garbage you can buy in the plastic containers in the states. A smooth, whipped cosistency, and a flavor not unlike that of expertly deviled eggs.

Next, Matt had a combination shishkbab plate, and I had a chicken breast that had been marinated in cold mik and black peppercorns. Again, delicious, and a great base for the night ahead.

So, with our bellies full, we headed back into the streets. After Matt explained to me the difference between a Guinness and an “ice cold” Guinness (room temperature vs. not), we ducked into the first place we found. I had my first real live Guinness pint since arriving in the UK, and it was delicious. It somehow tastes even better than I thought it would. This bar, however, was not for us. Too bright, and we had no good set-up…no room at the bar, no empty tables.

We ended up in the brick basement of another bar, which was amazing. If you picture any great night you ever had in the East Village, and multiply it by 25 square miles, you have a pretty good sense of the type of establishment we were in. Good (though underpoured) drinks, beer flowing freely, and good, friendly people. No one was surly, and everyone seemed genuinely happy to be out, drinking, and having a good time…a mood not often displayed on the LES.

It was time to move on…to a London strip club. I have a purely academic interest in the sex trade, and so have to see how different countries are handling things. A quick rundown of the rules. No tipping at the stage. Before each girl dances, she comes around with a cup and collects one pound from everyone in the room. I found this system orderly and pleasant, though I think I got hit up for my pound twice, at least by one girl. Additionally, lap dances are strictly zero-contact, with the stripper just dancing NEAR you and making stripper-eyes. I saw no benefit in this for me, and so we skipped it and moved on.

3AM, probably time to head back to the hotel. We’ve got a big day lined up, much touristy siteseeing to do (not to mention Matt’s haircut), and it’s time to get some rest. We stop off at the vending machine for a vodka tonic and a bag of candy, I make an embarrassing phone call to Jillian, and it’s off to sweet sleepytime. See you tomorrow!

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