Friday, June 29, 2007

A Day of Art

more book destroying, originally uploaded by supafly.

Friday started out as a day of art. I first went to the "Gorilla in the Roses" event at the Camberwell Library. David and Davina, a pair of artists, led us in an afternoon of destroying books by ripping them up, typing, stenciling, and sewing on them, and making collages. They were inspired by Joe Orton who, in 1967, inserted a picture of a gorilla into a book about roses at the Islington Public Library. The act of destroying books is entirely against my nature, and it was difficulty to begin. After reading a bit of Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, I reminded myself there were many more copies of that out there and started ripping out favorite lines. I spent most of my time destroying a London guide book which was fitting and also easier because it was out of date. It was a small group, but we enjoyed ourselves and the artists shares their experience with another event they had done for the Camberwell Arts Festival yesterday where they shared stories with people using the laundromat across the street and asked them to share a story about experiences at the Tumble Wash in return.

After working on my book for a few hours, I left to go to another art event going on across the street, Sweet Obscenities. At Seymour Brothers bakery, Lucille powers was collecting people's swear words on a large sheet of paper and was also piping them onto cupcakes. What a great idea - to take insults that you had experienced and eat it up!

Next, I took the bus downtown and went to see Black Snake Moan at the Prince Charles Cinema. The PCC is just off of Leicester Square, where there are several expensive movie houses, and it is a bargain in comparison. I paid £3.50 and thoroughly enjoyed the intensity between Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson.

Afterwards, I walked around Leicester Square, where they were previewing theatre performances by invitation only for West End Live, which started the next day and was open to the public. Then I walked down Regents street and got some bath bombs at Lush. When Marshall got off of work, I met him at the Apple store (which is bigger than the one in Chicago, there's a glass elevator that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the middle). We walked down to Brewer street in the rain and had falafel sandwiches at Maoz. Afterwards ,we got on a crowded #12 bus and headed home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Science in London

Royal Society lecture, originally uploaded by supafly.

My feet were killing me by the end of the day on Wednesday, so I took it easy on Thursday. I hung out at the apartment for most of the morning. It's been nice because there aren't any other tenants yet and Abigail is often gone, so I had the place to myself. I made myself a tasty lunch of pasta carbonara and sat in the front room reading. Eventually, I decided to venture out and ended up right across the street at the South London Gallery, which is housed at the Camberwell College of the Arts. I checked out the exhibit, Stay Forever and Ever and Ever, just before it closed. I also sat in their comfy lounge reading the latest edition of Time Out. On the way out I picked up one of their free posters which can be cut up into individual cards to build with - very cool!

After dropping of the poster at home, I walked down to Primark and discovered the only store (so far) that has clothes cheap enough to buy when you take into account the currency conversion. They were also stylish. I picked up a pair of pants for £4, a shirt for £6 and a cute orange coat for £10.

Next, I headed to Central London for a lecture at the Royal Society, an "independent scientific academy dedicated to promoting exellence in science." I got there early, but they hadn't let anyone inside yet, so a queue had formed outside of the building, composed of mostly white-haired science fans. The title of the talk was "The LHC: How the world's largest experiment can investigate matter's smallest constituents." The talk was given by Dr. Tara Shears, and she did an absolutely wonderful job of communicating very complicated information in way that easy to understand and follow. Her powerpoint presentation was also impressive in that it didn't have the words she was saying, but was instead very visual in nature - showing graphics or photos that really enhanced and supported what she was saying. (I took lots of notes on the talk if you're interested.)

After the lecture, there was a lively Q&A and then I met Marshall near Trafalger square. We walked to the seven dials and found Food for Thought, a cheap and delicious vegetarian restaurant, right before they closed. We got their special of the day and sat in Neal's Yard (where Marshall picked up more tasty vegetarian fare) to eat.

Guided Walks day

beautiful Hiroshige wave, originally uploaded by supafly.

Last Wednesday was a day of guided walks. I started the day near Red Lion Square by the Holborn Station tube. The Holborn Street Rangers, a group that provides information about the Holborn neighborhood and patrols the area, led a free tour of the Foundling museum and hospital today. It started at the intersection of Lamb's Conduit street and Guilford Place by the entrance to Coram's Field, which is seven acre playground for children. Unfortunately, I couldn't enter because adults can only enter when accompanied by adults. I couldn't even look in because it is completely covered by a large fence, wall, and shrubs.

We started by taking a brief tour of the Foundling Museum, which tells the history of the Foundling Hospital. This was the first home for abandoned children in London. It was started in 1779 by Thomas Coram, who had been a sea captain in the 1700's. Interestingly, Georg Friedrich Handel helped raise money for the Foundling Hospital by holding benefit concerts where his piece the Messiah was performed.

The original hospital took in over 27,000 children in the 200+ years that it was in operation. Because so many more children needed their help than could be taken in, mothers had to enter a lottery when trying to leave their children there. A white ball meant the child would get a medical exam and would most likely be admitted. A red ball meant that if any of the children with white balls did not get admitted, they would be next in line. A black ball meant they were denied entry. The most interesting part of the museum were the Foundling Hospital tokens that were on display. These were small objects that mothers would leave with their children so they could identify them if they cam back for them. Some were homemade, like a heart sewn out of scraps. Others were just bits of what might otherwise be considered garbage like the label off of a bottle of ale.

After the tour, I walked back down Lamb's Conduit street and checked out the many interesting shops there. There was a charity shop (neighborhood thrift store) which tempted me with books. There was also an adorable bookstore called Persephone books, which publishes forgotten twentieth-century books written mostly by women. The books are beautifully published and every book comes with a bookmark that matches the unique endpaper of the book.

After also stopping in at a bicycle shop, a beautiful little boutique, and an organic food store, I turned on to Theobald's Road and stopped to grab a bite at the Fryer's Delight, which was recommended as a good fish and chips shop. I ordered rock fish - I don't know what that was, but it was too greasy and had a huge vertebrae. The shop was nice though and I rested my feet in a spacious booth that could have seated six.

On the way home, I stopped at St. James' park. It was the most crowded park I had been in yet, but I was still able to find an empy seat on one of the many benches lining the paths. There were some beautiful black swans in the pond there, as well as pelicans and cranes. There was a nice little cafe that had an elevated platform overlooking the pond, as well as big green cushions you could sit on while you enjoyed refreshments. My favorite part of the park was a little cottage off of the pond where the plants were beautifully overgrown.

In the evening, I took my second guided walk of Camberwell (and my second guided walk of the day). This one was on the history of Camberwell, primarily the many Huguenots (French Calvinists) and Germans who moved into the area many years ago. The walk started in Ruskin Park and I hurried up Denmark Hill to get there before it began. Ruskin Park, like Burgess Park, had been made from demolishing homes, many of which had been destroyed during World War II. There was still a remnant left of the house at 170 Denmark Hill . The German composer Felix Mendelssohn had stayed in a neighboring house, which belonged to a relative. While there, he composed a song that he first called "Camberwell Green." He later changed the name to "Spring Song." It's a familiar piece of music that I often used to hear during Looney Tunes cartoons.

Our next stop was a pub called The Fox on the Hill. In 1786, it was the site of the largest entertainment hall in England (at the time). It was called the Denmark Entertainment Hall in honor of the King of Denmark, who was visiting England when it was being built. We walked up Champion Hill to view the Platanes, the only surviving mansion from 1882. There were many other large mansions still up there that had been build at other periods of time. Mr. Herman Kleinwort, the merchant banker who had the Platanes built, moved to Champion hills for the clean air and healthy breezes. From there, he would walk to work in Central London, crossing the London Bridge over the Thames.

Next, we walked through what had once been the mews (and was now dirt road alley) for the grand house and estate of a Huguenot family that had lived in the area. We stopped at what had been the Lettson Estates. Dr. Lettson had been a quaker physician who encouraged people to live in the area because he believe it to be healthy due to the winds and fresh air. He was also a great philanthropist who ended up losing his estate because of his generosity. After passing many more interesting sites (the old dispensary, the minet/cat architecture near Myatt's Field), we ended up at the Sun and Doves (a pub that also displays art, shows films, and has live music), where there was an opening party for the first Camberwell map. They offered us all free food and drinks, a wonderful end to the day! (On the way home I saw a beautiful painting of Hiroshige's wave on the side of a building off of Coldharbour Lane.)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hanging out with Seema

Tuesday I got a chance to hang out with my friend Seema. We both lived in Lower Wallace house in Woodward Court at the University of Chicago. (Our dorm is now torn down and the home of the shiny new GSB building.) After school, I lived with her and her best friend Shani at the Windermere House, a great old building across from the Museum of Science and Industry. It was one of the biggest apartments I ever lived in and had great views. I hadn't seen her in several years. The last time I had seen her I went to visit her in LA and got a wonderful experience during my first visit to the city. Since then, she had been living in London for a year and was now back in LA. She was in London on her way back from a business trip to Naples.

We met on Regents street in front of the Burberrys and walked down to Wardour street on Soho to eat at Satsuma, a Japanese restaurant with ramen, yakisoba, udon, and sushi. (There seems to be many more Japanese restaurants here than in Chicago.) After lunch, we traveled to Seema's old neighborhood in Islington. She climbed onto the roof of her old building to show me how she used to get in when she was locked out. Then, she convinced the new tenant to let us see her old apartment. It was a nice, light-filled flat and had just been newly renovated when Seema lived there.

We walked down towards the Angel tube stop, stopping in St. Mary Magdalene Gardens to admire the roses. We took a pause at a pub for ginger pear cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce (for me) and a beer and chips for Seema.

Next, we took the tube to Old Street where Seema wanted to take photographs of some of the graffiti she remembered from there. While were one Hoxton Square, we found Sh!, a women's erotic emporium. It was pink with frosted glass hearts on the windows and a sign that saying that men were only allowed in if accompanied by women. It was the most warm and welcoming sex shop I had ever been in. Almost as soon as I walked in, they offered me tea!

After that, we took the tube to either Charing Cross or Leicester Square and huddled under an overhang waiting for the downpour of rain to stop. When it slowed to a drizzle, we walked to an internet cafe so she could check her messages and then on to Soho where we met her friends in a queue for Busaba Eathai. I was happy to meet them as they enjoyed food as much as me and gave me many suggestions for inexpensive places to eat in London. Marshall met us for a delicious dinner of different curries and plenty of rice.

Walking around Covent Garden

a specialty shop, originally uploaded by supafly.

Monday I found a great website with many different walks to take around London. I copied down the Covent Garden walk and set off. First, I stopped at Red Lion Square near Holborn station. There was supposed to be graffiti painting, but the heavy morning rain slowed down the set up. I walked down the Strand, but went the wrong direction and ended up on Fleet street. Luckily, I found a Barclays there and was able to withdraw some more cash. (It turns out Bank of America has a deal with Barclays so they don't charge your a "foreign fee," which from Citibank amounted to $5, so I deposited money into Marshall's account and have been withdrawing from that instead.)

Finally headed in the right direction, I stopped at a patisserie and got a tasty egg, tomato, and mayo sandwich. When I got to Charing Cross station, I began following the walk (also outlined at my google map - it's a lot more convolute than the last walk, but that's because it covered a small area and went down almost every little street, court, and passageway). St. Martin-in-the-Fields, which had been under construction last summer when we stopped by, was now completely closed to the public so I continued down St. Martin's Lane and found Brydges place, the narrowest passageway I have seen yet. (It is just wide enough for one person to pass down it.) Next, I stopped at a model car store where I found vintage motorcycle postcards to give to Marshall for his birthday. He claims there aren't any English motorcycle brands left other than Triumph, so I found evidence of those that had passed on. Down the street was the famous Freed's of London, where many beautiful satin pointe shoes were for sale.

I turned on to Goodwin's Court, which was a very picturesque passageway, still narrow, but wide enough that a tour group had congregated halfway down. At the end, I found a small Italian restaurant that seemed to be subterranean. From there, I passed the Lamb & Flag pub. (There are so many pubs with unique names and placards everywhere I walk around London.) I walked by another familiar site, a row of scooters and motorcycles, but in the midst of this particular row was one painted like spiderman - how conspicuous would Peter Parker be if he rode that instead of the sad little moped he has in the movie?

Next, I found several wonderful bookstores. There was a terrific travel and map store called Stanfords where I purchased my own copy of London A-Z which has detailed maps of every little street and passage in the city (over half of the book is just an index of all of the street names). I also sat in one of their comfortable chairs and read a few books on London. They also have a little cafe that sells fair trade coffee (which seems more available here than in Chicago). I also happened upon Dover Bookshop, which is a great resource for clip art, graphic, and fine art. Their books come with CDs of the images. They also had a wonderful collection of paper dolls, some of famous movie stars and others of fashions from different decades. I think I had some of these when I was a kid. Of course, the exchange rate made everything a bit pricey, but it was fun to browse.

Eventually, I ended up at Seven Dials, an intersection of four streets, one that ends there, thus the name. On Monmouth street, I spied a bakery window filled with the most decadent looking cupcakes. I'm a sucker for sweets, especially cupcakes, so I stopped in and got a lemon cupcake. It was topped with a yellow licorice piece and was filled with lemon curd. I ate half of it before I felt overdosed on sugar, and kept walking. The next interesting shop that I went into was called Coco de Mer. It was a very posh, high end sex shop that seemed to specialize in beautiful leather bondage gear.

From there, I turned into Neal's Yard and passed a much more innocent looking store with beautiful frosted glass windows covered in flowers called Orla Kiely. Neal's yard was a colorful little courtyard filled with all things needed for an "alternative and healthy life." There was a salad bar, a skate board shop, and a bead store (there were many bead stores in the area), but the most predominant business is Neal's Yard Remedies which sells natural "remedies" (skin potions, etc...) and also had treatment rooms and meeting rooms.

Down the street from Neal's Yard is Neal's Centre, which is an indoor shopping plaza that was a bit more hipster in flavor. It contained a vegetarian eatery called Food for Thought that was later recommended by my friend Seema's foodie mates. There was also a Japanese shop called Superdry that contained California surfer wear. I passed several more interesting shops: one specialized in boating supplies, another had the wonderful name "Coffe, Cake, and Kink." I also found a club of sorts called the Poetry Place where members were free to write and read their works. I also found a pub with a hilarious placard called Hercules Pillars. I stopped at the Freemasons museum, but was too late for the last free tour. I'd have to come another time.

After passing a Korean church, I stopped at the statue of a Ballerina across from the Royal Opera House, which was also closed to the public by the time I got there. (I thought the walk would take an hour or two, but it turned out much longer since I kept finding interesting shops to stop in, so that lengthened my trip.) After resting there and attempting to direct a fellow American tourist (how do you direct someone when there are so many little streets that stop after a block?) I found Covent Garden markets. It felt like a more picturesque Navy Pier and I stopped at a U of benches to watch a performer doing a striptease and scaring female tourists by getting close to them and gyrating suggestively. I stopped in at the London Transport museum shop (the actual museum was closed for renovation) and considered getting Tube magnets. (Marshall loves saying "Mind the Gap.")

Next, I passed St. Paul's Church, which had a beautiful little garden with rows of benches that would be perfect for sitting and reading. Unfortunately, it was closed so I kept on walking. Off of Long Acre, I found Cafe Pacifico, which is supposed to be one of the only decent Mexican restaurants and one that was recommended by Charlotte, our landlord's 17-year-old daughter. It was quite pricey for Mexican food (in comparison to Chicago).

I was at the end of the guided walk so I turned back to Charing Cross Road where there are many antiquarian and used bookstores. I found one where all the books in the basement cost £1 each. I considered getting some Agatha Christie to read, but knew I'd read them all and probably had them at home, so I kept walking.

It was Marshall's birthday, so I met him for dinner and we ate out at Mr. Jerk, a favorite of his co-worker. The food was tasty, but more barbeque than jerked. Afterwards, we walked to Chinatown. We had been there last year, but I had completely forgotten. I recognized it when we got there. It was much more lively than we had last been there and we passed at least five artists sketching the area. Close by was Leicester Square, which has at least three movie theatres ringing the square. On the way home, we stopped at The Castle, a local pub, for a pint. I got Scrumpy Jack, a cider with a great name.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weekend in London

the festival crowd, originally uploaded by supafly.

Our first weekend in London was a busy one. Well, after sleeping in and waking up around 11am it was. We joined the free guided nature walk that was a part of the Camberwell Arts Festival. It met at the Peckham Library which was just across the street from the cheap grocery store (Lidl) that I found and the fancy Burger King. We got there early so we checked out the modern architecture of the Peckham Library. It had many colored glass panels and was a career center as well as a library.

After finding our tour guide amongst a group of petitioners - Marshall just looked for the person without a clipboard in their hands - we set off down the Canal Road. This was a path that started at the library and had once been a shipping canal, bring lumber to Camberwell Green where it was treated and stored until it was needed elsewhere.

The walk took a couple of hours and we saw many interesting sights along the way. A long line of bicyclists passed near the beginning of our journey. One had a boombox mounted onto a recumbent bicycle with a roof. He blasted music for everyone on the ride. We also passed an old house that now housed a retired work horse as well as some chickens. As we crossed the street into Burgess Park (twice as large as St. James Park) we came upon an outdoor punk rock concert. There were lots of people there and I even recognized one of them - an overweight guy with a fluorescent green mohawk that I had seen yesterday in Camden town.

We stopped to enjoy the lake at Burgess Park. The little girl on our walk would run towards every group of pigeons we saw to get them to fly off. After the lake, we stopped at a beautiful set of walled gardens called Chumleigh Gardens. It was previously "the friendly female asylum for aged persons who have seen better days." What a great description! There was a cafe there so we stopped for snacks and a walk or sit in the garden. It was beautifully overgrown and reminded me of the Secret Garden and all the unkempt gardens that they found hidden away.

After a nice break, we walked to "the bridge to nowhere." This was a bridge that used to provide a way to get across the canal but was now just a bridge over a walking path. It was fun to cross despite it leading nowhere! We exited Burgess park and took some back streets towards Camberwell Green. On the way, we passed an allotment, an open lot that had become a community garden. Apparently, you have to live within a mile of the garden to have a plot and there is a long waiting list to get in. It wass nice to see that people are so eager for some land to grow things in. I wish America had fewer big lawns and more gardens. Our walk ended at the community orchard by Camberwell Green. There were some berries ready to be eaten on one of the bushes (I can't remember what kind) so we all picked some before we left the tour.

After the walk, we went to Southwark Park for the Carnival de Cuba. It was a big festival with row after row of food stalls. Most of them sold jerk chicken. The longest line was for the stall making mojitos. I got a fried plantain as soon as we got there and then we opted for a cuban meal of red beans, rice, chorizo, and hot sauce. I enjoyed their more environmentally conscious eating utensils - sporks and knives made out of wood. I ended up seeing those at a lot of the festivals this weekend.

After listening to some reggaeton and watching salsa dancers (as well as the East End Elvises - these two old guys dressed like Elvis who apparently go to every outdoor music festival), we crossed over to the quieter part of Southwark park and then went to Brick Lane. (After accidentally taking the bus from Canada Water in the wrong direction and finding Surrey Quays - a suburban like area with a movie theatre, bowling, and big chain restaurants.)

I had been to Brick Lane before but had forgotten. It's a bit overwhelming because every Indian restaurant on the street has people in front of it that very aggressively try to get you to eat at their restaurant. They offer you things like free drinks or 15% off of your bill. We went down to Whitechapel trying to find a less intrusive place to eat and found a new restaurant that was quiet and filled with mostly indian people and, most importantly, noone was out front trying to make us eat there.

Sunday we had another leisurely morning. Marshall made a delicious breakfast of fried egg and pepper sandwiches and we ate as an artist put up an art installation across the street. It was a car he had jacked up and had replaced one of the wheels with a resin wheel that played a cello as it spun around.

After breakfast, we went down to Trafalgar Square for the Dano Korean Festival. There they had lots of traditional entertainment like fan and sword dancers and traditional Korean music, but our favorite act were the Korean breakdancers battling with UK b-boys (from Ireland). There was also lots of delicious Korean food and a tent where you could decorate a paper fan (in celebration of summer). The crowd was big and it was the largest concentration of asians I had seen since I'd gotten to London. (I've also seen quite a few language schools where students from Korea go to learn English in London.) We also noticed several Korean girls (from Korea) with English boyfriends and we speculated how many of them were just in the relationship to have someone to practice their English with.

After watching the b-boy battle, we walked down to the South Bank of the Thames for the Coin Festival. This was a festival to honor refugee week and they had many different performers. We listened to African music and watched traditional Indian dancing as well as Serbian dancing. While we sat listening to the music, a group of people next to us passed around a joint. We also saw the East End Elvises again, this time gyrating to African music. I also discovered they have their own flickr group - how hilarious!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Take Courage

Take Courage, originally uploaded by supafly.

Friday I had a leisurely morning and decided to do one of the walks from the Lonely Planet London book. I decided to try the Highgate/Hampstead Heath walk. I took the #343 bus to Borough and the Northern Line train to Archway. From there, I began my walk up Highgate Hill. (I traced the entire walk on my google map - check it out!) At the top of the hill, I saw the pub in the photo with the sign "Take Courage" on it. That is how I'm feeling about my time in London. It's a bit lonely being by myself all day with noone I knew nearby, but I'm trying to do things I enjoy and writing about it here since I have noone to talk to about it during the day (and I'd look kind of nutty talking to myself all of the time).

Across the street from the pub and around the corner from St. Joseph's church was Dartmouth Park Hill and the entrance to a beautiful little park called Waterlow. It was so nice to be in a quiet green space away from the hubbub of the city. The only other people in the park were mothers and fathers with baby strollers. In the park I found a narrow lane shaded over with trees. I assumed this was the "Swain's Lane" I was to find according to Lonely Planet. It wasn't, but it looked like the kind of place a swain would take a girl to woo her.

Next on the walk was to supposed to be a stroll through Highgate Cemetery, but I was too cheap to pay the entrance fee. (Karl Marx and Michael Faraday are buried here among others.) However, it ended up that the real Swain's Lane ran parallel to the cemetery, so I peeked in as I walked. The cemetery was so overgrown that it looked more like a forest that happened to have odd shaped rocks (tombstones) popping out here and there through the green.

After passing many picturesque English cottages, I crossed Highgate Road and entered the larger park called Hampstead Heath. It was truly enormous and it was hard to tell where Parliament Hill was because there were many rolling mounds in front of me. This park was less tree covered and had many more wide open spaces where people were walking their dogs and playing football (soccer to us). There was also a group of guys caring a box of electrical equipment. A police car drove by me as I ambled up and almost by accident found Parliament Hill. The park was so vast that there were many spots where I was completely alone. I found a set of stairs that seemed to lead up to a small hill, but when I got to the top it was THE hill - Parliament Hill - and there were several people up there on the benches scattered across the hilltop enjoying the view. One guy had biked up the hill and was drinking a quart of milk. Another woman was sitting on the bench with the best view (picture on flickr) and talking on her cell phone. I chose a bench and sat for awhile.

The next stop was the mixed bathing pond (there are also separate men's and women's bathing ponds). I didn't swim as it has been quite chilly in London but I could see someone out there enjoying themselves. After exiting the park, I was supposed to stop at the poet John Keat's house, but I couldn't find it. I did find more picturesque homes that all had names instead of house numbers. I should've written some of them down. I'll have to go back again. The least imaginative one was simply "Hampstead Cottage" for the park I had just left. I did find another house recommended by the guidebook which they described as a "unique modern house." I almost missed it because it really wasn't unique (except for being so modern compared to the houses surrounding it). However, there was a sign in front of it offering tours entitled, "unique modern house."

I took a wrong turn somewhere and instead of ending up at the Hampstead tube station where my journey was supposed to end, I missed Keat's house by 1/2 a block and ended on a small square near the Royal Free Hospital. It was well past lunch, so I stopped at the Marks & Spencer Simply Food shop. It was my first time exploring the shop and it had a wonderful food selection. They have potato chip flavors here that you just don't see in the U.S. I notice "sweet thai chili" is a popular one. They also aren't afraid of "bacon" flavored chips. I opted for "leicester and green onion flavor." It was a much subtler version of sour cream and onion without the sour cream. I also got a (ubiquitous here) prepared sandwich (chicken, avocado, and bacon). Everywhere you go has these pre-made sandwiches that are cunningly cut into triangles and then packaged in a triangular case. For the really hungry, they have a variety case that contains three triangular halves in different combinations instead of two. They had a bakery section and I almost got a cherry tart but decided to try their ginger cake instead.

I sat in the square across from M&S eating with the whinos that were gathered there. I'm not sure what the law is about drinking outdoors (although drinking outside of pubs is quite common). However, when a police siren sounded nearby, the whinos near me tucked their beer cans in their pants and walked away.

Rather than backtracking to the missed tube stop, I decided to keep walking. I walked down Haverstock Hill to the Belsize Park stop, but then decided to keep going to Chalk Farm stop because (silly me) I thought there might be an actual farm there as I had read there are a few working farms in London. Instead, I found lots and lots of stalls selling clothes along the road between the Chalk Farm and the Camden Town tube stops. One part of the market felt a bit "Disney Landish" because it was in an enclosed area with a food court. Behind the food court was row after row of stores selling vintage clothing. Closer to the Camden locks were store selling cheap t-shirts, wellies, and fake LeSportSac bags.

On my way to the Camden Town tube stop, a girl stopped me on the street to see if I wanted to get a hair cut. I haven't gotten one in awhile so I decided to go for it. It's one of those places where students are learning so it's really cheap. I have an appointment on Tuesday, I'll let you know how that goes.

After a rest at home, I met Marshall at the Broadgate Centre for a free showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. They were showing it on a big screen in a circular plaza that was surrounded by terraces of people drinking. The movie showing made Chicago outdoor films seem so calm and orderly. Half of the people there kept talking and drinking throughout the movie and their speaker system wasn't that great, so we were only able to hear half of the dialogue. (What was the plot of that movie? I had a hard time understanding it.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sticky Toffee

sticky toffee pudding, originally uploaded by supafly.

The best thing about my second day in London may have been this sticky toffee pudding. I had heard of this dessert, but this was my first time trying it and my was it delicious! I got it while walking down Carnaby Street - a collection of tiny streets closed off to traffic (off of Regent and Oxford streets) that had many little boutiques and cafes.

I started out the day trying a different route to get down to Central London. I went by way of the Elephant and Castle tube stop. The station was surrounded by lots of cheap vendors selling t-shirts and bages for 99pence. I took the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus and checked out the shopping.

My first stop was TopShop and Miss Selfridges. It was similar to shopping in Korea because there was just so much to choose from. There were multiple floors of clothes, shoes, and accessories by lots of different designers. If the prices had been in dollars instead of pounds it would have been comparable to H&M, but because of the exchange rate, I couldn't afford anything.

Next, I stopped by Muji and Uniqlo - two Japanese chains that haven't made their way to Chicago yet. Muji has a lot of great basic items, like toiletry items and office supplies. I bought a new notebook to record maps of all the places I was walking. (I've posted my notes on my custom google map - check it out.) Uniqlo is like the Japanese version of Old Navy. Therefore, it's a lot nicer, but still very basic. They had some cute jackets on sale - but again, the exchange rate kept me from buying anything.

I started to get hungry and made the mistake of buying a cheese and bacon (really ham) pasty at the Cornish Bake House. It wasn't so good and right afterwards I found lots of better alternatives. I mapped a lot of them in my notebook. The most ubiquitous are the sandwich shops "Eat" and "Pret a Manger." They both have lots of tasty sandwich options as well as salads, soups, and dessert. Cheaper but less interesting sandwiches are also available at local groceries (like Tesco and Sainsbury). There were also some Thai, Chinese, and Indian restaurants that had cheap takeaway boxes available. I met Marshall during his lunch break and he found tasty, cheap, and delicious lamb curry for takeaway (what they say instead of "carry out" or "take out").

Marshall confessed he didn't know where to go to get things close to his work (a building called "The Space.") So, after I met his two co-workers, I walked around Mortimer Street and mapped all the places he could eat (cheaper the better). I noticed the cheapest option were "sandwicherias" or "sandwich bars." I also learned that shoe repair shops also cut (copy) keys and got a copy made of our room key. It's one of those old fashioned "skeleton" type keys and was quite expensive to copy - it also took them an hour. While they did that, I discovered many resale or charity shops in the area (like thrift shops but all for some cause like OxFam or Rubella) and went in to look around. All the shops were very hot and stuffy but it was a good place to get used books as well as clothes for really cheap.

In the evening, I walked East on Peckham road and found a really cheap store, comparable to Aldi where I was able to get more groceries for a really cheap price. When I went to get a shopping cart, it took me a while to figure out I had to put down a one pound deposit in order to unlock it - a good way to encourage people to return their carts at the end!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

my first day in London

Abigail's art show, originally uploaded by supafly.

I can't believe it's been less than 24 hours since I landed in London. Although, it's been about 24 hours since I left my condo for the airport.

I flew AIr India from O'Hare. It was a flight to Mumbai that stops in London on the way. I got stuck in a middle middle seat, so far from the windows and between a nice woman who was sick and sniffling in an aisle seat and a man who struggling with the limited space in the middle seat next to me. It was a very no-frills flight. There was one big screen at the front of the plane which I happened to be sitting close to, but the picture quality wasn't that great. I got to see the animated film "Happily Ever After." All I can say bout it is that I definitely like Sarah Michelle Gellar better in Buffy. I enjoyed the airline snacks - it was chana dal - a spicier and tastier treat than your typical bag of pretzels. Meanwhile, the guy next to me had three glasses of Johnny Walker whiskey and water. For dinner, I had lamb curry and okra. Pretty good - again slightly more flavorful than typical airline food.

When I got to London, I did a lot all at once. First, I bought an Oyster card (similar to the CTA card) which you can "top up" online or at tube stations. With the Oyster, bus rides are £1 one way or £3 all day. Tube rides are £1.50 one way or £6.10 all day. It's twice as expensive for one way rides paid in cash. Then I took the Picadilly line tube from Heathrow to Oxford Circus. I went to the T-Mobile store to get a pay as you go sim card for my phone. It comes with a handy card that you can use to "top up" your sim card at ATMs. After that, I called Marshall and he met me on Greater Titchfield Street (I love how interesting the names are for streets in London) with the keys to the apartment. He walked me to the #12 bus (right across from the Apple Store) which dropped me off a few blocks from the apartment.

The apartment is in Camberwell Green (in the Southwark borough of London) on Peckham Road. It's right across the street from the Camberwell College of Arts (where out landlord's daughter Abigail goes to school) and down the street from Southwark Town Hall. There are four floors. The first has the kitchen, the second has our room and the living room, the third has the bathroom, and the fourth has three more bedrooms.

Something new to me was taking a real bath (in a pure bathtub, no shower curtain or shower attached), but I've also never had such a huge clawfooted tub. It felt very luxurious, but I also spilled a lot of water. Afterwards, I walked down to the closest biggish market, Somerfield. I bought some food (they had rhubarb and plum flavored yogurt!) but wasn't sure if was supposed to get bio or nonbio detergent for the washing machine. (I just looked it up to find that "bio" means it contains enzymes that helps get clothes cleaner but that can also be more irritating to people with sensitive skin.)

Soon after, I met our landlords, Mark and Denise, and their youngest daughter Charlotte. Mark is originally from Monroe, Michigan - which is only an hour and a half from Bryan, Ohio, where I grew up. (What a small world!) Their daughter Abigail was kind enough to invite me to her art show (for illustration students) and they drove me there. It was quite an adventure, as they didn't have the exact address of the show and are from Surrey so aren't totally familiar with the neighborhood - not to mention that London streets are very confusing. After many u-turns and calls to Abigail (it's illegal to call and drive here too) we found it. I most enjoyed the little books they had produced. There was a lot of sewing incorporated into the artwork, not just drawing.

After the show, we got lost while looking for a place to eat, but eventually found our way to Dulwich (a village within London) and went to the Bishop Pub for my first meal in London. I ordered slow-roasted pork belly with apple sauce and a side of chips and aioli. It was delicious and similar to filipino pig roast (except no rice, but applesauce and fries (chips) instead). Charlotte ordered fish and pea pie (so many savory pies here!) and we started off the meal with toasted hummus with chickpeas and another spicier red sauce. Marshall was back from work (but still working) when I got home. It was a long day and I slept soundly. Now I'm off to start my second day!

Monday, June 11, 2007

London Bound

I'm off to London tomorrow and have started a custom map on Google to help me keep track of where everything is and as a record of the trip. Click here to see it.