Thursday, July 12, 2012

England: England

Good blog title, huh?

I swear this is the last England post, I've been home for over a week for Pete's sake. But I still have a bunch of pictures so you have to deal with them. To catch you up, I went to Wimbledon and a Stone Roses concert. (Mom, those are links. You click on them. With your mouse. I know you don't have a mouse. Use the cursor. The thing that moves with your fingers. I think we just lost my mom).

I guess I'll do this chronologically. I arrived late Wednesday and had my Ploughman's Sandwich. Thursday I woke up late, since I couldn't fall asleep until 4:30 am (stupid jet lag). Late being around 8:30. My plan was to do some quick sightseeing, and buy a bicycle helmet. I packed light with only a carry-on backpack. I planned to buy a bag on the trip so a bicycle helmet would be a souvenir I could get. Also, I was planning to bike a bunch, especially in London since they have a bike share system I planned to use. Due to enough bicycle accidents by me, my wife and various friends, I made a vow to always wear a helmet. This vow has been broken many times, but I really do try. I own at least six bicycle helmets. Wow, this blog is serious all of a sudden, and I haven't even got to the first photo. Let's get going then. OK, my train to Manchester was at 12:30, I woke up and had breakfast and checked what time check-out was. It was 10:30, earlier than I expected, so I ran out the door and signed up for Barclay's Cycle Hire. Ok here comes a picture finally:

That's Buckingham Palace. My facebook joke for that photo was "I think someone important lives here. Maybe a Spice Girl?" I think Sporty Spice, because what's she been up to? I wouldn't leave home if I lived there like Sporty.  I keep mentioning how nice all British people are. Well, biking near here they had lots of the streets closed as they were setting up the beach volleyball venues for the Olympics. I think Prince Harry requested the beach volleyball be near his Grandma's house, as I would. So I biked up to the palace and a policeman said "Oy, gov'nah, no cycling on this street please." I then got off my bike, started walking, and witnessed the same policeman say that to five other cyclists in the span of one minute. Boston policemen would probably start shooting at cyclist number three. 

I then went out to check out some Banksy's. Before my trip I looked at a map of all Banksy's. Most have been painted over due to graffiti wars (yeah that's a real thing), but there were two near me and the hotel. So I saw them. Here's a picture of me with one:

I then went towards the bicycle shop to get a helmet. I couldn't for the life of me find a Barclay's bike station nearby. It was getting close to check-out time, so I called off the helmet purchase and headed back to the hotel. My helmet vow was on hold for three days of biking. I checked out of the hotel and decided to walk to the train station. I went through Regent's Park, and walked by the tennis courts.

I took a picture of that court because it is a child's court, smaller than a regular court. I had never seen one before. Two days later I was watching the BBC in my hotel and they had an overly serious story about cardio tennis, which just looks silly. It was filmed at the same courts in Regent's Park. I yelled at the TV: "I was there two days ago!" My coffee maker said "Who gives a shit." Well, maybe my blog gives a shit, coffee maker. 
Later, I went to the train station, and since I was training first class I went to the first class lounge:

Yup, that's a station where you can play Nintendo DS's'ses. Nice. It was train time, so I went to head to my train when I saw this place:

I ran up and yelled "Pay your Brazilian workers a fair wage!" They said, "Oy, gov'nah, you have the wrong place." 

I took the train to Manchester, went to Altrincham, got some chips with curry sauce, and went to a concert. While biking to the concert I also saw some old church:

I guess I should do some research. That is Manchester Cathedral. Damaged by an IRA bomb in June 1996, just a few months after I was in Manchester. That's how close this blog came to not existing. Like if I decided in January 1996 to stay in England and quit school for no reason, then just hung around downtown Manchester for six months. Then I ignored the police evacuating the area since the IRA gave an hour warning. That's how close you guys came to not seeing iced tea/lemonade reviews. So cherish these blogs.

The day after the concert, I dealt with an annoying bike incident. Afterwards, I decided to treat myself to an iced latte. My sister-in-law's last name is Costa, so I went here:

Costa seems to be the Starbucks of England as it was everywhere. I then took the train back to London. I went to my awesome hotel and right next door was this plaque:

Bad picture, but it says "Sir Winston Churchill lived here". Yeah, me and Winston, we're very similar. My hotel was awesome. So awesome, it had three fricking shower heads. Oh, you don't believe me, well, here they are:

The glass to the left looks on the bedroom. There was a button in the bathroom that made the glass opaque. Now I was by myself so I didn't need this button. But I must have pressed that button at least thirty times. 

Sunday was my tourist time in London. Some church:

Some clock:

Some Ferris Wheel:

Me, on some river, with some church, clock and Ferris wheel in the background:

This was my fourth trip to London. I've been to most of the top tourist attractions already, so I didn't feel like I had to go places. For instance, I later went to the National Gallery. By all accounts, that is one of the best museums in the world. I spent a total of thirty minutes inside. I went to mostly see my favorite painting, The Arnolfini Portrait:

I did a long report about that painting while in high school, and have a print from a previous trip to London up in my house. Read about the painting here, don't make me dig up my long report. I got an A! My original plan was to check that out and get out of there, but I decided to check out the Rembrandt's and the J.M.W. Turner's so that took up the thirty minutes.

The last time I was in London, the Tate Modern wasn't open, so that was one museum I decided to go to. 

Hey! Put some clothes on, art thing! I can see your intestines! They had a Damien Hirst exhibit. I blogged about one piece earlier. I took another photo before someone told me photos aren't allowed:

That's a hair dryer blowing up a ping pong ball. That is art. That would probably cost you more than a million dollars to buy. Some modern art is just so stupid. 

England was in the midst of two months of near constant, record breaking rain. When I was there I had three nearly all sunny days of temperatures in the 60s and 70s:

One place I had never been to was St. Paul's Cathedral.

I've still never been inside it, but was close enough to take pictures of the outside. Does that count? 

During my trip, I would stop for beers at pubs occasionally. Pubs mostly had free wifi so I could check in with the wife. They also have beer there. The beer in England is the best. The best. The best beer in the world. Umh, so I would stop in, and take pictures of my beer:

I have a bunch of photos that look like those, they all look the same. When taking the beer pictures, I would always think, remember this beer's name for your dumb blog. I would then forget the beer name. I eventually figured out to write down my favorites. The two I wrote down, and are both better than any beer you have ever had are:

  • Brodie's Old Street Pale
  • Sharp's Atlantic IPA
Later that night I got a kebab:

That is a Chicken Doner Kebab. Let's break that down. Chicken is a domesticated fowl. Doner means it is cooked on one of those rotating sticks you see at Greek places. Kebab means it is served inside bread with stuff. They are also known as gyros if that helps. Kebabs are my favorite cheap food in the UK, much better than most gyros you find in the States.  That one above I asked for everything.
"You want salad?" (salad means lettuce and in this case, also cabbage, cucumbers, onions and carrots)
"You want chili peppers?" (banana peppers)
"You want garlic sauce?" (like ranch dressing)
"You want chili sauce?" (hot sauce)
"Yes, I said everything!"

That kebab was really good. My only complaint was that it was served in basically a tortilla. Most of the time you get them in naan bread. That would have made it better. I went back there later and got a chicken shish kebab. That is about the same with grilled chicken instead of the rotating stick thingie. The second time I was there three drunk British people came in. The first guy asked for a kebab:
"Oy gov'nah, I want a kebab with chicken, lamb, and prawns."
(I was completely amazed a human would request this order)
"Sorry, we can't make that."
"Oy gov'nah, I'll give you twenty quid."
"Sorry, we can't mix those meats."
The drunk guys then created a big fuss for a while and the owners got their kebabs ready before mine to get them out of there. I was fine with that decision. 

Oh, I had some more photos from my Sunday sightseeing:

That's Trafalgar Square. It was Canada Day, so lots of canadians around. I then started to bike towards the Tower Bridge:

My plan was to also bike to the Olympic Park. I needed to buy a Barclay's Cycle Hire map to do that for various reasons. I went to five different places, including three bike shops (oh, yeah, I bought a helmet eventually I should mention. It is now Heather's bike helmet), yet no one had a map. Before my trip, I looked at the map of Olympic Park and there was only like one Barclay's station nearby. My original plan was to rent a bike for my London time, but the last bike rental did not go well, so I scrapped that idea. I was near the Tower of London, still without a map, when it started to rain. I decided to scrap the trip to Olympic Park. I had also read that they closed down around the Olympic sights for final preparations, so there was nothing to see anyway. 

My stomach never really got over the time adjustment. Except for that one breakfast, I never really got hungry before 2pm, and would be starving around 11pm. I was by the Tower of London (which I had been to before) around 2pm when I was completely starving. I ran up to a fish and chips shop right next to one of the major attractions of London and got chicken and chips: 

I was not proud of this meal decision, but I was so hungry. Also, if you notice the tomato, it is the giant rounded end of a tomato. Nice slicing work, tourist chip shop. I threw some vinegar on the chips, as you should in the UK, and the meal really wasn't too bad. Since it was raining, and I was far from the hotel, I decided to take a boat back to my hotel. Here's the Tower Bridge with the Olympic rings on my way to the boat:

I was really looking forward to taking a picture and saying, "I'm On a Boat!" and all of that. But the boat was crowded, so I had to sit in the middle in a big row of people. If I took a picture there wouldn't have been much of a difference than a picture of me saying "I'm at the DMV!"

I got off the boat and started to walk home. I walked by the Churchill War Rooms, it was still open so I decided to visit since we were neighbors and all. It was OK, pretty small (since it's a bunker, duh) and cramped with tourists. I didn't even take one picture. It cost around $20, I wish I had not stopped there. I got to the hotel and went to go get dinner. I found a Mexican place, called Taquito's. I decided to go there so I can say I've had burritos in two continents:

I have to say that was one of the best burritos I have ever had, top ten percent at least. I think they make burritos in Eurore differently. The amount of meat they put in was crazy. Picture going to Chipotle and asking for chicken. They add the chicken. Then you say "Can I get extra meat?"
"Sure, that's two dollars extra."
"Ok, that's fine." They add the extra meat and you ask for even more meat, they give you a funny look and add more chicken. Then you have an accomplice create a distraction. While everyone was looking away you grab a fistful of meat and throw it in the burrito. That's how much chicken was in that burrito. I'm not complaining about it. They also kept asking if I wanted spicy things in it, like hot peppers and sauce. I said yes to all of the questions and they seemed happy someone actually likes spicy food in England.

Monday was Wimbledon. Tuesday I was flying home. It was rainy, so I started to do more sightseeing in the morning, then just decided to go to the airport early. I have a nice credit card that comes with access to fancy airport lounges, so I went to two different lounges in the terminal. I enjoyed some free food, soda, and wifi. One of my favorite things about international travel is spending the rest of my cash at the airport on the way home. At the airport I had 100 pounds in cash ($156). So it was time to shop:

I didn't buy that. It is one of the biggest regrets in my life. The lounges had wifi, so I could text my wife there. I asked her if she wanted anything at the shops. She said to take pictures and send them to her. I made four different trips from the lounges to the shopping areas and back, and sent pictures to my wife about potential purchases. Her responses were:
  • That's horrible
  • That's ugly, why would you take a picture of that
  • If you buy that, I will never forgive you
  • I would prefer you flushed the money down the toilet
So I just exchanged all my money at crappy exchange rates. After that, I flew home, so that ends this long blog.

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