Friday, September 21, 2007

The London Journals II

Just to let you all know, these are random thoughts without any real thought behind them. I didn't want to think much while I was here, and I succeeded. Don't expect the normal English pyrotechnics that I enjoy so much. I can tell you that these entries are all very bare and need editing, but I felt that editing them would hinder the spontaneity of the entry. I still have to enter more for all of the days after today. They may be coming after Sunday or I may even wait until I get back from England. If I can post it, I'll even post the video blog that I did last night in my room. So, here are the London Journals, unedited and ready to be ripped apart for a lack of any form or cohesion.

10:24 A.M. London Time

I missed an entry last night. I got home late, I was inebriated, and I knew that if I didn't go to sleep I would end up over sleeping and missing that evil flight back home.

Yesterday I woke up aound 8:30 A.M.. Lachin called at about 11:30 P.M. the night before and asked if I was coming over for dinner, so, being that they had been so great to me, I decided to get them a nice Bordeaux. I got ready and headed to the Underground, purchased a pass that would get me between Notting Hill and Kew Gardens all day, and headed to the Notting Hill station. I didn't know what time the wine store would open, so I figured I'de get there early.

I got there at about 9:30 A.M. and, like I figured intially, they didn't open until 10. I stopped by a local Starbucks to check my email to bide my time. At 10 I walked back to the stor, picked up a decent Bordeaux for about £16, and headed back to Nottng Hill. I didn't have to be at Kew Gardens station until about 1 P.M., so I had time to kill. I stopped in at Starbucks and stayed there until about 12 A.M., at which time I boarded the Richmond bound train and headed for Kew Gardens.

When I got to Kew Gardens, I hung out waiting for Lachin's husband to pick me up and it occured to me that English weather is really odd. It was beautiful in the morning and now it was cold and about to rain. Later in the day it would brighten up and get warmer only to darken again, get cold, and rain more. The weather here really can't make up its mind.

Lachin's husband picked me up, we stopped at he bank and we then did some shopping for his restaurant and for home, the whole time while I guarded the dog. Their dog was a hit with all the passer-byers. I hung out with a very nice cop with very bad teeth (is that stereotypical?) and he seemed to be enamoured with this dog.

After all the hubbub over the dog and after we'd finished our shopping, we headed back to Lachin's house. Lachin was cooking with Daniella (a Czech employee of the restaurant). I'd never had Persian food and I found it to be excellent. I was expecting something like Indian, but it really was nothing like Indian. It may have been been.

After we ate we hung out for a bit and then, after I said goodbye to Lachin and promised her I would come back soon, Lachin's husband and myself headed to the restaurant around 4:15 P.M. so he could get it ready to open. Daniella asked me to hang out at a pub in Richmond, so I had to head back to my place to shower, therefore, I had to head back to the restaurant with him in order to catch the train.

I got on the train and headed back to Earls Court. After I showered, I headed back to the restaurant and managed to et there by 6, about a half hour before Daniella was to meet me there. She didn't show up until about 7, but hanging with Lachin's husband is never a problem. He was very cool with me the whole time I was here. When Daniella showed up, we had to drop off a cell phone charger at a friends house. After we had accomplished this modest task, we headed to the bus station, and then to the next bus station after we realized that the bus we wanted wouldn't come to that one for another hour. We took a 10 minute bus ride to Richmond and then, since the girls we were meeting wouldn't be at the other pub until around 8:30, we decided to find a bar to have some beer and some Fish N' Chips.

She drank Stella (Czechs LOVE beer) and I had a London's Pride and we hung out and ate some Fish N' Chips (a little better than my first experience, but not by much) for about an hour. After a second pint (a Gunness for myself) we headed to a place called Pitcher Piano on the river. Again, getting directions from the bartender proved interesting, and we had to go it on half-assed directions and a bit of luck. We found it, though, without incident, and met four other lovely ladies, of which the only name I remember was Davia (I think. If you read this don't be upset, doll. I drank a bit last night.). SHE was a ball and she was Greek.

The six of us stayed there and hung out for a couple of hours, drinking and carrying on in a raucous kind of way, and then, when we were kicked out at 12, we went to a "closed" Greek restaurant and proceeded to drink and eat more. This may have been the best Greek food I'd ever had in my life. The party started splitting at about 1 and, since the Underground wasn't running anymore, I had the restaurant owners call me a cab. I gave Davia and Daniella my business card for them to keep in touch (it's good to know people out of country), Davia took the inebriated Daniella with her to her place (or that's where they said they were going), I said my goodbyes, and I took my cab back to my place. I paid the cabbie the £18 that the ride cost and another £4 over for a tip, the whole time wishing that I didn't have to go back to the U.S. I really fell in love with this city, and was almost regretting coming here knowing that I would eventually have to leave. I got some of my things together that I knew if I didn't I would forget, and passed out.

I woke up this morning, got ready and, when I had packed up my hygene products, I checked out. I stopped by the ATM to take out only about £20 and headed to Starbucks which is where I am now. Now, I'm just waiting to take the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Airport.

11:03 A.M. London Time

10:46 P.M. London Time

I can't believe my vacation only has one more full day left.

I woke up today around 10:30 A.M., got dressed and headed to Starbucks to check my email. First, I decided to stop at the kebab place a get a chicken tikka kebab and a piece of fried fish. The fish stank but it was excellent. After I ate I headed to Starbucks and stayed there for about three or four hours, basically talking to the E Boro Bandits about our gig on Saturday (at the Yorketowne Inn in Manalapan, NJ for those that are interested) and basically wasting my time. I really didn't feel like doing much at all today. After I was done (at about 3 P.M.) I headed back to my place, organized my iTunes folder, dropped off my laptop, and took a walk. I headed north on Warwick Road up to Hammersmith Road (I think). I made a left on Hammersmith and then I followed it for a bit. I eventually made a right up a random street and, eventually, I ended up in Shepards Bush. I made a left onto Goldhawk Road and, about eight blocks up, I decided it would be prudent to turn back as the neighborhood changed from very affluent to very desolate. The neighborhood seemed like the bad parts of Brooklyn only a lot less people have firearms here. Either way, I didn't feel like getting mugged and I turned back.

I passed back down Goldhawk Road, passed by the Underground station by that name and, walking aimlessly, I passed by the Shepards Bush station, too. I walked until I came to a much nicer end of town and, when I had, I stopped into a very nice wine shop that was run by two very nice Frenchmen. Apparently, they had a bit of a leak in their water pipes since there was no rain, there were buckets all around and there was water dripping from the ceiling. I found their selection of bordeauxs to be exquisite but, since I wasn't sure I was going to need it, I opted not to purchase anything. I was supposed to be at a barbecue at Maral's sister's place today, but she never called. Either way, I can go back tomorrow if I have to.

After leaving the wine shop, I walked west to the Notting Hill station, bought myself a day pass between there and Earls Court, just in case I had to go back later on. I took the underground to Earls Court and walked back to my place.

When I got back I arranged my bags so I didn't have to do it tomorrow, took a shower, got dressed, ate some chips, watched some of Mirrormask, and then headed out to the Earl's Court Tavern for a beer. I stopped in, got my Guinness, had the girl behind the counter break a £20 note (I wanted to have some change and paper bills to bring home with me) and sat back at a window seat for about twenty minutes while I drank my beer. The night seemed too young to end so early (it was about 10 P.M.) so I decided on a walk. I walked south on Earls Court Street until I felt like making a left. I walked up that street and watched the rich people eat in gorgeous Italian eateries. I saw my first Ferrari dealership. I almost felt detached enough to vomit all over this indulgence. There is so much money in this city that it's almost appalling.

I walked until I felt like making another left somewhere up the way. I eventually came back out on West Cromwell Road, where I made a left, and crossed the street a bit of the way up. I found a nice little cafe that, surprisingly, wasn't closed at this time (like every other place in London that closes before 10) and I grabbed a spot of coffee and a brownie. The coffee, like all coffee here, was straight espresso and the brownie was, or seemed to be, hard fudge with almonds. I happen to like strong coffee and this town definitely delivers. The brownie wasn't so great, but it was good to alleviate the hunger pangs that my stomach was delivering. I walked back to my place, a little sullen over the journey that's in my future for Wednesday, but almost eager to get back to my music. And that is where I am now.

11:18 P.M. London Time

9:54 P.M. London Time

I actually woke up early today at about 8:20 A.M. I got dressed, and hung out at Starbucks to wake up and check my email. I headed out around 10 A.M. and headed east on Cromwell. According to the cabbie that dropped me off on my first day, the museum district was a walk up the block.

After walking for about 45 minutes, I finally found the Victoria and Albert Museum which I passed just as an attempt to see what lay further up the road. I came to Hyde Park and decided on a nice stroll though. This was much nicer than the one I was at the other day. The ducks walked right up to you, there were little pontoon boats that you could rent on the pond, and there were snack stops, which I needed because I hadn't eaten anything.

After a nice brisk walk through the park and a blueberry muffin, I found myself heading back the way I came. I ended up back on Cromwell Road and decided to head back to the museum.

The foyer was incredible with a huge green blown glass chandelier hanging from the center. I remember seeing a special on the man that designed up, but his name evades me. I started in the Chinese art section and made my way through to the Middle Eastern, and then to the Sculpture and European sections. There were some magnificent sculptures of the bodhisattvas of Chinese and Indian origin that were quite impressive, mostly dating anywhere from 100 B.C. to about 1000 A.D. I was slightly disappointed that the musical instrument exhibit was closed but, after talking to an employee, I was relieved. He mentioned that it should be open again tomorrow, so I may have to take another trip up there.

After I left the museum, I headed back east to stop at a Starbucks that I had passed. I bought a 24 hour pass for internet access and only had a few hours left on it. I was also a bit thirsty.

After sitting in Starbucks for maybe a half hour or so I headed out and headed back west, stopping in a few wine stores along the way just to browse, and eventually made my way back to Earls Court Street where I stopped for some sushi. I topped a very good box meal with two glasses of a house red and headed out. I was passing by the Earls Court Tavern and I saw, on the big screen, that they had World Cup Rugby on, so I stopped in and dumped two pints of Guinness on top of the wine. This didn't really go over well. I stumbled back home and took a three hour nap that could have been a ten hour nap. I really just hit the mattress like a rock.

I woke up around 7:30 P.M. and headed to the kebab place, had a lamb doner (I've been eating lots of lamb here), a piece of baklava and a bottle of water and I headed back here.

10:20 P.M. London Time

9:34 P.M. London Time

I needed to buy some souvenirs for my family today so I woke up around 10:30 A.M. I headed to Starbucks to update my blog and to check my emails. Starbucks was jammed with no available seating, so took a run to the Earls Court Tavern t eat some breakfast. I'd heard that English Breakfast was nothing to miss. I should have listened. After that terrible experience I headed back to Starbucks, checked my email, and then I took a stroll south down Earls Court Street. They say one of the things you can't trust in England is the weather. I had brought my jacket, but it got relatively hot in a short amount of time so I had to take it off and carry it. I eventually turned west and, being that I hadn't run across anything worth seeing I headed into the Fulham Broadway Underground station and purchased a day pass between there and Westminster. I hopped on the District line and took it to the Victoria station. The Victoria station is within a short walk of Buckingham Palace, so souvenir shops would abound. I came out of the station and, within two minutes, I had located a shop I purchased a bag full of items, but not all. It was hot, I had my jacket and book bag to lug, and I didn't feel like carrying anymore than I had. I left the shop and proceeded in the direction of the palace.

After walking beyond the palace I stopped for a bottle of water at a little eatery along the way and I ended up in Piccadilly Circus where I took the Piccadilly line back to Earls Court. I stopped at the kebab place again and had some chicken tikka, a piece of honey cake and a piece of baklava. As usual, they were excellent. I walked back to y place and dropped off my laptop, watched the end of Hot Fuzz, and headed back out around 5 P.M. to finish my shopping.

I headed back to Earls Court and took the District line right into the Westminster station. When I got out of the station, I was greated by Big Ben, Parliment, and, of course, the Thames. I walked up the Thames for a bit, got pictures of the London Eye (the line was too long; maybe tomorrow) and the London Aquarium. I then turned north by the Embankement Underground and headed up towards Scotland Yard. I pretty much walked the Bakerloo line's path and ended up back at Piccadilly Circus where I found another souvenir shop and finished my shopping. I took the Piccadilly line back to Earls Court and stopped at the tavern for two pints of Guinness. I stayed a bit because rugby was on and rugby just seems to go perfectly with Guinness. After I watched France trounce Ireland, I headed back to my place and that is where I'm at now.

9:56 P.M. London Time

7:41 P.M. London Time

I'm in early tonight so I an actually wake up on time tomorrow. I have all morning until 12 P.M. for my 24 hour internet pass at Starbucks and I have a bunch of photos from today to upload. They'll be uploaded by tomorrow morning some time so stop by my Myspace site if you're interested.

I woke up late today and showered. Since I didn't have much to do I took my time, and strolled over to the Starbucks to drink some tea. I needed food before hand, tough, so I stopped by the local kebab place that I've grown such a love for and ate a Sikh Kebab. I've noticed that there's been a lot of lamb in my diet here.

I stopped at Starbucks, uploaded some photos from yesterday and talked to Mike for a bit and my friend Charlie (who was also a Starbucks employee at one time) on line and headed out at about 1 P.M. I decided to see if I could find the infamous Abbey Road. If I didn't, I knew I would hear it from Tracy. I took the Piccadilly line up to the Green Park station and switched to the Jubliee line which then took me to the St. Johns Wood station which was the target area. This was a very well-to-do area. All of the driveways either had a BMW, Porsche, or a Bentley parked in them but I didn't feel strange walking down these streets.

When I came out of the station I made a left onto Acacia Street when I should have made a right, so I went about a quarter mile out of the way before I found that I was headed in the wrong direction. I turned around and walked back towards the station. When I got to the station I decided to make a left onto Wellington and take it up a few lights before I made a right. Eventually, going in this direction, I finally found Abbey Road, but I couldn't tell which intersection was the famous one from the album cover. I think I figured it out, so I took a picture of the street sign, but honestly, almost every other intersection could have been it and I didn't feel like looking like a bloody tourist, so I didn't ask.

I walked down Abbey Road for a while until I came to a nice pub named The Salt House. I stopped in, had two pints of Abbot Ale (a REALLY excellent cask ale) and headed back to the station. I took the St. Johns Wood station back to Earls Court and decided to actually walk around the neighborhood that I was staying in. I proceeded east on West Cromwell Road until I got in the area of the Gloucester Road and South Kensington Underground stations when I then turned north and walked for a bit until I got to the Kensington Gardens. These are a large expanse grassy area similar to Central Park in NYC, but much more peaceful.

I walked through the gardens and ended up on the north end of them by the Lancaster Gate Underground station. I proceeded north to the area around the Paddington station and stopped in at a little Indian restaurant not far from the station. I can't remember the name of it to save my life, but I can say that the food was excellent. On top of this, I doused it with two glasses of less than excellent house red.

Afterwards, I headed back to the Paddington station and took the District line towards Wimbledon and got off at Earls Court station and headed back. I was hoping that Starbucks would be open so I could upload these new pictures, but they close at 7 P.M. here, so that will have to wait for tomorrow.

8:04 P.M. London Time

11:35 P.M. London Time

Posted the beginning of my London Journals this morning at Starbucks on Earls Court Street. I decided to suck it up and actually pay for a wi fi connection the same way as I'll end up doing tomorrow morning. Afterwards, I decided on a change of scenery, so I opted to take a "short" train ride over to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare's birth house. I wish someone had told me that the word "short" has a totally different meaning in this country.

I stopped back at my place to drop off my laptop and headed back to the Earls Court station to catch the District line towards the Edgware Road station. I got off at the Paddington station and switched to the Bakerloo line in order to catch the National Rail Line train at the Marleybone station. When I got to the Marleybone station I purchased my to and return tickets and, being that I had about an hour to kill, I hit up the pub for a pint of Guinness and then a pint of Black Sheep, a genuine cask (wooden cask) ale that was really great and served at room temperature. (That is a big fallacy about this place. Most beer is served cold except for their wooden cask made bitters.) These bitters seemed to b a bit on the strong side, so I was a little worse off than I was expecting. Actually, I thought that I got on the wrong train initially. Those cask ales really are something to talk about.

Anyways, The trek to Stratford-upon-Avon started at about 2:43 P.M. and didn't end until about 5 P.M. Therefore, it is safe to say that all of the historical sights were closed. I was expecting a half hour trip and no one mentioned to me that it was as long as it was. When we pulled into the station, I got off and took a stroll around the town, first coming across a pub that was (or they advertised to be) about 500 years old. The name was the Old Thatch Tavern, and the timbers were definitely old enough. I stopped in here and had a pint of Londons Pride, another cask ale that was actually better than the last one. I quickly went through this pint and set out again for the old town area.

After going about three blocks I realized that I either missed a sign or, as usual, there were missing signs, so I crossed through a side street and went around a whole block just admiring the littleness of these homes. They all seemed so nice and quaint and they were all stacked next to each other like a neatly dressed row of books. The feel of this tow was very uplifting.

After coming back around the block, I eventually made my way back to the old section of town and stopped in at a kebab place for some chicken kebabs. The Lebanese man didn't speak very good English, but I eventually got my message across to him and he made me a VERY good and VERY HOT chicken kebab. It may have been the best chili sauce I've ever had (in England?!?!).

After my eyeballs decided to melt in the socket, I took my walk through the streets and finally came across the cottage that Bill Shakespeare was born in. My camera also decided not to save any pictures either because it's been a little weird lately, so I don't have any to post unfortunately. I did get a couple of the other places on my camera phone later, though.

After this I found another pub (today was a day for booze) and had two pints of Guinness, all the while having a very nice conversation (and a very hard one to understand for that matter; HEAVY accent on this bloke) with a bartender named Levi. He's been wanting to go to the states for a while, but just hasn't gotten a chance yet. He asked me what I thought of London and I told him that it makes New York look like a sewer. His boss also seemed to have a weird fetish with Laurel and Hardy.....

After these pints, I was goood, and I made my way back to the station. Again, I was surprised I got on the right train. The train was there and waiting for me, but it wasn't due to leave for another hour, so I took a nap in the car. I figured if I were to fall asleep then this was the place to do it.

The train eventually left and I sat back for another 2 hour ride back to London. When we got there I hopped the Bakerloo from Marleybone station and, when I got to the District line plaform at Paddington station, I was asked for directions to the Victoria station. With my newfound knowledge of the Underground I was able to direct him easily. The problem was that he didn't understand a word of English. I only hope that he got to where he needed to go. The District line brought me back to Earls Court station and I stopped for food (again) at the kebab place that I had been going to over the last couple of days. I took my Lamb Doner back to my place and this is where I am now.

12:12 A.M. London Time

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