After waking up miraculously without hangovers–and oddly less coughing
and congestion–we "popped" into London. Haslemere is a suburb of London so it's only ~45 train ride (depending on which train you can get). The train gets into the London Waterloo train station, which is a very busy train station as many of the commuters working in the city live south. The trains are so nice. Seriously. They are
clean (and are cleaned regularly) and comfortable and not smelly. The not smelly is key.
London Waterloo is down on the famous South Bank area of London. This is where the Royal Festival Hall is located, as well as the London eye, the National Theatre, an aquarium, lots of other little theaters, as well as an IMAX. There are also tons of restaurants (Wagamama's!) and pretty things to see. And just across the Thames River is all the other cool stuff–only a 10 minute walk away–like Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. When I was doing my semester abroad in London during undergrad, we mostly
stuck to the north of the Thames, but it was really fun to explore the South Bank with Elroy and his friends.
On the walk from Waterloo Train station there were a few sculptures and modern outdoor light art displayed near a building next to the Royal Festival Hall. At first Elroy and I couldn't figure out if there was construction going on, or if it was modern art. Part of the walkway was partitioned off with chickenwire fencing and there was cement bags and general "construction stuff" around. But then we walked by a large rectangular garbage bin that had bright colorful lights (that were glowing, mind you) coming out of it. It had to be art, right? Later when we walked by the display at night, they turned on more of the lights and it turned out the cement mixers were outlined in neon lights. When we went back to London a couple of days later, we
noticed the poster that gave us the artist information. There was also this "talking" poster art thing where you could press pictures and then it would play a recording of giving a baby a bath, or a train chugging past. It was kind of cool and looked great from afar.
We walked over the Golden Jubilee Bridge, which a friend pointed out to me was underconstruction the entire time we were in London. I'm glad it's finished because it looks awesome. All angular and pointy and white like the Zakim Bridge in Boston. The footbridge drops you off right in front of the Embankment Tube stop but it's only a 10 min walk to Covent Garden so we decided to snub the outrageously expensive Tube fare ($6 for a one trip!!) and hoof it over to Rough Trade Record Shop. This record shop is awesome. First of all, it's in the basement of a skater shop. You'd never find it unless someone specifically told you or showed it to you. Second, it's has tons of records (and CDs too). The BEST part was that they took off one record–like a bluesy Johnny Cash kind of album
and then started to play something with a dance beat. They only played a few beats but I SWORE I recognized it. Then they put the needle to the beginning of the track and I almost fell over with hugest smile on my face. They were playing this awesome Eric Prydz vs. Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall called: Proper Education. Man, it was so great. It sounded so good. Heaven. I bought a couple of CDs at outrageous currency exchange prices. ($20 for ONE CD!! ACK!!) But I felt justified because they haven't (yet) release those albums in the US. After that we walked around Covent Garden a little bit more and stopped in Neal's Yard for some afternoon tea/pre-dinner wine.
I can tell you that I met "The Worst Waiter Ever" in Neal's Yard. It must be said that he was French and pretty cute, in that tight black clothing European way. However, apparently he could not understand anything we said, as in, we ordered a cup of Earl Grey and a glass of white wine and literally repeated it again, and then 10 minutes later he bring us a glass of wine. Then he comes back and says, do you want anything else? And we were like, uh…we ordered a cup of tea. After which he got the tea, no more promptly than he got the wine, and then slapped it down and said, I have to close. Huh? I was like, um…what do you mean? Like, close the restaurant? (Which was completely packed with no tables free.) And I guess what he meant was that he had to
"close" the bill, meaning his shift was probably over and he wanted us to finish so that he could get the hell out of there. Anyway, he was really rude, made us pay all quick like and Elroy and I were so irritated that we finished up really quickly, paid with no tip and left.
We went to a pub near Aldgate East called The Ten Bells–which had a really nice feel to it. Really high ceilings and old school tiles and Victorian style wall paper. We met up with some of Elroy's friends that I had met the night before at The Castle as well as a whole slew of NEW friends. The strangest thing about the pub was that there those GIANTmicrobes stuffed animals on some of the tables of the bar. It was weird, but look how cute the Flu is!
After a couple of drinks there, we headed down near Bricklane for some curry at the Lahore Kebab House. No London/England experience is complete without some Indian food, specifically Pakistani food (karahi style) in this case. It was a BYOB place so some of the guys headed out to find the nearest "off license" and came back with TWO 30's of Grolsch and 3 40Ls of Kingfisher. I'm not a fan of lager so I was pretty much shocked when they came back with that much alcohol. Did I mention we were just at a pub? Right. Anyway, since they bought so
much beer the place gave them some "presents" that had balloons, poppers, and paper crown hats. Man, paper crown hats and long (read: phallic) balloons make for a lot of amusements for the barely sub 30 crowd. The food itself was good–I ordered some karahi lamb with lentils and garlic naan and saag paneer to share with Elroy. Mmmmm. A little too spicy for me but still tasty.
After stuffing ourselves with curry we decided to crash at Elroy's friend flat in Westminster. We got there and obviously we had to play Super Nintendo. Can I just say that I am beyond terrible at video games? I just never had them as a kid and never played them. I just don't have that gene that makes you awesome at video games. (I think I got a reduced pack of Asian genes–I love new technology, but I'm not that great at math or video games.) After an hour or so of watching boys play Street Fighter and me sucking miserably at the original Mario Kart and some other weird bomb laying game (wtf?), it was time for beddy bye. It was interesting to me to note that Elroy is AMAZING at video games, thus cementing my long ago realization that I am a sucker for nerdy dorky video game playing geeks. It does help that Elroy does NOT wear glasses. I don't know how or what exactly it helps, but it does. Did I mention that this flat is located a block away from Big Ben? Amazing location (right near where Lawrence of Arabia lived!), beautiful flat…let it be known that Big Ben chimes EVERY 15 MINUTES. At the top of the hour it rings a little song, and then every 15 minutes it chimes. Yeah, cute. Really cute. I didn't sleep so well, but it was really great to wake up and be in the middle of London.