A Weekend in London

This past weekend, I was lucky to spend 3 days in London with long-time friends, eating amazing food, seeing a couple of museums, doing quite a bit of walking and most importantly having a great time. It has been 18 months since I was last in London which incidentally was the last time I was in an English speaking country. Going to an English speaking country was both a little bit weird and a pure delight.  I no longer had to think about what I wanted to say beforehand, but I did have to think before I spoke so I didn’t speak German (that was a new one). I messed up a couple of times during the first day and a half, most memorably at a cafe at Covent Gardens.  The waiter, who was not an native English speaker, couldn’t understand what I was trying to order so I, by accident, tried explaining it to him in German.  He didn’t understand that either. I ended up not getting what I wanted, but since I was just trying to order a raisin croissant, it was no big deal.

I also, to my great pleasure and excitement, got to watch a new episode of Agents of SHEILD on TV!  It has been over 3 years since I have watched a new episode of anything in English live on TV. Seriously, it is the little things that you miss the most whilst living the expat life. I also spent more money than I should have at Forbidden Planet (sci-fi store) but gods, I have missed geeky stores and the pure delight of being amongst your own kind.

London has grown on me.  I have always enjoyed visiting London but I could never see myself living there.  This weekend, I could, just a bit. This does not mean I am leaving Hamburg.  I’m not done with this place yet. However, it is always good to have a back-up city for if or when I am ready to move on.

Now for the obligatory photos:

This is what is right outside our hotel.

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This was what was right outside my hotel. The only reason I got to stay at this wonderful hotel was that my friend was able to get the room for free. I’m forever in her debt.

The London Eye at night.

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The London Eye at night.

Trafalgar Square now features a big blue cock.

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Trafalgar Square now features a big blue cock

The iconic British museum atrium shot.

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No trip to London is complete without visiting the British Museum, just to see the Great Court.

Look kids, it's Big Ben.

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Another shot of Big Ben, just because I couldn’t believe my incredible luck to be staying right across the Thames from it.

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Seeing The London Only Locals Know

I spent a long weekend in London this weekend past catching up with long-time friends who also happened to be in London.  We decided not to do all the touristy things whilst we were there. Instead, because we had a local (Nyssa) with us, we visited all the places you would be hard pressed to find in a guidebook.

Saturday saw us all meeting at Forbidden Planet cause if you are a sci-fi fan, this is the one place in London you have to go to.  Two stories full of books, comics and merchandise.  It is geek heaven.

From there, we went for lunch at The Dog and Duck, a local haunt of George Orwell’s. They have a great dinning room upstairs where one can choose a typical English meal of Bangers and Mash or something more exotic like a Wild Boar burger.

After lunch, we headed to the Petrie Museum located on the grounds of University College London.  If you love Egyptian history, you must visit here to see pieces deemed a little risqué for the British Museum. They also have a great set-up for kids as well.  Entry is free, but please donate your loose change to help keep the place running.

Because one can not visit enough English pubs whilst in London, we made a stop at The Yard for a couple of cleansing ales or in my case Cokes.

Due to half of our party being jet-lagged (they had just flown from Australia that morning), we had a early dinner at Punjab, England’s oldest Indian restaurant.  I highly recommend going for a curry here, but be warned it is extremely popular especially amongst those going to see a show.

Sunday morning saw us heading to Brick Lane for two reasons; first for the incredible bagels at Biegel Bakery and second for the amazing Sunday markets scattered along the street.  They had the most incredible range of international food stalls there all making incredibly fresh and amazing looking foods.  Every nationality you can think of were represented.  They also had the large meringues I have ever seen.

We then headed across London to Crystal Palace and to The Grape and Grain for a traditional Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding, something that must be eaten when you are in England.

To try to walk off our massive lunch, we headed into the Crystal Palace Park to see how Victorians envisioned Dinosaurs back in the 1850s.  These sculptures are absolutely fascinating and makes you wonder just how wrong we are about dinosaurs today.

A giant sloth like creature climbing a tree.

An Iguanodon resting at the water's edge.

Dinosaurs along the bank of the river.

After a walk through the park, we headed to Angel to see a short film festival.  This one being held at The Wenlock & Essex pub.  London has so many cultural events, that it is well worth picking up a local paper to see what is on whilst you are there. You never know what you might find.

London is more than just its tourist attractions and it is well worth straying off the beaten path to discover all the places not seen on postcards.  It is definitely worth the effort.

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Problems in Old London Town

Last week from Wednesday to Saturday saw me in London visiting my UK office to deal with some problems there.  The work portion of my London trip went well, but everything around it didn’t.

The problems started with me getting airsick for the first time ever on the flight to London.  It was a rather unpleasant flight further heightened by the fact that the drinkable water tank on our plane froze overnight and they could not defrost it, therefore all hot drinks were unavailable as was the water in the toilets.

Then I went to check into my hotel and was told that they might not have a room for me due to renovations, but they would know for sure later on that afternoon.  When I went back to the hotel, it turned out they did not have a room and I would have a trek across London to a different hotel for the night and return the next day to check in.  The hotel I ended up staying in was quite nice, but room service, ordered due to my extreme tiredness, took over a hour to turn up and I flooded the bathroom whilst showering.

The next evening when I went to check into my original hotel, there was actually a room and they offered me an upgrade to apologise for the inconvenience of having to change hotels for the night. However, the offer of an upgrade was followed up with ‘but it will cost you £20 extra a night, but that is our cheap rate’.  I’m sorry, but offering an upgrade you have to pay for is not an apology, it’s an upsell. The room I ended up getting was extremely small to the point where you needed to open the bathroom door to have enough room to dry yourself off after a shower.

I ran late to everywhere I needed to be and I didn’t have enough time to go shopping for my beloved hot cross buns. However, not everything was bad.  I managed to find time to have a gorgeous sushi dinner with my long-time friend Sarah and I had porridge every morning for breakfast (oh porridge, I do miss you).  Also I had Mexican, twice! and a meat pie, mash potato and gravy for lunch one day.  Oh yes, it’s all about the food.

Not the most attractive photo but it was so delicious

Also, I saw this sign and it made me laugh, which was exactly what I needed after the crap I went through.

I’m hoping my next trip to London will be less full of bad luck and work and more full of awesomeness and fun times.

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In Old London Town

One of the perks of my new job is the prospect of being sent occasionally to London to hang out with the team in our London office.  Now that I have my visa which will let me come and go to and from Germany as I please, I have been sent across to the London office to meet and greet our UK clients and run some training with our London team.

I’m still trying to get my head around London being less than a 2 hour plane ride from my new home town rather than a 24 hour one as it was from my old home town.  It seriously took less time to fly from Hamburg to London this morning then it did to get through passport control and into the centre of London. Pure madness. However, I have to admit I didn’t enjoy getting up at 4am to catch my plane.

After spending 3.5 months struggling to function in German, my brain is having a little trouble functioning solely in English.  Never would have expected that.  However, it seems I greet and thank people in German without even thinking about it now, as several poor Londoners have found out.  Perhaps with more caffeine and a decent night’s sleep, I will get my brain back to thinking exclusively in English, probably just in time for me to return to Germany.

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