...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I haven’t met my sister Lea since February 2010, and as she was in London at the end of June for work, we decided to meet there after her training and be turista for four days.

Hullo, dear! Meeting Lea, near Kew Gardens.

We stayed at this centrally located ladies-only place called Hostel 4-star at Piccadilly Guest House, which is a 15- or 20-minute walk to most London attractions. It's a stone's throw away from the Piccadilly Circus station, the shopping streets, Hatchard’s, Fortnum and Mason – and is even in the same street as a century-old cheese shop, a five-story bookstore and a medium-sized grocery store. It has the perfect location, with the down side of having to share two bathrooms with about 30 or 40 girls (if the dorms are full, which they seem to be on weekends). With its corridors of bunk beds, the dorms themselves look a bit like they're out of a military movie, but it was clean and cool inside, and they provide nice home-like sheets and fluffy blankets. From our experience, the other guests were considerate about keeping their noise levels down, especially in the evenings. The hostel also never ran out of toilet paper. Admit it, it's useful to know!

Around Piccadilly Circus. Clockwise from top left: our hostel room, Lea with cheese from the cheese shop, Joy the tourist, and the statue of Eros.

We avoided bathroom queues in the hostel by starting our day at 6am, thereby beating other tourists to the usual tourist spots as well. We usually came back to the hostel after 10pm, and by then most of the other guests have also already showered. With that schedule, you can guess our days were packed!

We managed to see a lot of things in four days. A tip though: if you're thinking of spending whole afternoons in museums (which you easily can), you'll probably need to sacrifice other attractions. What we didn't see but were considering seeing were The Tower (18 pounds a head saved), the Charles Dickens house, Sherlock Holmes museum and Karl Marx's grave at Highgate. But we did get to go to most other things we wanted to go to: the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, Hyde Park, the usual tourist spots like Westminster, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, and some museums. We had a lot of fun at the museums at Greenwich and spent a whole afternoon in the British Museum (where we almost got sick of seeing Greek vases). But we also wished we spent more time in the National Gallery and less time in Tate Modern. I found out that (1) old art works are indeed impressive in their full size, but that (2) I just cant understand abstract art.

Lines, lines, lines. The Millenium footbridge to St. Paul's seen from the South Bank, and Lea and Joy at the Greenwich line! (It's a long line to the Greenwich line, friends. And it costs 7 pounds to even get there.)

Goofing around. At the interactive visitor center at Greenwich. Trying out a jousting glove and helmet, and dressed as a ship pensioner (Lea in blue) and a ship drunkard (Joy in the yellow jacket of shame). I want a hat like that.

I got a whole load of pictures (goofy, touristy, scenic, etc.), but I guess I'll save that for my Multiply page one day. Haven't been uploading there for some time now.

The Globe Theatre remains the strong favorite for me in the trip. It's a recreation of the old Globe in which Shakespeare performed his plays, erected just 300 meters from the original site. Here, plays are read and acted as they were in Shakespeare's day (they even wear hand-sewn costumes!). Rather than the audience being separated from the actors by darkness and silence, plays are performed in natural light, and actors walk right through the crowd, even interacting with them or throwing things in their direction. We went to watch Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus standing in the yard, where the “penny-stinkers” used to watch the plays for a penny. Being so close to the performers – almost being on stage and being part of the production – was a unique experience. As they say, the playwrights of those days must have written for the penny-stinkers. What's more, it only costs 5 pounds to watch at the yard, today's equivalent of a penny! I highly recommend the yard. I would watch a play there again if I ever visit London again. Better book early though, as tickets seem to sell fast.


The wooden 'O'. The Globe from the outside, and inside during the guided tour. The white space is the yard. If you don't mind standing for 2+ hours, it's the best experience for 5 pounds. And yes, there's intermission.

On our last full day in London, Lea and I discovered the cheap and great clothes store called Primark, at Oxford street. They have nice chic and feminine clothes with prices comparable with shopping in Thailand. Lea even swears than some items are cheaper! Man, I wish we had Primark. But then again, maybe I'd break my wallet buying loads of cheaply prices items. However, now I also know that if I did shop for clothes more often than I do, London would be a great weekend shopping destination. By coincidence, most other shops were on sale when we were there (first week of July). Most things were half price than if I would have gotten them on sale in Sweden! My spoils: a pair of bronze-colored leather sneakers from Clarks (to replace my Eccos) at 24 pounds, and two heavily-discounted women’s shirts from T.M. Lewin, which set me back 40 pounds (I love the well-made cuffs and collars. I became a convert to quality shirts). Lea paid for my Primark buys, heheh!

Crowds and curved lines. Shoppers at Oxford and Regent streets. (Don't you just love those curved buildings?) London is indeed as crowded and congested as they say it is. In fact, some places reminded us of Quiapo.

Well, actually Lea paid for most everything else (thanks, Lea!). I kinda feel guilty that we ended up having really expensive afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason (since we didn’t look at the prices, to begin with!), but that experience was a highlight in itself too: eating finger sandwiches, scones and sweets to the tune of a man playing the piano and the scent of perfume. I kept on forgetting putting the filter on the cup though (the tea pot did not have those small holes at the bottom of the spout), so I ended up with leaves in my cup. And the cakes, though tasty (and adorned with gold leaf!) were really too, too sweet. I wish we knew we could order more sandwiches! More about food: there's a lot of food variety in London, but some areas seem to be more expensive than others. It was also hard for us to find an open restaurant in late evenings, which seemed strange for a city full of hungry tourists. Don’t worry though mom, we never got hungry!

Thanks again Lei, and hope to see you again soon!

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

<<< Browse older posts (via sidebar list)