London Holiday: Day 2

I woke up Thursday morning a bit sore from all the wine the night before, but as poorly as I felt, I had much more sympathy for Chris, who had to go into work in the early a.m.  I had a few things to do before leaving his flat for the day so I needed to get up and start going. I finished my weekly column for The Herald Argus and sent it in to my editor, showered, dressed, and headed out to Temple tube stop off the river to the Somerset House to see about getting tickets for a free tour.  I was hoping to get tickets for the Saturday tour so Smoker and my cousin, Katie, who would be flying in from Paris Friday night, could go with me.  However, since they don’t give out early tickets, I knew we would just have to come back on Saturday.

Next on the agenda – lunch with Brendan!  Brendan and I met last summer, when I traveled back to London and we were staying at the pub/hostel called the Green Man off Edgeware Rd.  Come to think of it, I’m not exactly sure how we first met or started talking.  Most likely the mutual friends we accumulated while all living out of a suitcase… Anyways, we’ve all seemed to keep in touch since we’ve split from the GM.

I met Brendo off South Kensington tube stop and we walked the streets until we found a restaurant, Byron, that he had heard of and I’d never been to. We both agreed it looked good and went in.  Byron is a burger place – which is nothing exciting – but it has some of the best burgers I have ever tasted!  While chomping down, Bren and I caught up on life, work, friends, etc.  I always enjoy spending time with Brendan because we can talk about anything, laugh at everything, and the jokes seem to be never-ending.  While he continually makes fun of my American accent (he’s Australian – from Melbourne), I tease him over his drama filled life and then envy the fact that he actually has a work visa for the UK and can afford a posh flat in Chelsea!  All in all, Brendan is a 10, and always a good time to be with.

Bren had to return to work so we walked back to the tube and parted ways.  I continued my shopping spree on Oxford St. but didn’t want to spend too much the first two days before doing anything else, so I passed on purchasing and figured I could come back another day if I felt like it.

TopShop @ Oxford Circus

Exhausted, I headed back to Chris’s and waited for him to get home from work.  We decided to try a place close by for dinner.  We both have a love for Greek food so we chose a little restaurant called, As Greek As It Gets, just a few blocks from his flat.  It was a delicious meal and the bottle of wine we shared again wasn’t bad either 🙂

I packed up my things, said goodbye to Chris for the night, and headed off to the tube to go to Smoker’s flat since she had gotten back from her trip to Liverpool and Manchester.  Waiting for the train, a good-looking guy came up to me and asked if he could look at my map…(I have a luggage tag with the tube map on it)…I laughed but told him sure…except it was simply a tag, haha.  He asked if that was an American accent he heard and I told him yes.  There’s really something weird in the water over there that makes guys attracted to American accents.  I do not, what-so-ever, understand it, but could guess that it’s similar to American’s attractions to British or Aussie accents.  We got to chatting and I found out his name was Robin and we just so happened to be going to the same stop.  He asked me the location of my friend’s flat so I showed him my little map I had taped in my moleskin.  I instantly got laughed at for keeping such a detailed notebook!  Sure, you might consider it a bit OCD since I have everything in perfect order from places I want to go, attached with either hand drawn maps or googled maps printed out – but I like it that way! Keeps me organized and situated.  We talked all the way til we rode the escalators up and Smoker was standing there waiting for me.  After exchanging numbers, we decided to meet up the next few nights again for a drink close by.

Finally, Smoker and I headed to her flat, got settled in, met a few of her flatmates, and went to bed after 3 more hours of catching up and laughing. Lord, I’ve missed London and the hilarious-ness that surrounds conversations with Smokes! 🙂  Til tomorrow!

"Please mind the gap between the train and the platform."

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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.