Note: This website is no longer being updated with new posts.
Still, it documents an important time in our lives, so we're leaving it on the internet for posterity.

London: Day Two, Daytime

So, after a stellar first night, sound sleep in a narrow bed, and no photos to show for it, it was time to get up and at ’em. Matt is good about getting me up and rolling in the morning, and not letting me waste the day, in spite of my eyes being almost buttoned shut, and my face generally looking like someone had punched me in both sides of it at the same time. But there is much to do today, as we attempt to see the entire city AND be ready for a full-on night out. Ready?

We step out into the street, and jump on a bus. Of course, we ride on the upper deck, and I already am beginning to think of these top-heavy machines not as a charming bit of local culture, but just, well, the bus. We ride to a gigantic open air market, which only takes place on Saturdays, under London Bridge. I briefly consider going to see London Dungeon, but the line is around the block, I am wobbly, and I need food and a cup of coffee. We throw ourselves into the packed market, where every combination of fruit, vegetables, and fresh meat are on display and ready for sale. In addition to gorgeous fruit, their are full deer, without heads or feet, hanging from the ceiling. There are 200 amazing smells of food cooking, all colliding into each other as we walk from area to area. Where to begin? What to eat?

After enjoying a stopover croissant, Matt and I both settle on what I have since decided is the greatest food a nation could ever produce. The bacon roll. Friends, if you are looking for proof that London is a city of drinkers, look no further than this sandwich. One pillowy soft white roll, 1/2 pound of Brit bacon (not crispy, but wide, flat, and wet)cooked in butter. Three quid, serve and enjoy. This sandwich not only immediately cured my hangover, but stayed with me all day. If this is “breakfast,” then I am on board.

So we enjoy our bacon rolls, marvel at their deliciousness, and stroll slowly over the bridge. There are bridges on all sides, and, at the other end of the bridge, a great monument paying tribute to the great fire that wiped out a third of London back in the 1500s. London, in general, is a city that is celebrating its own important people and events. Lots of statues of men of purpose, all about to charge forward on a horse, or, bang, establish a government with the stroke of a pen.

Our bellies full, it is time for our walk. We walk along the Thames river, and see the “Eye of London,” a giant ferris wheel with cars the size of, well, automobiles. It moves incredibly slowly, and I realize that I will never, ever get on it, even though the views from the top are supposed to be incredible. We are carrying a great deal of garbage with us (bacon roll wrappers, empty water bottle, empty coffee cups), because there are no trash cans anywhere. The IRA can be thanked for this. In spite of this, though, there is no garbage anywhere.

We press on, and run smack into Big Ben, the clock that isn’t very tall but is mighty big around, and also bears the correct time. It’s funny…your first impression is, “Oh, wow, that’s it, huh?” When you think about the history, and its age, it is truly an impressive sight.

Hooking right at the clock, and still desperately trying to find a trash can, we arrive at Buckingham Palace. The Palace is a real slap in the nose…its importance evidenced in the fact that almost every surface is covered in gold. It is absolutely jammed with people, so we don’t really get close to the building. Pause for a quick photo op, but we must press on, as Matt has a haircut appointment and there’s much more to see.

We arrive in Leichester Square, which is positively buzzing. In addition to the throngs of tourists, there are also several thousand Muslims in Trafalgar Square, banging away and protesting a mildly offensive drawing. This is a funny part of town, similar to Times Square in New York. Everything is profoundly artificial, and it dawns on me for the first time that the area we are staying in, by our hotel, is almost entirely devoid of tourists. There are lots of street vendors selling crap…Union Jack thong panties, t-shirts, hats, and little flags. There are also portrait artists drawing the exact same pencil sketches that they do in Times Square, as well as an array of McDonald’s, Subway, and chain restaurants.

We push through to Covent Garden, where the shopping becomes incredible. This is clearly a city where you could spend a very, very large amount of money. Matt phones his salon, and I drop him off there, with the understanding that I will return to collect him in about an hour. I walk back through the street, jammed with people, down into Covent Garden. There is a carnival atmosphere…performers painted bronze and standing very still…a man that behaves as though he is a robot…a man on a ten foot unicycle, juggling five bowling pins. I take a break and a smoke, trying to just drink it all in, standing up against a column.

I have yet to buy anything, so I venture into the Fred Perry store, grab a shirt, and resume my march around. It’s almost time to go and grab Matt, at least, I think so as I am not carrying a watch. So I head back up, and sit in the waiting area of the hairdresser’s. Matt is not ready, so I spend about a half an hour staring out the window, watching people walk by.

Let me tell you…everyone here looks so put together and on-purpose. No one is rolling down the street in old sweatpants and torn t-shirts. It is all slim jackets, jeans, scarves, wide belts, tweedy coats, skirts, perfect hair, and color-coordination. It is easily one of the most stylish places I have ever been. Matt finishes, and we head back through Crowley Square. It is now late afternoon, so we stop off for a quick pint. Matt points out an interesting truth about the pints being served: You can order a pint, or you can order a half pint, and the half pint is exactly half as much money as the full point. None of this “GO BIG FOR A QUARTER MORE!” bullshit. If you want a half pint, well, it’s half as much. Done.

I stop off to buy some gifts for people, and we walk through to Picadilly Circus. This area seems famous primarily for having a few gigantic neon billboards. We are starting to feel pretty tired, but I still haven’t gotten anything substantial for Jillian. We make a few half-hearted efforts, and I consider a wide belt at Top Shop, but we are really kind of thrashed for the evening and decide to head back to the hotel to regroup for an hour or so before we head back out on the town.

Our final night has to be an entry all its own. Stay tuned for me to make sense out of the following:

  1. I end up at a stranger’s birthday party
  2. I am smooched by a drunk Brit girl
  3. “That’s SHIT mate, Matt’s GONE mate!”

Post a Response

Want your picture to appear with your comment? Go get your free Gravatar now!