A while ago we decided to spend a long weekend in London, simply because it’s only about 2 1/2 hours away by train and the tickets were on sale. Our journey started under ideal conditions.
We found our oyster cards and adapters, packed our bags and were about to walk out the door on Thursday when Gergö said to me “Yes, I’ll lock the door.”, followed shortly by “Verena!”. I was reading something on my phone and didn’t notice the ominous use of my first name at all. I closed the door behind me, looked up and saw that Gergö was fishing his keys out of his pockets again. He shook his head, disappointedly. Naturally, I assumed he forgot something. “Your suitcase?”, he said after unlocking the door.
I grabbed my suitcase and didn’t even have time to be embarassed about forgetting it, because at that moment an upstairs neighbour joined us in the stairway and started talking to us. I understood most of what he said (“You live here? Since when?! Really? Since August?!”) But it didn’t make any sense, so I asked him to slow down. Instead he switched to English saying pretty much the same thing. He thought someone much older was living here, not us. Did we live here all the time since August? Really, August?! But then we must have heard them upstairs! I said yes, sure, we did, and told him not to worry. I hear what I assume to be renovations going on upstairs from time to time, but I don’t really mind and we never complained either.
Mystified why our neighbour appeared so upset about our presence we left for Paris in a hurry. The Eurostar ticket recommends to be at the station 45 minutes early to check in. I knew there was a check in process at Gare du Nord but I had not realised at all that there would be serious passport controls. One queue for leaving France followed by another one for entering the UK, and both actually looked at my passport and my face. They also scanned the luggage and had us walk through metal detectors. You can still bring liquids and don’t have to remove your computer from your bag, though. Bizarrely there was a notice posted about not bringing WWI artiller on the train with you. Apparently it’s a recurring problem.
I was really excited about going through the tunnel underneath la Manche, but it’s no different from any other tunnel. It turns out that it’s more the concept of taking a tunnel through the sea than the actual experience that I like :-)
Our hotel was a budget place in Whitechapel right next to the biggest mosque of London. It’s an area that used to be famous for Jack the Ripper and now is famous for its excellent Bangladeshi curry. The street signs are bilingual in English / Bengali. Because it’s Ramadan right now, there were a lot of ads asking for donations. I remeber those by muslim aid. I also saw that some restaurants advertise the possibility to rent the place to celebrate iftar for big groups and many stalls selling dates and sweets.
We loved the area right away. It’s really close to Brick lane, with lots and lots of curry houses, shops, street art, and a former brewery with hipster street food. We had great curry that first night. Before returning to the hotel we found a nice pub selling craft beer. We had a pint of ale, sitting down at a large table. Soon, we were joined by three women drinking wine. One brought the bottle and a jug of ice cubes which she proceeded to distribute in her friends’ wine glasses before pouring the wine. I still wonder if they’d get kicked out of a French bar for doing that or if the barman would simply refuse to give them ice cubes in the first place.
We met Gergö’s friend J for breakfast the next morning in Spitalsfield. We decided to walk there and it was one of those walks where I stopped to take photos every 5 minues.
It was only possible to get a table at the breakfast club because it was a Friday and not the weekend. It’s so hip, not even Barbra Streisand can cramp its style.
And sadly, breakfast club was also home of the most terrible pun I’ve ever read. That says a lot, as I live with Gergö.
After breakfast, we wandered around the area some more. There was a magic store that was sadly closed. I’ll never find out what the ingredients are of the can of vague sense of unease.
And a shop selling craft beer. It’s a little comforting to know that it’s not only hipster coffee shops that have those terrible slogans on chalk board thing going on.
And I found out that I’m not the only one resenting the signs and/or finding it all a bit much.
Gergö had really been looking forward to British ales. We like Belgian beer, but they are all comparatively sweet and strong. So we bought a few rare local craft beers to take home. We rested our feet down at the canal for a scenic cup of coffee.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped by Spitalsfield market. I snuck an illegal photo of the one tshirt that wasn’t on offer at every second stall. I got caught and very politely told off for it, too. I don’t feel too bad about it though, as the motive is already available on amazon.
Despite the bad treatment of red wine, I still want to see the UK remain in the EU. And as it turns out, Churchill agrees. Or possibly he has really bad indigestion, it’s very hard to tell from his expression.
We spent that evening at the London zoo. A couple of nights each summer it’s open late and there are street food vendors (notice a theme?) and special events.
I also saw Asian lions, an aardvark, a little monkey wee on a woman who got too close, a sloth, and spooning monitor lizards.