Sunday, May 24, 2009

London II.i

We are now in London again! We're planning on staying until June 15th or so, and hoepfully by that time we'll have made plans for our next stop. I'm looking into planning our trip to South Africa, but we'll see how that goes. Either way, we'll figure something out.

You may be asking "Where are you staying for a WHOLE MONTH in London??" Yes, I know, a month is a fairly decent chunk of time. We are just so thrifty. Actually, lucky is a better way to describe it. So the lady who runs the B&B that we stayed at in Kelvedon has a son who lives in London. We got in touch with him and his wife and set ourselves up to stay with them. They have both been very nice and enjoyable so far. They have two daughters: an adorable three year old with curly brown hair and six month old with big doe-eyes. I'm sure we'll be woken in the morning sometimes, but I think that will be good for us. We're actually getting the place to ourselves for 10 days as well because they're going on holiday (aka vacation...). So we get to par-tay! Not really. We'll be good.

Ok, before we moved into "the house" (which is about 130 years old! crazy) we were staying in a hotel in Kensington, London. Since Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were nearby we checked them out. Since the two parks are right next to each other separated only by a river, it makes for a huge expanse of green land in the middle of the city. It's a nice place, although not filled with flowers and decorative hedges like I've seen in other parks. But it's a nice place to go and relax I'd imagine. We saw an older man in a business suit eating lunch here with a snazzy bike at his side. The kind of bike you would think belonged to a teenage punk with it's bright colors, raised seat, and small wheels. But it was his!

And there were all sorts of birds near the water: pigeons, swans, various kinds of ducks, geese. And they would wander up to you quacking (or honking in the case of the geese) for food. I even managed to touch one slow-moving duck because he had a hurt foot. Poor thing...

The fountains in the park were nice, although they kinda stank. And since it was windy (I didn't know the UK was so windy) we kept getting hit with sprays of water from the fountains. We didn't stay there too long...

We saw the Albert Memorial too - man is it huge! Massive. Like right out of Egypt. Or Texas (everything's bigger in Texas right?). It's a very cool monument so I was sure to get lots of pictures. They still don't do the thing the justice it deserves though. And right across from it is Royal Albert Hall. Chuck and I just bought tickets to a Classical Gala for June 4 at Royal Albert Hall! I'm excited.

That was about it for the day seeing as we had walked much further than we intended. Our feet were killing us and we still had to make it back to the hotel. We picked up sandwiches or something from Sainsbury (one of the big grocery store chains) and stayed int he rest of the evening.

The 19th was the day we met our new London family. We met just to see if we'd like each other and discuss some finer details of the possible arrangement. Beyond price there wasn't much to discuss... So we chatted and drank tea for a bit. By the end they said they'd be happy to have us move in the next day if we'd like! And we did like, seeing as that was our last night at our hotel.

After meeting them we ate at a hole-in-the-wall Chinese place just around the corner. Nothing like deliciously greasy Chinese food... Needless to say we felt a bit gross after that so walked it off down Kennington Road. Along the way we saw a house with a plaque claiming that Charlie Chaplin had lived there! We found out the next day that there are about three houses that all claim the same thing... Who knows, it's still cool. All the roses are coming into bloom now too so I kept taking pictures of them. Me and my flower pictures... What can I say?

We walked all the way to Westminster Bridge and saw Big Ben and the London Eye again. The London Eye is so expensive! It's 11.50 GBP per person to take a ride. Ridiculous! I can't believe people actually pay that. After passing that by we went into a yummy smelling gelato and waffle shop expecting the best. The guy behind the counter ended up being a complete butt-head though. He didn't do anything in particular - he just seemed so annoyed with us for some reason and didn't even look at us as he gave us our gelato and took our money. I think his bad attitude made it easier for us to eat only half though, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

Oh, I have a gripe with London. Actually, the UK in general. Garbage cans. Where are they?? You'd think that somewhere along Westminster Bridge and somewhere in the entire Underground at Westminster you'd encounter a garbage can, but no! So I walked around for 10 minutes with a half eaten cup of melted gelato before I finally got fed up and set it down by and escalator. I felt bad too - I hate to litter. But it's like you have no choice here. And this wasn't the first time I've noticed the problem. I've seen other people do the same thing I did: get up to try and throw something away to find there's no bin, so they leave it on the ground or on a bench. I was told by the people we're staying with now that it's all because the Irish used to drop bombs in the garbage cans... Friggin Irish. I suppose now they would worry about terrorists instead of the Irish. As long as they're fine with picking up all the litter, then whatever!

That was about it for the 19th!

The 20th was moving day - we packed up our backpacks, checked out of the hotel and hightailed it to our new flat. Oh, did I mention we now have Oyster cards?? It's basically a cheaper, fast-access way to use the Underground and buses. You load it up with however much money you'd like and then just swipe it at the gate or on the bus instead of having to whip out your wallet. So we're like real Londoners now! As you might have guessed, we used our cards to ride the Underground to Kennington, which is where we're staying now.

Our hosts were nice enough to make dinner for us: risotto with chicken and various veggies. We just chatted over wine the rest of the night, getting to know each other.

The 21st was a big day. We went to the Natural History Museum, which was absolutely amazing. The building alone is gorgeous and huge. Inside we saw dinosaurs skeletons and fossils, a bunch of stuffed animals from mammals to birds, prehistoric animal skeletons such as the giant sloth, giant armadillo, giant ostrich-like bird, giant two-horned rhino, a huge room of minerals, a ton of different gems, displays on conservation and energy, a giant Sequoia tree, a primate exhibit, etc. As you can see, it was vast. And so interesting! I loved the giant sloth! We actually had to force ourselves to leave. In fact, we came back the next day to get more pictures (I will be posting them in a future blog - it was mainly pictures of the minerals and gems).

After the museum we walked and walked and walked and walked... I felt like I was stumbling through a desert with no food and water, trying not to fall over and be unable to get up. In other words I was starving! But we kept walking. We did pop into Harrod's which was fancy-shmancy. They're "luxury bathrooms" weren't all that exciting though. I admit I was disappointed in that. But the large number of guards that stood all around the place was impressive.

In stumbled on in my starved stupor (okay, so I'm exaggerating slightly) down Park Lane and down Oxford Street. We finally stopped for lunch in an Italian place where I got a greasy pasta and Chuck got a sensible salad. I have no self-control...haha. We walked down Charing Cross through parts of SOHO and Chinatown to Leicester Square, then continued to Trafalgar Square. That's a nice square. We were beat though, so tubed back to our flat.

That night night was spent out with our "landlord" and his friend at a local pub followed by some delicious Indian food. The butter chicken was gooood. That was a long day... And I got a bunch of pictures even though my camera died.

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