Thursday, May 9, 2013

Part III: Left my heart in London

The final installment in the London series...

After the absolute madness of the previous day, it's safe to say that none of us expected much out of our last day in London, I mean, how do you top Dope Day?

Considering the fact that we went to bed around 8 am, I think it's pretty impressive that we were up and out of the door by 2pm.  We decided to find some breakfast near the hostel and ended up at a little café outside the tube station.  I'm using the term breakfast very loosely here, because it was well past any respectable breakfast-time.  Now, I know the English aren't really famous for their food, but up until this point all the food I had eaten was nothing less than incredible (Indian, coffee, crumpets.)  Well, we went from incredible to inedible.

The only way to explain it is that it was the most impressively bland food I have ever tasted.  I feel a little bad saying that because the people there were really nice to us, but the food was just plain bad.  While we reluctantly ate our tasteless breakfast, we planned out the day, or what was left of it.

After that, we took the tube up to Camden Market and spent a few hours there meandering through the stalls.  It reminded me a little bit of Pike Place, in the sense that it was a big open-air market where locals and tourists mix, but with more of a bohemian vibe.  Victoria and Sinead picked up a few scarves from a booth selling vintage clothes, and I bought a sweatshirt that I had seen when we stopped by there on the first day.  It was a gray sweatshirt with the word "Dope" written in bold black cursive across the front.  When I saw it the first day I didn't buy it, but it did prompt a sharp increase in our usage of the adjective "dope" throughout the next three days (hence, "Dope Day.")  So of course, when we went back to Camden, I had to buy it to commemorate our trip.

We finished up Camden with some market food; I had Thai, Sinead had Indian, and Victoria opted for the calzone.  Around that time, in true London fashion, it started to rain.  And I'm not talking about the drizzly Seattle rain, I'm talking about a real London downpour.  So in order to avoid it, we ducked into an ice cream shop that was advertising glögg.  I planned on trying some of the Swedish specialty, but then I realized that they sold homemade ice cream, frozen with liquid nitrogen right before it was served.  I decided on the vanilla bean ice cream topped with heather honeycomb, a decision that I did not regret one bit, even being the chocoholic that I am.

Market Food


Vanilla bean with heather honeycomb

Satisfied with our purchases, we hopped back on the tube bound for King's Cross, in hopes of finding Platform 9 3/4.  We wandered around for a few minutes before Sinead valiantly approached one of the security guards and asked, "Where is Platform 9 3/4?"  We fully expected the response to be, "Fink ya bein' funny do ya?" (If you don't get the reference, see the video below.)

The answer was actually, "Over there, you'll see bunch of people queued up." (Oh, so British, I love it.)  We found the line within a minute and waited behind some little Italian kids.  It dawned on us that we were probably around their age when we started reading Harry Potter, which kind of blew our minds.  We took our obligatory photos at the platform, then geeked out for a bit at the Harry Potter store next door.

The muggle in the back just doesn't get it.

Dueling, obviously.

"The wand picks the wizard, Mr. Potter."
Our final stop was The Bree Louise, a pub recommended to us by Sinead's friend who had studied abroad in London.  It was pretty crowded when we arrived, but after a few minutes a table of about ten people cleared out and we took the seats on the end.  It seemed appropriate to finish off the trip at a traditional English pub with a tall glass of cider, rehashing the events of the past three days.  Eventually some nice young British chaps sat down at our table and we all chatted over another glass of beer before we had to be on our way.  It was the best way to end the trip--laid back, authentic, and non-touristy.

At the pub

So there ended day three, although the story isn't quite over yet.  We went to bed around 2am, and were going to get up at 4:15 due to the fact that it would take around 3 hours to get to London-Stansted for our morning flight.  But I didn't quite make it to 4am, and woke up at 3 with my first ever bout of food poisoning--damn Thai food.  By the time we left I was alright, but completely worn out.  Since it was too early to take the tube, we rode a double-decker bus into the city just as the sun leaked onto the Western sky above the London rooftops.  Despite the lurching of the bus and my total exhaustion, there was an odd element of serenity to that bus ride, and a good deal of that "is this really my life?" feeling that I've become so familiar with over these past few months.

Bus ride. (I stole this photo from Sinead)

The one thing that I had been waiting for all trip was for someone to casually refer to me as "love", and when we got to the airport I realized it hadn't happened.  "Well, looks like I'll just have to come back," I said.  We boarded the plane, another disorganized and jam-packed (but on-time!) Ryanair flight where everyone rushes to find room for their luggage in the overhead bins.  I had to go four or five rows away from our seats to find a spot for my backpack, and when I sat back down an elderly British man sitting where I had just put my backpack turned around and asked me, "Is this your jacket, love?"  Seriously?  London just kept on delivering.

And just like that, we were on our way back "home" to Spain. The verdict?  I LOVE LONDON.  All three of us agreed that it was the first city we had been to that we could actually see ourselves living in for an extended period of time.  I don't know what it is, there's all this history and tradition, and yet it feels so modern and just really freaking HIP.  I guess it also helps that the city is choc-full of well-dressed attractive fellas with British accents.  It felt like we just barely scratched the surface of London in our three days there, despite the fact that those three days were jam-packed with awesomeness.

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I'm pretty sure I left mine in London.

So here's to Dope day, London, and (although I highly doubt any other trip will compare) many more trips like this one!



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