Strange that I spent Independence Day in England…
Lots done today – I had to wake up extra early because I had a breakfast date with some former colleagues of mine. We agreed to meet on 1 Horse Guard Road in Westminster, which is where the Treasury has its offices. We planned to meet in the park in front. I looked at my map and saw it was very close, and when I Googled the distance it read as only being five minutes.
So I got on the train this morning, suited and booted because we were going to break fast at a swanky restaurant. It was 80 degrees today. Ugh. The trains here don’t have air conditioning, and sitting in a suit on a forty minute train ride was awful. I started to fall asleep from the heat, a sheen of sweat giving me a dewy glow.
I got off the train at Westminster, and apparently took the wrong turn because I was going deeper and deeper into Westminster, wandering through tiny side streets and ending up in a successive line of courtyards. At one point, I waltzed into a school courtyard and an army of tweens in blazers and shorts were marching on the gravel, some of them heaving music stands over their shoulders. I love this city.
So I finally found the park in front of the Treasury building and saw my old friends. We had a bit of a catch up, it was nice. I had a full English breakfast, which is essentially cholesterol on a plate – beans, tomato, mushrooms, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, buttered toast. It was heaven (I don’t eat like this at home, but I figured in a foreign country, rules like that don’t exist).
After breakfast I took the train back home. Well, I say home because I’ve been living here for the past three weeks – I’m going to miss it, and it’s sad that I have to leave. I’ve gotten used to my corner of London – Newham is a great part of the city, if a tad too far. My partner got read and we set off for South Kensington. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that far, and had to get off at Whitechapel, because someone either fell or was pushed underneath a train.
I lived in Hyde Park for a bit and took the Metra into the Loop and often the train would have a jumper – but it’s still disturbing. The other passengers were paralyzed for a bit, not knowing what to do, swirling about, confused. We jumped out of the station and got off at Whitechapel, a stop we’ve gotten off at a number of times. We walked to the City on foot – the weather cooled off quite a bit, and the walk was really nice.
On our walk through the city, we stopped at Christchurch Greyfriars, a beautiful old church that was destroyed by the Blitz. A wall was saved, but the rest of the church was turned into a gorgeous garden – slightly overgrown, but beautiful. We walked around some more and made our way to the Tower, and had a pub lunch – a veggie burger with chips, while the partner had a ham and cheeses toastie. Because of the English’s aversion to A/C, we sat in the hot pub while football fans were glued to the televisions.
There was more walking to be done, and after Christchurch, we walked by St. Paul’s Cathedral – one of the most gorgeous buildings in London. I could just sit on a bench and stare at that church for hours. We missed services, but the outside is enough. We also saw Somerset House – it had a gorgeous drive and some fantastic statues.
We found ourselves by the National Gallery again. We wandered around and realized that we were close – unfortunately, it was closing, so we couldn’t pop in. But that’s okay, because we were able to hear some great reggae music from a busker, watch an amateur magician pull some tricks, and we saw some construction workers put together a stage for the Tour de France.
We took some more pictures and wandered around and made our way back to Oxford Circus – we’re drawn to that place. We walked to Soho, and found a bookshop – Soho Original Books, a bookshop slash sex shop. I’ve been there before a few years ago, and found the book collection quite good. We came back and looked through the stock. A very drunk guy stumbled up to the main floor from the basement (where the sex books were shelved) and accosted a young woman, asking her what Ben Wa balls were – when she whispered their function, he shrugged and slurred, “well, that won’t do anything for me…” and the balls popped out like marbles, rolling on the hard floor. The young lady haughtily stormed out.
We walked around and found a restaurant and had some great Chinese food. We then went for a drink at The Yard Soho, a gay bar that reminded me of Sidetrack in Chicago. I carried a Top Shop tote bag, and the bouncer asked to look through it – because of the loud music (ear-splitting dance beats) and his accent, I had trouble understanding, so he gently took my bag and as I tried to open it, my hand slipped and I hit him in the face. This is a bouncer. A big bouncer. He looked justifiably pissed but to his credit, he let me through, and I scuttled quickly into the crowd. My partner and I managed to get to the loft, where I sat underneath a freezing draft, but had a lovely strawberry daiquiri.
After the drink, we walked back to the Underground and took the train to South Kensington. We had to change trains from Oxford Circus, and at South Kensington, we ran across three teenage American girls, who were exuberantly lost, and couldn’t care less about being lost. They stumbled over to us to ask how to get to Russell Square. We had the unfortunate pleasure of having to tell these young girls that they had to catch a train to a place called Cockfosters. I apologized, letting them know we weren’t dirty old men, but were merely having to repeat the name…
We finally got home around 1am. We’re watching the reboot of Upstairs, Downstairs.
Tomorrow is my last full day. I’m full of mixed emotions (a cliche, I know). I miss my friends in Chicago, but I love London, and am sad about leaving. It’s a fantastic city.
See some pics below: