Donnerstag, 13. März 2008

London (Round 2)

Tim gave me a ride to the Weeze Airport late on a Tuesday night last week (thanks, Tim – it’s the one that’s almost in the Netherlands) so that I could fly RyanAir over to London. I was very excited to be going back to London (one of my favorite cities) and to see Kat (one of my college roommates who is au-pairing in London)!! I arrived in London at the same time I left Germany (due to the time change) and caught a series of buses and underground trains into the city. Kat met me at King’s Cross Station and walked me to the University of London apartment that she and the Fowler Family (the family she is au-pairing for) are staying in. It was late when I arrived, so Michael and Nicholas (the 2 ½ year-old) were already asleep. I got to meet Tyler, the mother, who is really great. She is an art history/archaeology professor at UVA and has a fellowship at the University of London right now. After settling my bags into the apartment Kat and I went to check out some of the pubs in the area. Being a Tuesday night it was fairly quiet, but we found a nice, old pub on the corner and got a drink. By the time the place closed we met two guys (one English and one Irish) who wanted to take us bowling. Unfortunately, the bowling alley we went to was just closing down, so we found another bar and chatted for a while.

The next morning I woke up, walked out into the living room and met Nicholas for the first time. He was a bit confused to see a stranger walk out of one of the rooms in his apartment, but eventually warmed up to me. Kat and I went into the city with Nicholas to meet Kelly, another friend from UVA (who is currently completing a Masters at Oxford). We got off the tube at Victoria Station and walked past some of the “must-see” London sights – Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and on to Trafalgar Square, where Nicholas chased the pigeons. We moved on to Leicester Square where we bought food at Burger King for Nicholas and went into Soho, which was still decorated for Chinese New Year, for lunch. We went to a 5£ buffet at a Chinese restaurant – you can’t do much better than that in London. By this point it was getting close to Nicholas’ naptime so we went back to the apartment, enjoyed some tea, and then Kelly and I went to the British Museum (which was just a few blocks from Kat’s apartment). We saw the Rosetta Stone and an abundance of artifacts that the British have “borrowed” from Egypt and Greece. We tried to see the Terracotta Soldiers, but the exhibit was sold out. Maybe next time.

After the museum Kelly, Michael and I went to Tyler’s lecture on Grecian vases at the University of London. It was strange for me to be back in an academic environment again, but fun. Then Kelly and I joined back up with Nicholas and Kat and got Indian food (my favorite) from down the street. Once we finished up our dinner and Tyler and Michael returned home, Kat, Kelly and I went back out. We went to King’s Cross Station to see the famous Platform 9 ¾ and then took the tube to Victoria Station to get Kelly on her bus back to Oxford. Finding the bus wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be because it didn’t actually stop where it said it would online. After getting in a little late-night jog while re ran around asking for directions we finally found the bus and Kelly was on her way. It was still fairly early in the night so we decided to stop at a pub near Kat’s apartment before going in for the night. Apparently there had been a soccer game going on because the place was filled with fans. We had our drinks bought for us (yet again by one English and one Irish guy) and then went home for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning I left the apartment with Kat, Nicholas, and Michael. We were all headed to Regent’s Park; however, they were going to take the tube/underground and I was going to run and meet up with them – despite the traveling I try not to skip my training runs. London has an abundance of parks and Regent’s is particularly enormous. It contains a large number of soccer fields, ponds, gardens, playgrounds, and birds. I ran for a good hour and didn’t see everything. I even stumbled upon the London Zoo on the northern part of the park, so passed some peacocks, warthogs, and wild dogs during the run. I also ran through an area called “Little Venice” - a canal filled with boats and lined with mansions. It was very cool! I met back up with Kat, Nicholas, and Michael at one of the playgrounds in Regent’s park and we headed back to the flat for naptime. We managed to grab some great sandwiches at Pret a Manger for lunch on the way back. We actually had a very productive nap time. Michael stayed in the flat in case Nicholas woke up, which allowed Kat and I to pop down the street to buy some movies for later, and to buy a large box of tea for me to bring back to Düsseldorf. And what do you know? Being in England, and close to Easter-time, there were Cadbury’s Crème Eggs on sale in the grocery store. We bought some for a snack and had I known at the time that they don’t exist in Germany, I would have bought more. Once we got back to the flat we also called up Her Majesty’s Theater and bought tickets to a showing of Phantom of the Opera for later that night. Once Nicholas was up and it was time for dinner we walked down the street to get fish and chips and mushy peas (which were actually better than they sound). Despite the time I had previously spent in London, I had yet to try fish and chips and I would have been very upset with myself had I missed out again. The food was great and once Kat was off duty we went into the city for the show. Her Majesty’s Theater was very impressive. It was a much different experience than seeing Wicked the last time I was in London, although both shows were great. When I saw Wicked, the theater was very large, modern and without frills. Her Majesty’s Theater, however, was obviously very old and intricately decorated. Additionally, the Phantom of the Opera is a classic show and I know most of the music by heart. We wound up walking all the way home after the show (which wasn’t too bad) because it was a nice night and the city was bustling. We were humming Phantom of the Opera songs the whole way back. We bought a bottle of wine just down the street from Kat’s flat and watched one of the movies we had purchased earlier in the day before falling asleep.

The next morning we woke up and took Nicholas to a nearby park complete with a large sandbox, playground, and petting zoo. The park was extremely kid-friendly and as an adult you had to be “escorted by a child” to be allowed entrance. I really enjoy playgrounds and may have had as much fun as Nicholas did, especially on the trolley. After thoroughly tiring Nicholas out, we went back to the flat for lunch and naptime. While Kat got Nicholas fed I ran out to grab us some pasties for lunch. If they had pasties in the U.S. I would eat them all of the time – they are small pies filled with different meats and/or veggies and are great on the go. If you’ve seen Sweeney Todd, they’re like the pies they make in the play/movie sans human flesh. My eyes were much bigger than my stomach and I wound up buying waaaay more than we needed to eat, but the leftovers served as part of our breakfast the next day, so it was alright. While Nicholas napped, Michael stayed in, and we were able to run out quickly again. We went down the street to a small shopping mall, where I made a few purchases for much cheaper than I can get in Düsseldorf. We went back to the flat, started a movie, fed Nicholas once he got up, and then went out to Oxford Street for some more shopping. We shopped until the stores closed (which sounds like a long time, but was really only about one hour). We went out to Wagamama, an Asian noodle restaurant, and one of my favorites. I wasn’t going to let myself leave London without eating there. It was PACKED, which makes sense since it was a Friday night, but it made eating and talking a little difficult. Still worth it, though. After Wagamama we wandered through Leicester Square and grabbed some ice cream at Häagen Dazs. We went home and Tyler returned from a party in Oxford shortly thereafter. The party was to celebrate the book she had just gotten published in. I got to look at a copy and it was very cool. After everyone else went to bed, Kat and I packed, finished our movie, and eventually got to bed by 2AM. We then were up just after 5AM to begin the trek to Düsseldorf – walk to King’s Cross Station, catch the tube out to Golder’s Green, then take a bus to Stansted, and fly to Germany.

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