London Holiday: Day 5

Oy  vey!  our feet were killing us after all the walking and dancing last night at Fabric – but no time to waste! Threw the hair up and we left the flat to go to Spitalfields market off Liverpool St. tube stop.  Construction (or planning and engineering as Smoker would correct me) was going on this weekend so its been a bit of a pain to get around via tube.  Once we got off at Liverpool St. we took a little detour down a couple of side streets selling cheap, cheap, cheap clothing from places like TopShop, Atmosphere, etc.  There are always some cute things to try on – but the problem remains in finding and mirror to see yourself! Even if the vendor does have a mirror, I am horrible at making cut throat decisions in terms of purchasing clothing, and with buying it via a market vendor, I am left without the option of return – and I really dislike to waste money on things…

We made our way over to Spitalfields and the girls loved it as I was hoping they would.  This market offers more of a personal touch, seeing as many vendors are selling their own creations or lines.  You can also find sometimes vendors selling great vintage pieces like Lanvin bags, Burberry coats, or simple old leather handbags from Paris in the 1940’s. Beautiful stuff!  There are so many interesting things to see at Spitalfields, you could easily spend the entire day wandering around, talking to designers and vendors about their collections and creations.  Katie left us to go meet her old house-brother from Morocco who is now living and studying in London.  While she was gone, Smoker, Meg, and I decided to grab a bite to eat at the corner cafe in the market.  Surrounding Spitalfields market are tons of little restaurants and shops so there is never a lack of food for the shoppers.  After lunch we decided to walk in some of the shops, and since I’m a huge fan of dolling yourself up (and for free!) and experimenting with new things, I suggested we go into the Benefit store and play with makeup since our faces did look a little sad from the night before.  I became a “Betty” for a day after putting on the reddest lipstick I could find (which just so happened to be called, “Betty”) and played with some new eyeliner, which I actually fell in love with!  The hue of my rep lips and the top-heavy eyeliner winged out at the corners, I felt a bit like Dita Von Teese – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all!  I even got Smoker to put on a lipstick. She chose a lighter pinkish toned red and it looked great on her, really making her face pop!  Smoker happens to be an extremely pale-skinned individual, so color choice is a bit more tricky at times.  She looked great after her makeover though!  Meg, who happens to have a HUGE Benefit obsession, was the only one who actually walked out of the store with a bag in hand.  I got her to try on a lipstick which she rocked and therefore purchased her first tube 🙂 along with a couple other items as well.

The girls became tired so they left me at Spitalfields to wander around some more.  I wanted to wait for Katie to get back so she could see more of the market before it closed and we couldn’t come back since she would go back to Paris tomorrow.  While waiting I went into a few more stores and found a cute Pretty City London weekend bag I wanted, but stupidly, did not purchase because I’m always money conscious.  I don’t usually regret not buying things but there have been a few times I could kick myself for not just spending the money!  This is one of them.  After Katie got back, I found out she ended up not eating while with her host brother and was starving considering we hadn’t eaten all day and it was no about 4 p.m. so we popped into a pie shop where she scarfed down on a jerk chicken pie which looked delicious!  We explored the market a bit more before stopping in a little shop in the back where Katie found some cute things for herself and her grandparents back in Indiana.  I found a perfect card for Brendan’s upcoming birthday but really wanted Smoker’s opinion so I decided we would come back the next day for just a minute so I could buy it.

Pretty City Weekender Bag

With the market closing down we traveled back to the flat where we picked up Smoker and went back south towards the Thames to Gordan’s Wine Bar.  I had told the girls how great of a place it was so they really wanted to go.  Trust me, I had no problem going back!  Sadly, we got there a bit later than we wanted and while we were still able to drink our bottles of wine, we could not accompany it with some tasty bread and cheese as they were fresh out! Oh well, the drinking must go on! 

“Chubby bunny” – A scene from one of Smoker’s and my favorite movies, Just Friends.

We vote "Yes" to Gordan's Wine Bar!

I only get to see my cousin, Katie, every few years when her family flies up from Texas for the holidays and since she’s a fresh 21’er, turning the precious age this past January, this was the first time that I got to enjoy a drink with her!  She’s an incredibly responsible young lady who has the world at her fingertips, so no…she didn’t become belligerent. Tipsy? – YES!  Tonight has been my favorite time ever with Katie! We got to talk about so many things never brought up before and laugh at each other’s stupidity and “Heath” moments.  But mind the drunkenness, if you were to rate Katie on a scale of 1-10…this girl is a 12!  She is remarkably beautiful, brilliant, charitable, and can speak fluent French! Seriously, what can this woman not do?! I might be a little bit jealous of her perfection.

Gordan’s was closing up so Katie and I finished our bottle of red and Smoker left the wine bar with hers half full, and in hand.  As we were walking back towards the tube station we stopped to take a few funny pictures, as per usual, and decided to take a video as well.  This became the best part of our night…day…maybe even trip!  Smoker was to be the recorder while Katie and I said hello to her parents and demonstrated the outside men’s urinal (don’t ask why…).  Well, as Katie continued to keep walking, Smoker turned to follow her with the camera and tripped over a cement block heading straight for the ground!  Katie and I were shocked/worried/cracking up…and the first words out of Smoker’s mouth would be, “Did I crack my wine bottle? That’s all I care about!”  We spent the next few minutes on the ground, laughing so hard we literally could not speak…all while the video is still going.  I would post it for all of you to get a laugh however, I think this video is something for Katie, Smoker, and my eyes only. Sorry!

The phone booths smell horrible.

 Katie still wanted to get a London patch for her backpack, so we caught the tube and headed to souvenir central – Piccadilly!  We went into the largest shop I knew of and let Katie loose! 30 minutes later…we walked out. Caught the tube home, figured out the buses Katie would have to take in a few hours to get to King’s Cross station where she would then get to Luton Airport.  I gave her the best directions I knew, hugged her goodbye, and we all went to sleep!  Poor Katie got about 2 hours rest before walking to the bus station around 3:30 a.m. and apparently had quite an adventure actually getting to King’s Cross. I haven’t heard the story yet but as long as she returned safe and soundly back in Paris, I’m OK.  Not looking forward to tomorrow being my last full day in London before returning back to the states…

Last night with Katie in London!

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London Holiday – Day 1

Woohoo!  After 8 long months, I finally get to return to my favorite city, London! After constantly watching ticket prices, I found an extremely cheap round trip and couldn’t pass it up.  Each day, I’ll be keeping you up to date on what I’m doing, where I’m going, and best of all, the things that I am seeing!

Technically, you could consider this day 1 and 2 considering I left for Chicago O’Hare around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday and after my 1.5 hour flight to Montreal, running to my next gate and catching my 7 hour flight to London Heathrow, I finally arrived around 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning!  I honestly don’t mind the long flights. Except for my rear end and tailbone becoming sore, it’s a time for me to sit back, relax, read a book, do some writing, and watch some really good movies I’ve most likely missed.  On the way to London this trip, I caught up, watching Black Swan and Love and Other Drugs.  Both were phenomenal and I would highly recommend seeing.

After collecting my luggage, I topped up my Oyster card (much like a metro card) and jumped on the Piccadilly line on the tube to Earl’s Court to drop off my things at my good friend, Chris’s flat, who was kind enough to put me up for a night.  Earl’s Court is one of the older and nicer areas of London and you can distinguish it from any other location simply by the architecture of its’ buildings, which in Chris’s area, were historic red brick.  You will always find old iron gates in front of entrances and he’s fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with a beautiful private garden behind his flat.

Jet-lag usually never strikes me when I travel to a location, but definitely on the way back home. I told Chris I wasn’t going to take a nap and that I was simply going to head straight out to walk the city for a bit.  Well, as soon as I sat down on his beautiful leather couch and started organizing a few things, my body told me differently.  I closed my eyes for a mere 30 seconds and before I knew it, 2 hours later, I woke up to a phone call from my friend, Smoker, who was studying in London as I had a few years ago but was currently on an overnight trip to Liverpool and Manchester.  We chatted for a few minutes, arranging next day plans to meet up and I decided it was about time for me to get a move on.

Knowing that Smoker (which is her last name – no, she does not smoke) isn’t too much into shopping, I figured I would get mine done the first 2 days she was out-of-town.  First stop was to be High Street Kensington where I could find a good TK Maxx (sister to TJ Maxx) and purchase a Red Nose Day Shirt.  Red Nose Day only happens every other year and is all about comic relief.  The BBC holds programs on television for an entire day that make people laugh, all while raising money to help change the lives of those in the UK and across Africa.  Having been present during Red Nose Day 2009, it was great to see so many celebrities, businesses, and everyday citizens come together for a greater cause.  Something I wish I could see happen in America. Can you imagine the outstanding impact a country this great in size could have in putting our efforts together for one day towards charity?  One of my favorite things about Red Nose Day is the t-shirts that are designed by a renowned artist.  In 2009, it was designer Stella McCartney who put together some great Beatles inspired shirts.  This year, Vivienne Westwood donates her talent and skill into art and drama themed shirts.  The one thing these shirts have in common is the red ball placed on the nose of each face to commemorate Red Nose Day. Definitely one of my favorite days to celebrate every other year!  Click here to learn more about RED NOSE DAY!

Paul McCartney posing with The Beatles Red Nose Day Shirt designed by his daughter, Stella McCartney in 2009.

Kiera Knightly supporting Red Nose Day by wearing a Stella McCartney designed shirt - 2009.

Vivienne Westwood designed t-shirt - Red Nose Day 2011.

Shakespeare Red Nose Day t-shirt - Vivienne Westwood 2011.

Sadly, I had no luck getting a shirt since these usually go fast out of the store.  I figured I would move on and try my shopping luck on Oxford Street.  Oxford street is very much a home street for me because I lived just a few blocks from it 2 years ago off Edgeware Rd.  After taking the tube to Marble Arch, I crossed the street and entered Primark.  This is the store that can only be described as being as packed as Black Friday…everyday of the week. No joke. People push, shove, and elbow you to get to the items they want – and you can dream on if you ever think you’re getting an “I’m sorry” out of them. It’s not necessarily rudeness, more of just how things are.  The reason for this constant madness is because Primark carries pretty much anything and everything you could want in terms of clothing at ridiculously low prices.  Last summer, I obtained an entire outfit for £10 (which is the equivalent of roughly $15). That included a skirt, sweater, and sandals! Need a pair of tights to go out that night (a London fashion staple for everyday wear), no worries…Primark sells them for £1!  I did great only leaving with a pair of brogues, a pair of oxford flats, and a canvas tote.  I had to get to my other favorites, Dorothy Perkins, Next, New Look, Uniqlo, Zara, and by far…Top Shop!

Time flew by after a few hours of shopping and before I knew it, Chris called and we met up at Bond St. station to figure out where we wanted to go for dinner.  He suggested taking me to a favorite place of his and as I’m usually up for anything, we were off!  He took me to Gordan’s Wine Bar – what will now be a staple stop of mine every time I’m in London.  Hidden off Embankment tube station, this tiny wine bar would never be found without the help of someone who has been there before.  The 2 ft. wide staircase leading down to the cave could be easily missed.  Once you’re downstairs, you have to push your way to the bar to order one of hundreds of types of wine, ranging in a wide variety of prices.  Then, you can turn around and pick out some tasty cheeses served with fresh french bread at the opposite counter.  After that – its good luck finding a seat in the tiny cave you most likely have to hunch over to walk in and around and squint your eyes in the dim lighting to see.  While that may not sound exactly like a pleasant place to be, it is.  The atmosphere is phenomenal.  If you can’t find a seat inside, head outside to one of the many tables with chairs(usually always all taken as well) or a stand to rest your bottle on while you sip, nibble, and chat.  Chris and I met Tom and Caroline whom had asked us to share our table with them and soon found ourselves splitting a couple more bottles of wine and cheese until the place closed down.  After we left, Chris and I took a walk along The Thames, caught up some more and headed home on the last train of the night.

All in all, day 1 was great! Exhausting – but nevertheless, I was once again walking my streets of London, experiencing new places, and meeting new people. All the things I love to do. Bring on day 2!

The Thames River - Embankment is off to the left.

Walking home - passing the London Eye.