Every once in a while, one needs to step back to think and come to the conclusion that they need a break. To step away from their comfort zone and get a fresh perspective on life, and well also, to appreciate the city they live in a little more. This is exactly how I felt when I left for London and Paris. I'm currently on day 3, and already got accustomed to all tube stations regardless of the weekend changes, although I will admit that it was partly because I met a girl on the replacement bus to Baker Street, who gave me her tube map. It's a funny story really. I asked her a quick question about which train to take to Hammersmith, since I was meeting my friend to watch the play Punk Rock, really funny and is a must-watch. So anyway we got to talking and she asked where I was from because my accent was a little mixed (part Brit and Americano). When I told her that I was from New York, she jumped and said she was going to be in NY for an internship. Instant connection. So I gave her a brief lowdown on the ins and outs of NYC. We exchanged numbers and come January, I will be meeting my very first tube friend from London in New York. Yes, there was one more but will share that much later.
When I recounted this story to my friend, while we waited for the second entry point, he couldn't believe how I could befriend a stranger on the train. Even though secretly I didn't know how I did it myself, but it just happened. (Side note: for those who are wondering what second entry point was, in London, once a show starts you have two more chances to get in and if you miss both chances, you’ve basically missed the entire show without a refund. I know, here in America, we are a little more capitalistic, call it generous or lenient if you will, that if you have a paid ticket, you can enter at any time during the show, quietly of course! But luckily I made it in time for the second entry point!) Anyways, he then shared that he was jealous of the fact how he hears stories like this but can never have the guts to do it himself. What can I say, I'm a natural, or maybe that the very trait I tease my mother about, I found myself committing the same... Am I becoming like my mother? So soon?
After the play and realizing that I haven't had a meal since Nando's for lunch the day before, filling this utter starvation feeling was becoming quite important. Yet, distraction by a wholesale bookstore got us to our lunch destination much later. We ended up in Chinatown at a restaurant I can't remember the name of but recall that it rhymed with something like feng shui. I know it's terrible of me considering how good the food was but seriously I can't remember. We then walked around oxford circus and just enjoyed the rest of the evening because the next day, the friend with whom I was staying with, was throwing a bhorta party and as much as I wanted to save my freshly manicured nails, I was tricked into being the chef for the successful night that it turned out to be in the end. Mind you, the next early morning, my NY friend and I were going to head for our jam packed day trip to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge. My New Yorker travel buddy finally joined us at the crack of dawn, and poor thing had to deal with the disastrous tube changes as soon as she landed in London which of course would damper anyone’s mood but was soon enough regained when she saw our familiar faces and when we were in Camden Market for lunch. Camden Market is like a bustling hippie area with a lot of shopping and food stalls; a really fun joint and a quintessential avenue where London meets the rest of the world. I recommend all of you to go there when you get a chance to visit London. Soon enough after a scrumptious meal we walked around for a bit to burn off the calories we just gobbled and hurried back to start cooking for the said successful bhorta party.
The next early morning, a.k.a. crack of dawn, I hurriedly woke up to the alarm on my iPod that didn’t ring because I forgot that my iPod was in NY time and not London time (bless the body alarm) and somehow we managed to gather ourselves and rush to Victoria Coach station. Half asleep, all we could think of was coffee, so when we reached there we saw nothing but Starbucks even though there was a Costas right there. So the American that we are, instead of trying some European coffee, we forgot to look left or right and ran to "our nearest Starbucks location", where we did get to see some yummy items apart from what Starbucks had to offer. Heeheehee... Yes distraction yet again but soon after we were running to get to our tour bus which of course had to be on the other side of where we were. We barely made with 2 mins to spare after having to run to the smelly loo which we had to pay for. What's the point in taking money if you can't make it a point to make it smell like peaches n cream?? Anyway, we finally made our tour bus with the funniest tour guide ever. Before I delve into the intricacies of our trip, I have to recommend Evan tours to everyone reading this blog. You can find them on their site or aviator.com because this trip was worth every penny.
Off we were to Windsor Castle first which is known to be the largest inhabited and longest occupied castle in the world by a royal family. How cool was that!! Apparently it is the queen's summer home. Side note: As I find myself to be no less important than any royalty, having a castle as summer home would be quite nice. Actually having a maid and a butler in an any-size home would be just as divine. We strolled around the castle looking at all the bedrooms and the offices. Apparently the only reason the castle started providing castle tours was because they needed to raise money to repair the burnt tower and well cover the expenses... You would think the queen wouldn't be soo cheap but when we heard the damages cost it was quite exorbitantly unreal. We looked at our watch and realized that we had just enough time to grab some lunch and head back to the bus and be off to our next destination, Bath. Funny story. So when I told my friend about the day trip I booked for us and that it included a trip to Bath, she thought I was going to take her to see an exclusive shower...loll she didn't know it was the name of a famous city known for its roman baths dated back to 43 AD. It was quite hilarious pulling her leg about it. So off we were and of course luck would have it one of tour members realized that they had left their really expensive camera back somewhere in the castle. How can one be so careless to leave a camera behind especially when you're on such a picturesque tour!! So lo and behold we had to turn around and were already 30 mins behind because some people didn't understand the meaning of being back by the time we were asked to. FYI don't ever be late on these tours because the amount of beef the tour guide gave the couple and openly made fun of them which was quite embarrassing for them but funny for us. The drive to bath was so scenic that as much as I wanted to take a quick powernap I just couldn't. I was just mesmerized with the vast quintessential European greenery and well the size of British cows. These cows made our Bangladeshi massive cows look anorexic and malnutritioned... I was just in total disbelief with the size…. I’m still in shock….
Finally two hours later, we arrived at Bath and the very second we entered the main town area, literally it felt like we just walked into a painting. This city was sooo pretty that we already started planning our nonexistent married lives being settled there especially when we drove around Nicholas Cage's home. LOL!! But really Bath was nestled on top of many hills and the valley of River Avon and boys and girls there are no words to describe how riveting the view was! We then walked around the King’s Bath which was the principal source of Bath’s hot waters. Apparently you could taste the water in the Grand Pump Room but the water inside looked soo disgusting and shady that we decided to skip it and just stick to our Marks & Spencer Evian bottle. Because it was such a beautiful city, my friend and I were convinced that people just lived here to just enjoy the view and well life because why would anyone want to work there? But apparently it’s a large service sector with growing information and communication technologies and creative industries as well…who knew?!? We soaked as much of Bath as we could while enjoying our cappuccino and dessert at Café Rouge, a very cute French bistro. What can I say; we were getting ourselves ready for Paris the next day. We headed back to our bus, the tiredness slowly creeping on us, and off we were to see Stonehenge.
What can I say about Stonehenge?? I will admit that I was really excited to go there especially after seeing this documentary on it on the National Geographic Channel. But when we got there and heard that we’d be staying there for 45 mins, I kind of felt a little let down. I expected more from it and in the end it was just set of rocks. As sad as it sounds but it was. Maybe it was my tiredness speaking or what but it was quite blah. In a way I was glad that I didn’t do a special Stonehenge tour but expected more from the heritage site; maybe more guides or information, even though I knew quite a lot about it on my own. In fact, I wished we spent more time at Windsor and bath instead and maybe spent 25 mins at Stonehenge because everyone was clearly done seeing the site in 10. Finally we were done as hit the bus and as soon as we sat down, we were out. Nap time because we were meeting my aunt and uncle who were also visiting from Dubai for dinner at Garfunkels for fish and chips! I know we could have gone to a better and more authentic place but it was just convenience at that point. We freshened ourselves at Selfridges where of course I ran in to a fellow New Yorker. Yes, it’s official. Either I know too many people or too many people know me. My brother-in-law would argue that it’s a bit of both and more of the latter. Finally we got some fish and chips into a stomach with of course some stellar company because we laughed and laughed as we recounted our stories from since we last met. We finally reached our friend’s place, showered, packed for Paris the next day and soon enough caught up with all our zzzs while dreaming of the Eiffel Tower and Gilles Marini….or well maybe just I did.
Hope you’ve enjoyed so far and are hungry for more…don’t fret I will be back with Chapter 2: Paris very soon…or shall I say tous de suite….A Bientot mes amis!