Saturday, August 22, 2009

London, Day 2

On the second day, we visited a little internet cafe down the street from our hotel. We had thought we'd be able to find internet access from our hotel, but we couldn't. It turned out that internet connections in London and Paris were much harder to come by than we thought they would be.

We then walked through some light rain to Paddington station. I have to say that being in a city with good, reliable public transportation was really a cool experience for me. So few people drove in London or in Paris, which is the polar opposite of where I live. I so enjoyed the experience and really wish it was one I could participate in in real life. Still, at the end of the day, we were always really worn out from all the walking.

Paddington station was interesting. It's a combination of overland trains and subways, so it's very, very busy, especially during the morning when we were there. Aaron had to use the restroom (during which time he discovered the novelty of pay toilets), so I sat on a bench and people-watched. Two things interested me. One was a pigeon. I swear to you, this was the largest, fattest pigeon I have ever seen in my life, and it just walked through the station as if it were one of the morning commuters. What really cracked me up, though, was the way the pigeon moved. His head bobbed in time to his walking, so when he sped up to get out of the way of some people, his head would bob really fast. It was hilarious.

The second thing I noticed was that there were NO overweight people. None. Zero. I was actually looking, having heard about us lazy, overweight Americans. Well, they're right. I'm sure it has to do with all the driving we do as opposed to all the walking they do.

And while we're sort of on the subject, can I just take a moment to communicate to you how fast-paced London is? I don't know that I can adequately describe it, but Paddington Station was just an example. Pretty much everywhere we went, people were bustling about. Someone was always running to catch the tube, or the bus, or a cab. It was a little overwhelming sometimes.

While we were in London, the weather was cool enough to need a light sweater, which was WONDERFUL! Other than the brief showers these first two mornings, the weather was sunny and clear, in the upper 60s to low 70s. In a word, perfect. However, I had brought only one sweater with me, mainly because it was the only I owned. It didn't seem feasible to wash it every night, and I'd been wanting another one anyway, so we took the tube from Paddington to Piccadilly Circus again because we'd seen a Gap the day before.

While here, we shopped around some. I found a great sweater at Gap, which I realize is not all that adventurous of me. But the price was right, and I can say my Gap sweater came from London.

I know we bought some souvenirs, too. We also stopped in a National Geographic store, which was really neat. It was like a bigger, better, more upscale Pier One. Fewer items, much greater cool-factor. They had one-of-a-kind furniture from all over the world (with one-of-a-kind prices), and there was a small art gallery of sorts with NG photographs. It was a fun little stop.

I'm having a hard time remembering when we went to Harrod's but I'm pretty sure it was this day. We didn't take any pictures, but it was certainly interesting. The store is ginormous, and divided into different rooms, with each room devoted to one thing. For example, there was a chocolate room, a food/market room with cuisines from all over the world, a wine room, a candy room, and then all the regular department store sections. We wandered through all the food rooms a few times, bought some more souvenirs, and grabbed lunch to take back to our hotel since there weren't many places to sit in the food rooms.
After lunch we made our way to Covent Garden. After much reflection, I think I've decided this was my favorite day. It was relaxed and fun. We wandered through some neat little shops and boutiques. We looked at purses at Fossil, and I drooled over what I simply could not afford (I did buy a Fossil wallet at an outlet store state-side and I love it). I walked through a bead shop that had an eclectic, crafty feel. I didn't even know that many varieties of beads existed. We wandered around, taking in the London sights and stopped to watch a particularly good busker.

That was another thing that was so neat about London--the buskers. (Aside: If you haven't seen the movie "Once," you need to go rent it now.) There were so many good street performers, many of them musicians. It was so fun to walk through the tube station, listening to the music bounce off the narrow, rounded walls, and then come upon some guy playing guitar and singing, or a girl playing violin.
While in the Covent Garden area, we also visited a Crabtree & Evelyn, which I honestly didn't know was a world-wide chain. The one in London didn't give out any free samples like the one in Tyler does, though. There were several other higher end shops in this area, but many of them were closing, as it was early evening by now.

We wandered past an opera house (on the left) and saw many Londoners dressed to the hilt, so I suppose there was a performance that night. As we turned the corner next to the opera house, we walked past some very swanky, brand name shops. They were much less interesting.
We were getting hungry so we decided to visit this Turkish restaurant, Tas Ev, that Aaron had picked from our London guide book. It's on the South Bank, so we made our way across the river.

View of the London eye from the 'north' bank

Crossing the bridge
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from the South Bank
I was skeptical about eating Turkish food, but that was one of the best meals we had the whole trip. They had this really good bread on the table, and then I ordered some sort of chicken & vegetable grill plate with almond rice...oh my goodness. I wish I had some right now. The flavors were spectacular.

The London Eye, Big Ben and Parliament in the background

One of the funny things I discovered about London & Paris (Europe?) is that their 'lemonade' is very different from ours. I ordered lemonade several times in hopes of getting, well, lemonade, but what I got was quite a bit like Sprite, but not as sweet. However, in London they had This Water in all of the Starbucks and I fell in love with the lemon flavor. It was like lemonade, but not as intense. Yum.

By the time we left the restaurant, it was quite dark and quite late, so we headed home to bed.
Next up: London Aquarium and Buckingham Palace!


Chris said...

The photos enlarge perfectly, and when they are I enlarge them to full screen, I feel like I'm there with you! Thanks, Sweetie, for taking me on this mini-tour of London - I'm looking forward to your third day!

Chris said...

oops - I messed up on my editing!

Angela said...

I love that it was sunny for you. All the pictures turned out great. I was rushing around yesterday, shopping bags in hand, racing for the subway, and started laughing at myself, because I probably looked exactly as you described.