London 2012 (b)
05—08 November, 2012
Here it finally is, my London report! The second one of 2012. If you’re not interested in rambling, but just want to see photos, the flickr album is here, but most photos in this post are clickable, too, and will lead you to flickr where you can view them in pretty much every size imaginable. Now let’s do this!
After the eight days the boyfriend and I spent in London this March, neither of us had planned on coming back any time soon. At some point, definitely, but not any time soon, and certainly not this year. But the plan had been quite another anyway…
My friend Tiana, who lives and breathes in Australia, had a trip booked to the UK. Originally, she was supposed to come visit me ca. from Nov 4th to Nov 6th. But then, before booking anything, she realised that would fall right on Guy Fawkes’ Day, so she asked me to come over and stay with her in London instead. Now, I love a good fireworks show, and I’ll be the last person to say no to meeting somebody I’ve known and loved from afar for a while. (Wow, that sounds overly dramatic. I think I may need to have some food before I consume myself.)
Not-so coincidentally, our mutual friend Michelle (also an Aussie) was in the city the same time as we were after she’d toured through Europe for a bit, so our plans included meeting up with her, too. And because I win at
life organisation on occasion, I even managed to arrange a meeting with my friend Kelly, who lives close enough to London to make it into the city for a day. Good times.
So I went ahead, before my Italy trip, and looked up train prices because I really didn’t want to set foot on a plane ever again after all my flights over the summer. Getting back home wasn’t a problem; 50€ for the ‘London Special’. But getting there would’ve easily been four times that, most likely because of Guy Fawkes’ Day. I could’ve arrived a day or two earlier, but I was already broke and couldn’t really afford the trip, and with London being so expensive and all, I wasn’t going to do that. So I ended up with a plane ticket there and a train ticket back. An interesting combination, but I expected it would work well enough. And since I was only going to be there for three days (and I just asked the lady at the BA airport counter if I could take my largish tripod into the plane with me instead of having to stick it into my checked luggage), I borrowed my mother’s tiny red suitcase. It was perfect for the job, and super light, too.
All in all, I was very well prepared for this trip. Or so I thought.
Day 1: Westminster & Guy Fawkes (05 Nov)
Olli dropped me off at the airport very early in the morning, and I spent a fairly comfortable two hours on the plane. I hit London around eight-ish local time, but I had to queue at immigration for some time—all the while cursing I had only taken my regular ID rather than my fancy biometric passport, which would’ve helped me skip the longest queues. And then I had to wait another half hour or so at the train station so I’d be able to buy an off-peak ticket at a reduced price rather than paying the full price for getting into the city twenty minutes sooner. I am no fool, so I did that. When I eventually made it to Paddington, where the hotel was, Tiana picked me up (after some confusion over where exactly we both were), and we went to the room so I could leave my stuff there.
Yet again I realised how fucking expensive London is; I paid more than GBP30 on public transport alone (and would pay another GBP5 later). Ridiculous.
Anyway, we walked around and found ourselves a Nando’s (my favourite restaurant in all of London ever since Olli and I discovered it in March—judge all you want, my friends, judge all you want), and I had a pita and chips. It’s so easy to make me happy, seriously.
Afterwards, we hopped on and off the tube a bit, I think, and ended up at Embankment / Westminster, my favourite corner of the whole city. We spent some time lounging in the Southbank Centre (another absolute favourite), and then made our way to Big Ben to watch the sun set behind the Houses of Parliament. That done, we went back to the hotel to change and meet up with Michelle because it was…
Guy Fawkes’ Day!
Apparently, Ti had done a substantial amount of research—unlike myself, who just relied on other people knowing where we’d need to be—and had decided we’d go to Wimbledon Park to see the fireworks there. I was surprised they charged admission for that, but it’s London, so really, it’s surprising that I was surprised.
The first set of fireworks was for ‘kids’ because it was set to Disney music. In all honesty, I liked that way better than the ‘adult’ fireworks that were set to annoying modern ‘music’. Anyway. The (first) bonfire had already been lit when we got there, so we watched that for a bit, then got into position—I set up my tripod and camera—and enjoyed the fireworks. The whole thing started later than it was supposed to; I assume because of the wind, but we weren’t really told why. Afterwards, there was supposed to be a short break, then the second, bigger bonfire would be lit, and then it would be time for more fireworks. Except, something apparently didn’t work properly, because it took them ages to light the second bonfire.
I guess this is the part where I explain the location and the weather: We were standing in what was quite literally some kind of field that wasn’t sheltered from the wind by anything and that was muddy as the muddiest place you’ve ever seen. So not only were we covered in mud at least all the way up to our knees, but we were also freezing cold, despite the two pairs of socks and the pair of boots I was wearing. And waiting in conditions like that just doesn’t have any appeal whatsoever, as you can probably imagine. But there was a lot of waiting to be done, and short of leaving before the main fireworks, there was nothing we could do.
We tried to stay warm by huddling close together and complaining a lot, but not even that really helped. The second bonfire was finally lit, and then we made our way back to the middle of the field to see the fireworks. And after that, we more or less ran back to the train station so we wouldn’t have to wait on the last train back into town.
Michelle got out at her stop, Ti and I just changed trains, and back at the hotel, we probably could’ve passed right out, but we stayed up till after 2am, just talking about a whole lot of things. It was wonderful.
Day 2: Tower Hill (06 Nov)
Although I believe we had meant to get up early-ish, we ended up sleeping a lot longer than that. Aside from a London Walk Ti had wanted to do, there weren’t any definite plans. The weather was grey and slightly rainy, so we went to Tower Hill and saw some of the Tower Bridge, went to some place that I have no idea what it was that Ti wanted to see, and also made a quick stop at the Globe shop. (I have been meaning to see a Globe play for ages now, but I only ever seem to be in London during their off-season… The shop was the next best thing.) I was super tempted to buy the Rose ring they have, but it was GBP20 and I was trying to survive on the money Olli and I had had left from our trip in March. So I only bought a magnet with Henry V’s ‘once more unto the breach’ quote on it. Something cute for my fridge, that was all that I needed, really.
Thanks to all the standing around we did the night before, my feet were wrecked, so we decided to find a place to rest and eat. Except the Masala Zone that we wanted to go to in Earl’s Court was still closed, and so would all of the others be. We went back to the hotel to rest instead, and then went to the Masala Zone in Paddington, just as good. After some delicious food (and even more delicious dessert—I had a chicken thali and some whipped yoghurt with honey and meringue and fresh fruit), we hurried back towards the hotel / train station because Ti was late for her Walk. Or I should probably say she wasn’t late yet, but she still missed it because her stupid train was held up on the way. So she went to see Skyfall instead, while I put my feet up at the hotel. Definitely the better choice; otherwise I would’ve been completely wrecked the next day.
Day 3: Southbank Centre (07 Nov)
This was the day I got to meet Kelly! Ti and Michelle met up to go to the zoo early-ish in the morning; I made my way back to Southbank Centre and waited for Kelly to arrive about an hour later or so.
We literally didn’t do a thing except for talk, and drink tea, and eat things. Southbank Centre has this little café where you can buy food and drinks, and, perhaps more importantly, it has free wifi. So we just sat there; spent the entire day there, until even the guy at the café and one of the security people knew us. (They both thought we were working because that’s apparently what people usually do when they go to Southbank Centre, they meet in little groups and work on presentations and whatnot. So not what we were doing.) It was the most fun I’ve had in ages. I could probably write entire novellas on all the things we talked about, but I’m not going to bore you with all those.
Eventually, towards the evening, Ti let me know she and Michelle were done a the zoo and would be at Nando’s near Earl’s Court, waiting for us. So that’s where we went and met up with them, and the three of them got to see each other for the first time, too. Which is a good thing because Kelly is leaving me all alone in Europe next month and moving to Aussie-land. Not fair, universe! Anyway. We had some more delicious pita and chips and coleslaw and I really just want to drown myself in Nando’s food. I also worked up the nerve to ask one of the guys at the counter if they sell their special salt. Surprise, surprise: They do! I got two little boxes of salt for the boyfriend and me, and then Kelly had to leave (nooooooooooooo!) and then we left, too, and I said goodbye to Michelle, and then we went back to the hotel and everything was sad because I knew I’d have to say goodbye to Tiana the next day, too.
Day 4: London—Berlin (08 Nov)
…yeah, I’m gonna have a separate post for this fiasco, and I shall call it ‘Train Fiasco 2012’.
Just wait. It’s here!
All I’ll say for now is that Ti dropped me off at the train station early in the morning, I hugged her a few times (never enough!), and I was off on what would be my least favourite train journey of all time. And I spent most of the journey to Sylt on our first class trip sitting quite literally on the luggage because the teachers hadn’t booked enough seats. Just to put that into perspective.
Goodbye, London! I do hope I won’t see you again any time soon, but I also know I’ll always be back eventually.
© Isabella Valenza; all rights reserved. Do not repost or copy without permission.
★ flickr album