I’m finally in London – sound the trumpets! After what felt like eons I finally am in the world’s capital. Last night I spent a lovely evening at the Westin O’Hare in Rosement and today I’m in Newham, London sharing a flat with four Italian students who play loud music and cook pasta all the time – they are also unfailingly polite and lovely and extremely solicitous.
My trip started by getting to the airport for a nine o’clock flight at three. Something happens to time when you’re in an airport that early – it drips by very slowly, like molasses. We got a table at a gyros kiosk and had overpriced pita sandwiches and soggy French fries, and then wandered the airport for a few hours before settling down at our gate. Because we were on an overbooked flight, we wouldn’t be able to sit next to each other, but that problem was quickly rectified by an angelic gentleman who traded seats with me.
Flying for eight hours is a problem, especially if you want to sleep. The seats weren’t designed for normal-sized people, but instead were designed for tiny, lithe creatures with extra joins, who can fold themselves up neatly and fit. I managed to wrangle myself into the seat for a fitful night of tossing and turning, periodically being awakened by the violent jostling of turbulence, or the loud yammering of the gossipy flight attendant who was sitting behind me (she and her colleagues were all bitching at celebrities they were looking at in Hello magazine).
My partner and I finally made it to London, an hour late, and very tired. Because we’re on a strict budget (very strict, as in we looked warily at buying chewing gum from a vending machine strict), we opted for the Underground which took a clean two hours for us to get to our flat. But once we got there, we were greeted by one of the extremely friendly Italians who bustled us into the house and led us up an artery-like staircase to a room, advertised as “gigantic” but really was “moderately roomy.”
Still, I was thrilled to be settled and home. We went out exploring our neighborhood – a Middle-Eastern neighborhood with some Southeast Asians, as well. Aside from the KFC and the McDonald’s, the shops were either halal butchers, kebab shops, or sari stores. We explored our neighborhood, getting a lost a couple times, as crowds of children were being let out of school.
We finally decided on a nice restaurant called the Grill Corner – it was incredible. I had chicken tiki masala with French fries (I know, very authentic) and a side of butter naan. The prices were pretty reasonable for the excellent food – the bill for both of us came to just under 25 pounds (I have to find the pound sign in a minute).
After dinner, we took a long train ride out to South Kensington (where I stayed years ago), and had a truncated stroll throughout the neighborhood but had to pack it in because jet lag and exhaustion was conspiring against us as we were literally falling asleep standing up, like horses. We had a mad dash through the first floor of Harrod’s before turning back.
On our way back some fellow Americans boarded the train – very loud group who quickly distinguished themselves as Americans by their gregarious behavior. Somehow we got sucked into their conversations and we learned that this group was from Washington, DC. I was in no mood to speak, so I buried my head in a tabloid left on the seat next to me, while my partner chatted with the muscle-bound leader of the group.
Oh, before I sign off – the worst of the worst – I left my kindle on the plane – I’m heartbroken because I didn’t bring any books, so I had to buy a couple in South Kensington at the South Kensington Bookshop. I got two books to tide me over: Ruby Wax’s Sane New World and Brian Viner’s Nice to See It, To See It, Nice: The 1970s in Front of the Telly. I’ll write up reviews of the books once I’m finished with them.
Tomorrow will be our first full day of sightseeing…We’ll see what happens…