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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blimey, London is Grand!

A great first day!

I arrived in London yesterday a little after 10 local time.  Customs took about 30 minutes, and my bag arrived unharmed. Although I broke down at the Dulles airport and had a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich and fries, I still think that was better than whatever they served on the plane, and since we were leaving at 9 pm, I wanted to relax and get some sleep as soon as possible.
I did manage to nod off a few times(thanks to eye mask, ear plugs and body pillow) so arrived not feeling too bad. 
Heathrow Express from the airport was fast, though it was a hike to get to the tube station at Paddington, and the stairs were tricky with 2 bags. I purged my bags right before I left, but still need to work on packing lighter.  At least I got a little work out. I missed a train change, so took the long way ‘round to the South Kensington station, but got my first taste of London.
I found Chelsea Cloisters with the help of a very nice local lady—I had turned down the wrong street and wasn’t sure I was even headed in the right direction, but I was just a couple blocks off. Thanks to Google street view, I knew what the area looked like and what shops were close by.
The apartment is perfect—separate kitchen has the requisite kettle, so I am drinking Lady Grey Tea this morning(when in Rome).

After settling in, I went to explore and wandered as I found interesting things, and found a local grocery (Waitrose). 
Lots of great selections, so I picked up some essentials: yogurt, bananas, mature cheddar, crackers, tea and HobNobs, and went back to drop them off.

After chatting with Wayne, I headed out again out to find the V&A, which is just a few blocks away.  I heard French from quite a few groups as I headed in that direction, and even more in the museum. I wandered for a couple of hours until I started feeling lightheaded (way past time for some food). 

I was determined to have fish and chips and a pint, and found a nice local pub (Hour Glass). They weren’t serving food for another half hour, so I got a pint of Carrington(I asked for something local). I moved further down the bar when I heard the loud American accent behind me. (I did NOT come this far to listen a fellow yank pontificate loudly). I ended up chatting with a few people—folks wanted to know my opinions of North Korea, gun control and general politics when they found where I was from. I learned that the Daily Telegraph is known by some as the Daily TORIgraph, that the UK election process is as confusing as the electoral college, and Di’s grandmother was fixing her up for dates after she left Charles. One of the bartenders is a young woman from Australia—she and the owner started baiting each other—when I told the customer waiting for his drinks that he had stepped into something with the two, the owner told me to “read your paper” and mumbled about Americans coming in with their comments. I consider this a personal victory as he said it in exactly the same tone he used with the bartender, completely in fun.
When I ordered my fish and chips, the owner disappeared behind the bar into what looked like a closet—turns out he had gone upstairs to make my dinner. The fish was beautiful—perfectly cooked. I doused everything in malt vinegar and some salt.

Not sure if this is common, but the salt and pepper were swapped—the salt was in the shaker with fewer holes.

Note to self: jetlag + hunger + pint of UK beer = impending exhaustion + morning headache.
Next time I’ll be sure to eat something before the beer.
I still managed to stay up to about 9, had a great sleep and woke up at 6:30 local time.

Not sure what I'll end up doing today, but plan to wander through a few neighborhoods and possibly hit a few shops--Liberty for sure.

More to come!

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