London Missives II

Notes to self – always check for appropriate hair products – especially when traveling to somewhere humid. The chances you will find something comparable to what you have at home – or at a reasonable price is slim – even in London (although they did carry Burts Bees and Jason’s products). I had to get some type of leave in conditioner, so I came upon a nice organic hydrating day cream for – wait for it – £13.50 (approx.$22) – for an 8oz tube. This stuff better work miracles! 

Some Great SITES –  

Big Ben and Houses of Parlaiment – and the crowds
  

Peence do NOT make cents ( or sense)
  
Leonardo’s “Virgin on the Rocks”
  
Free Concert – warm up rehearsal was Fantastic!!
   Great Britain has some wonderful art, historical museums, and nice pubs. The downfall was in London where 70% are not English (albeit English speakers). It is a metropolis. So as I have said before, I really didn’t get a feeling for English culture until I left the city proper. Everyone is in a hurry to get to and from somewhere (work, I presume), and according to the many conversations I had with Londoners, it is not only expensive but outrageously so.

I tried to compare it to California prices, but this is New York City standards of living. It boggles the mind how many people will never be able to afford much more than a studio flat 100m by 100m.

 

Me and Big Ben
  
View from above – East end London
  
Festival for peace – Mandala Sidwalk
 In the London Eye Experience near the Queen’s Jubilee building, there was a Mandala painting being executed in front of my eyes – apparently Deepak Chopra was going to speak during this festival.  I wasn’t able to make it, but considering the turmoil in Tibet, all proceeds were going to help earthquake victims.

Leaving London

My taxi driver was from Iran. When he found out I was American, he apologized that I probably hated him (it made me wonder what is being told to the Persian people about us). I said I had nothing against Iranians, or anyone for that matter, and he said I had such a good energy to be able to start his day and thanked me for the open conversation. It went much deeper than that, but kind of gets off topic for this blog.

He did explain the pricing system for the Zones around London – for everything be it rent, food, etc. Zones 1-2 are most expensive and 6 is the least. I was told the taxi would take credit cards, but he did not, so the kind man watched my bags while I found an ATM – London is expensive, if I haven’t said many times before. Next time I visit, I will stay in the countryside. I was glad I only stayed 4 days.

London Missives I

The first days in a new city, when traveling, are all about ‘Getting Your Bearings’.
I had taken a few ‘Google street view’ walks, virtually, around all the hotels in which I am staying, so I had a general lay of the land in Notting Hill. What I neglected to do, was take into account the 1. weight of my luggage, 2. time to reorient (jetlag, etc.), 3. actual distance to sites, and 4. time of day upon arrival.
When I arrived in London, I had a very aggressive itinerary – to say the least. I would post it here, but so many would say, “you are crazy, you’ll never get that all in”. But that’s what travel is about too – learning the lessons by even ‘failing’.
So I left Heathrow knowing I needed to get to Leicester (Lester) square before 4:30p to pick up my London Pass. On a side note, I would highly recommend anyone doing this and get a travel card (Oyster card) with it. One thing to note: The London Eye is NOT on this, but there are so many other sites and museums and deals that I think it is well worth the purchase.

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The National Portrait Gallery

I arrived at the Hotel Blue Bells around 4:20pm and there was NO WAY I was going to make my timeline, so I casually changed and freshened up to make a trip to the area where I would start my first day in London. I got rather lost, but did venture into Trafalgar Square and even checked off the National Portrait Gallery from my list (by the way, many of the galleries and museums are free and only ask for donation).

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Pembridge Square

By this time (7pm), I was ready to head back to the hotel and find some good Pub fare – See The Prince Edward, London cuisine posts to come.

With so much that had happened a couple things I learned: pack less, no matter if you think you have, pack less than that. Also, try to adjust your sleeping on the plane (I fell asleep as soon as possible, which made my jetlag much less). Being over-prepared by doing your research will save you time and money – I still find this THE most helpful tip. Some more stories to come, stay tuned!

Gelato outside of Italia???

Well, I have yet to really find a good authentic gelato in Phoenix since living in Italy – but here in Notting Hill, I recommend Zaza. They have a few around London as well. Good after a day of touring, and it felt a bit like Italy as there was an Italian family speaking at the next table.

Quit London – Arrived in Ghent

I just got final grades posted from St. Pancreas in London this morning, so I haven’t had a chance to get photos and stories together, however, I have been diligently writing them down and can finally – officially begin to relax and enjoy my wonderful vacation. the Eurostar train was perfectly comfortable and quick. Local train to Ghent was a challenge, vow to shed some luggage here.

I am breathing in the city of Ghent (Gent, Gand). I absolutely have a couple of stories and videos to post about my train trip and arrival.

           Ghent Train Station was very welcoming – my Taxi driver had a NY accent and was a great conversationalist. He wants to move back to the states and teach youth sports. More than anything he was excited for Ghent to beat Bruges in the upcoming soccer final on Thursday the 21, which I was going to miss. If they won, it would be the first time ever! ‘Go Ghent’!

When in London – Fish and Chips

I watched a Rick Steves tourism video awhile back and remember his recommendation for Fish and Chips here in Notting Hill. The Fish House of Notting Hill (see tripadvisor review here) – was so much more than expected. I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful service (try their ‘homemade tartar sauce’ it’s awesome), the large amount of fish and chips (similar to steak fries in America) and the obligatory ‘salt and vinegar’ were all delicious and authentic to London. I did opt for the ‘onion’ flavored vinegar, but it was just as pleasing – no ketchup for this girl. I had the cod, which was enormous! I didn’t think I could finish it, but this was so very tasty with its batter-fried goodness, I ate every bite. 

 

I promised my dad to do a chip, frite comparison once in Belgium. Cheers!

Pacing Myself

I have to take a moment to step back and get rest – especially with my ‘aggressive’ itinerary. Today consisted of so many sites and experiences, I was exhausted by 5:30p – so I need to remind myself to pace like a long distance runner. A two hour nap and some ibuprofen was all it took to recharge for tomorrow’s ambitious schedule.

Last Night’s Fare

I always try to find at least one good local restaurant/pub/eatery when I travel, for those days that you just need a good meal without the fanfare. The Prince Edward Pub was not to disappoint.

Full of locals and not so locals, this was such a treat. I had the Steak and Ale pie with some amazing carrots and parsnips done just the way I do them – al dente.

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The gravy and mashed was exquisite as well. I paired it with a nice Tempranillo red. But the food wasn’t the best part! Two of the bar staff are from Madrid and Italy. Virginia is from Madrid, and she was most helpful and I promised to return to pick her brain for some fun places to go there at the end of the month. Bon Apetite!

Trafalgar Square – could be Times Square

I went down to the National Portrait Gallery and they had a great Late Evening flute and harp recital as well as an interactive ‘sketching’ table where you could get supplies and sketch the masterpieces. Seeing as I am a tad jet-lagged, I opted to observe and listen – What a treat.

I think the real treat was stepping out onto Trafalgar Square where numerous performers were gathering crowds. I stopped to take a couple of pics where they were renovating or building a stage


And I heard ‘Ice Ice Baby’, which brought a smile to my face. But as I was heading back I heard this familiar song…. I will post the video later – all I can say is I forgot I was in London for a sec there until I looked up

Then when Jason Mraz started, I was smitten.

Here’s what I am packing…

        I was able to pack for 2.5 weeks, 5 cities, 4 countries with a small checked suitcase, briefcase/bag and backpack carry-on. This was most difficult, but it can be done. I will be shedding some older clothes along the way – I have a feeling.