- The tube rocks!
- Tourists sure can be rude. The natives weren't.
- British tastes run milder than Californian but stronger than Canadian.
- Everyone sounds more charming over here -- even street beggars. No matter what folks look like, they all speak the Queen's English and not some weird dialect, such as British Ebonics.
This was My One Big Day To See London. Like a little kid, I woke up way too early, but with enough time to map out my travels. Using the Web and help from folks on #filkhaven, I managed to figure out where I wanted to go and what tube stops were closest. I left with rdmaughan and started my day. First was my trip to Abbey Road to see where the Beatles crossed the street. All the tourist kitch in the area was hysterical. The graffiti outside the Abbey Road Studios wasn't. Folks work in there, and IMHO writing "so-and-so was here" on the wall is rude. Whoever was recording that day was clearly loaded, as all the cars outside were expensive. I'd have loved to have watched the session.
Next was lunch with highstone. We went to an Indian all-you-can-eat buffet so I could get my requisite curry, which was much milder than I'm used to in the US. Granted, in my neck of the woods we've got lots of folks from India, but I was hoping it'd be hotter. Oh well; it was still tasty, and highstone was an excellent lunch companion. I felt like a total lunkhead, being brain-fried and not as well-read as I'd like to be (I know more about US history and literature than anyone else's). He was curious about filking in California, and I told him my impression of what things are like. For example, we don't all live in Oakland (we're all spread out), and BART doesn't come anywhere close to the London Underground in terms of adequacy (and doesn't even run where I live).
highstone also showed me around the neighborhood where he worked. The British Museum was there, but I didn't have the time to see it (it was either that or everything else). Another trip I'll hit it. I'd also have liked to have visited the library where he works just to see how libraries differ from those in the US (hey, I like libraries and hold cards to several around where I live).
highstone and I went to a small second-hand bookstore. I was hoping to find a really old cookbook for Mom, but the oldest they had were from the 1960s or 1970s -- hardly old by her standards. I was trying not to look too closely at the books for fear I'd weigh my luggage down even further than already planned. :-)
Next, highstone showed me how to take the bus to the Twinings store. I didn't get off at the right stop, but I had a marvelous time getting lost. I saw a shop selling "Magic Mushrooms," and hey, I got to ride on the top of a double-decker bus. Eventually I reverted to the tube and found the store. I bought so much tea they gave me a free tea canister. I wasn't sure if it would survive the trip, but it had a lovely horse riding motif on it; a perfect gift for dimakoi, who loves horses, was watching out for Warren while I was away, and who would likely be picking me up at the airport.
I decided since I was close to the Thames I should see it. I saw lots of cool bridges, but after walking a while realized I should take the tube to the London Bridge. I did, only to find out it was a tourist trap and that I couldn't really see the bridge from the bridge. I did find someone selling pasties made in Cornwall, so I bought one, along with a can of sugar-free Orange Tango to try. I stuffed them in my bag, got my requisite photo of a McDonald's for Warren, then took the tube to Buckingham Palace so I could see it in daylight.
Note: It's not "buck-ing-HAM," but "BUCK-ing-em." rdmaughan warned me in advance that calling it "Bucking-HAM" Palace would flag me as "an American Tourist" in the worst possible way. bedlamhouse had also warned me not to ask for directions to "Mornington Crescent," especially in a heavy American accent, but I didn't have enough time to care.
To get to Buckingham Palace you have to walk through a park. The park reminded me a little of Central Park, but with fewer trees and more open, grassy spaces. There were rules about dogs, specifically, if you had more than four with you, at least two had to be on leash -- or something like that. They love dogs over here, and I got to see lots of cool ones.
Eventually I got to the palace, saw the guards, and went to the gift shop, where they sell lots of overpriced souvenirs for tourists. I was too late for a tour, but it wasn't like I had time for one anyway. It was pretty and big.
Next, it was onto Oxford Street for Selfridge's and whatever other shopping I might do. Selfridge's is almost as uppity as Harrod's. They sold barrettes for £40 each (that's around $80 US). Ouch. I had hoped to find a wallet, but theirs were overpriced and grouped by designer. Instead, I picked up lots of Green and Black's chocolates and a thank-you card for the Maughans there (it even had dandelions on the cover!) and picked up a wallet for Warren across the street at a luggage store for only £5. There wasn't much of a selection in terms of color and style, so I decided to hold off on one for myself. I'd really wanted one with a detachable change pouch for travel, but they didn't carry one.
I never did find the sweater shops of which fleetfootmike spoke, but what I did see cost way more than I could afford to spend anyway, so it's probably just as well. I did find a small Tesco's, so I picked up some Marmite, some treacle tarts to try that night (to knock myself out quickly), and a bottle of Fairy dish soap for Consonance's Interfilk auction.
My last stop was Piccadilly Circus. I decided taking a bus would be more interesting from a visual point of view. Besides, I was exhausted, and I didn't feel like dealing with flights of stairs in the tube to go one stop. I picked a bus line that ended at Piccadilly Circus so I couldn't screw up, then relaxed and enjoyed the ride. I got out, and immediately noticed the Reduced Shakespeare Company was playing. Hee. I come all the way from northern California and there's a bunch of northern Californians playing. (In their earlier days they used to play our Renaissance Pleasure Faire.)
I also saw a Burger King with an Internet cafe. Figuring I'd better check my e-mail for job stuff, I stopped in, checked e-mail, and had a few minutes to spare, so I logged into #filkhaven and chatted with folks, most of whom seemed surprised by the mileage I'd covered. After that it was more looking around and souvenir shopping. Finally, I took the tube back to the Maughans to eat, sleep, check the Internet one last time, and pack. Just as I was getting ready to crash another possible job came through. I had to explain that I was "out of the US till late tomorrow night" and thus couldn't exactly "phone home." After the treacle tarts I set wake-up alarms on my Palm, went to bed, and went THUD to sleep.