Never do what I did before arriving in London, which is basically nothing except for booking a hotel. You see, I was going over to Holland to visit [now] hubby after being separated for a couple of months so all that mattered was seeing and being with him – I didn’t do any research on the destination.
Back story: Hubby and I met in a bar in West Hollywood during the annual Halloween Carnival several years ago. Who says you don’t meet any quality men in bars??? He is actually a Dutch man from Holland. He was in Los Angeles for an internship. Fast forward 8 months later and it was time for him to go back to Holland. I moved back to the SF Bay Area. What followed was a long distance relationship where we visited each other every couple of months. There were many days and nights of instant messaging, Skype, and webcam. Fast forward to now and I can happily say that we are now married and together. Yay.
Back to the story at hand.
We started on our journey to London on a super fast ferry from the Hoek of Holland to Harwich. The ferry is no longer in service. The same ride is now eight hours. From Harwich we took the train into London. Apparently I fell asleep for the entire train ride because I don’t remember a thing of it. After eating some ramen noodles at a Japanese restaurant, we got on a tube and got off at our exit. We couldn’t find our hotel but I knew it was right near the Tower of London. We were such idiots. Hubby thought the Tower of London was actually just a big tall tower while I had no clue what it looked like.
We eventually walked to a street across from the Tower. I saw all these tourists taking pictures of the Tower so I said to hubby “Hey! Everyone’s taking pictures of that thing. It must be famous!” and proceeded to take my own photos. I asked someone what it was and when I heard that it was the Tower of London, I was relieved to know that we’ve arrived! We stayed at Apex Hotel, a very modern hotel with big rooms and a convenient location (as you’ve read from above). Rooms are sparingly but smartly decorated, with limited edition artworks showcased. The bathroom was very sizable, with both a roomy shower and a bathtub. They provide luxury toiletries and a rubber Apex duckie for you to take home, a cute touch. The duckie is sitting on my tub right now.
We did the requisite hop on hop off bus. Touristy and cheesy? Yes. But it’s the best way to get a good overview of a big city when you’ve just arrived. We got on and off throughout the day to see the sights. I don’t get the attraction to the London eye. Frankly it looks like an eyesore to me. Plus neither Hubby or I have THAT much patience to stand in a long line. What struck me the most about London’s city scene is the juxtaposition of the new against the (extremely) old. Taking a boat tour along the Thames, you float by luxury flats, their glass windows glistening in the sun, next to monuments from centuries past.
Greenwich is a nice neighborhood to walk around. It has a lot of greenery and is full of cozy pubs and shops. We had lunch Mexican food at Desperados – average food. It is home to the Maritime Museum, which you can enjoy for free and will especially interest the boys. There are many things to see in the Maritime Museum, including an observatory and a fine-arts collection (in the Queen’s house – the Queen doesn’t actually live there :)). Greenwich is also the home the last tea clipper still in existence, the Cutty Sark. Throughout her active life, the Cutty Sark launched in 1869 visited ports all around the world to transport tea – which was of vital importance to the British empire and is still a cornerstone of British identity today.
Everything is pricey for Americans because of the horrible exchange rate. I tried not to convert everything to US dollars that much or else it would’ve driven me crazy. What’s great is that London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities so there’s a wealth of low-cost ethnic restaurants and flea markets. The restaurants we ate at reflected London’s cultural and culinary diversity – Japanese, Indian, Mexican. We never did get some fish and chips anywhere and I regret that now.
To this day my hubby still talks about the classic English breakfast we had at a greasy spoon. We walked from our hotel one morning in search of breakfast and came across this tiny shop advertising breakfast for 3 pounds. It had a couple of tables and was frequented by construction workers. We got eggs, sausage, bacon, hash brown, mushrooms, baked beans in tomato sauce, and half a tomato. Hubby recently became a healthy eater though so I’m glad we took this trip before his conversion.
Speaking of diversity, one night we walked out without a plan and apparently walked in the wrong direction. The area we walked through was deserted but eventually we came across what looked like a lounge. It was empty when we went in but we just enjoyed each other’s company and our drinks. All of a sudden it seemed, the venue turned into a club and it was packed. It took me a while to notice but everyone, except Hubby and I, was of Indian descent. I hadn’t noticed, in the dark lighting of the club, that the waitress wasn’t White but was an Indian girl who had died her hair platinum blonde. London, of course, is home to a very sizable Indian population. Dancing in London to Indian-influenced hip hop was a great way to end the night.
Our visit to the Tower of London deserves its own post.
In memory of my London trip, I made some cucumber tea sandwiches and borrowed “Bright Star” from the library. Library = less money spent on entertainment = more travels. “Bright Star” tells the story of famous poet John Keats and his lover and muse, Fanny Brawne. It is a very beautiful movie visually but a bit too slow for my taste.
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup of mint leaves, washed and chopped
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 long cucumber
6 slices of bread
Mix ingredients together to form a spread. Spread on 2 slices whole wheat or white bread. Lay out cucumber slices, top with other bread, and cut into squares. Repeat.