London’s calling

Posted from London, England, United Kingdom.

The last time I was in London I was 23-years-old and was traveling with my mom and grandma. So as I headed toward ‘the big smoke’ I knew this experience was going to be slightly different, mostly because I’m older, I’m staying with friends and I don’t have mom’s devil-may-care attitude with her credit card.

I did everything 14 years ago. We went on the Thames, saw the Tower of London, judged parliament, went to castles and Buckingham Palace. We saw Picadilly and Camden and wandered around as much as my grandmother could handle. I know there’s so much more to see, but what was I to do this time? And without mom’s card.

The Underground. A visit to London is not complete without a few journeys on this intricate train system.

The Underground. A visit to London is not complete without a few journeys on this intricate train system.

I had just come from Paris, and quite honestly, it’s really great to be in a country where people speak English – my only really fluent language. For five months I’ve been surrounded by people I can’t understand. So now, I get to be around friends – a Canadian and an Aussi, and I won’t have to stress when I’m trying to figure out where I’m going. What this means is this time I don’t really care about seeing anything. This might just be a more natural visit. I’m sure I’ll come to London again.

I spent the first few days relaxing, doing laundry, eating fatty high-carb food, trying earnestly to re-gain the 3kg I had lost. I have a bedroom to myself with a huge double bed and a closet to put my clothes in. I can’t emphasize enough how much this contributes to a feeling a normalcy. That and my friends lived in an area near Wimbledon – which made me feel like I was somewhere familiar and fancy. They were fostering kittens and sometimes had groceries delivered. I felt so at home.

My friends held a dinner party and we had Pho. I'm serious.

My friends held a dinner party and we had Pho. I’m serious.

The time had come, however, that I had to go shopping. England isn’t as warm as one might think. (HAHAHA) So my SE Asia clothes just aren’t doing the job. I took the train to Wimbledon and found a TK Maxx and H&M and bought a few pieces of clothing to get me through the next couple of days. Clothes are cheaper in SE Asia. But the fashion not quite as up-to-date.

The trains in London aren’t exactly cheap. I bought an Oyster card for £5 (you get your money back when you return it) and put money on it to make it easier to get around this old city. The Oyster card is basically just a pay-as-you-go transit pass. Monthly passes are available, and there are tourist passes too, but seeing as I’m staying for nearly two weeks, it just makes sense to get a normal card. But you can go anywhere on London’s Underground. There’s nine zones and the prices vary. The Oyster card gives you a discount, so just get it.

Catching a Southwest train. Cheaper than a cab.

Catching a Southwest train. Cheaper than a cab.

One day I did venture downtown. I got off the train and walked and walked and walked. I saw the London Eye. I saw the Tower Bridge. I mean, looked at. I almost went to Fleet Street, but I was distracted by my real quest, to go to Primark – a super discount clothing store. Oh what fun I had. The store was absolute chaos. Everything is picked over and resembled the remnants of a tornado. There’s at least a couple hundred people shopping at any given time, and I mean really shopping. The line for the change room is long but moves well due to copious amounts of rooms and an eight-item limit. It is here that I bought a bra – something I haven’t worn since I left for Thailand. Actually, I bought three.

After my soul-soothing shopping spree I headed through Picadilly Circus and over to Buckingham Palace. I took some lame tourist photos and then realized my foot was really angry. Why do I keep pushing it so far? I found a subway stop and got on the “tube” to go home.

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Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

There were a few of these guys, but this was Yoda, so he gets top rating.

There were a few of these guys, but this was Yoda, so he gets top rating.

Westminister Abbey

Westminister Abbey

I love big cities. I always have. So being in London eased my heart. While I’m still technically travelling, and homeless, I finally could let my guard down.

I cooked dinner one night for my friends, but what I loved most about being in London was watching tv. And Erin and Dan – my friends – were into the same shows I was. How I Met Your Mother, Two-and-a-half Men, NCIS, CSI and Cold Case. We all like red wine and I got to drink a lot of that. Wine is really expensive in SE Asia – at least good wine is.

One night we went for a Korean BBQ, which turned into a trivia night and oodles of red wine. Happiness.

Korean BBQ with friends! This is another good reason to travel - to see friends.

Korean BBQ with friends! This is another good reason to travel – to see friends. Slow down.

But as all good things do come to an end, I cut my visit short with my friends and decided to head north to Huddersfield to visit some family before flying to Sweden. Did I mention that?

Most people probably would think I’m crazy for not going to Windsor Castle or Stonehenge or seeing the British Museum (which, by the way, is where the Rosetta Stone is) which were all on my list of things to do, but I was so traveled-out and really not feeling adventurous. I think I craved sitting in front of the tv and chilling with friends and just doing some regular old shopping. I may be wrong, but don’t all travellers need a break every now and then?

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