Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London calling

On Sunday I made my way to the Eurostar (the customs person who checked my passport asked me how long I would be in UK for before I went back to South Africa, I was not impressed) and stupidly hadn't thought about there being a time difference between Paris and London. So I got on thinking it was an hour and a quarter trip, but realised when an hour and a quarter had passed and we still hadn't gone through any sizeable tunnels, it was actually a two and a quarter hour trip.

Still, so quick! I tried not to think about the fact that we were in a tunnel under the sea. It's too freaky. How does the weight of the water not make the tunnel collapse? The train is really long and goes super fast. We should have a tunnel from the North to the South Island, it would be way better than the ferry.

In London I'm staying with a family friend, Chrissy, and her husband Piet who's Dutch. Chrissy arranged to meet me at 'the giant lovers statue' at St Pancras. How giant is giant? This giant.

It is so cool. There are more little 3D pictures (I don't know what else to call them) around the lovers' feet.

The sculptor obviously has a sense of humour.

We got the tube to Chrissy and Piet's house, right near the Archway stop on the Northern Line, and just hung out there for the rest of the day. Their house is so lovely and cute and it was nice to be able to just sit on a couch, drink a good cup of tea (and later some glasses of good NZ wine), and chat for ages.

In fact, I like their house so much it's making me a bit lazy.

I didn't go out until about midday yesterday. I got the tube to Leicester Square and then just wandered the streets. I decided to get the London version of the Paris Lonely Planet that had been so helpful, so went to a big bookshop and both they and next closest branch at Covent Garden had sold out (the guy behind the counter was very helpful, he rang all these places) so I went to Oxford Street via Charing Cross Road and actually despaired a little at ever finding the shop. I passed so many second hand bookshops (which I have to try really hard to stay out of, they are too tempting and I cannot carry a million books to Edinburgh and home again, my pack has hardly anything in it as it is and I still felt like I was carrying rocks on my way from the hostel to the Eurostar). I finally found the shop, got the book, and had to have a lemon tart and some Earl Grey to get over the ordeal. Although actually, it was fine. I find the London A-Z maps really hard to read (hence why I wanted the more manageable Lonely Planet) but there are so many well known London things around and tube stops and the river you don't really feel like you can ever actually get lost.

While trying to find the bookshop, I had passed the National Portrait Gallery, so after my wee break I decided to go back there for the afternoon. After having to pay for everything in Paris, I was surprised it was free and then remembered that lots of museums in London are. Thanks London!

I think I must have spent about two and a half hours there, I got a bit over the Tudors etc but some of the more modern portraits are really cool and the BP Portrait Award 2011 exhibition was on, which was really busy but very worth squeezing amongst people for. I wasn't a huge fan of the winner, it seemed much like lots of other portraits in the gallery, I thought there were some much more innovative ones in the competition that really told a story and would have been more deserving of winning. There was also an exhibition called 'Glamour of the Gods', full of Hollywood portraits from the 1920s to 1960s. If it wasn't for classic movie Sundays over the past year, I don't think I would have appreciated the exhibition as much. There was an example of an original negative and then the final retouched image - it's amazing the difference between the Joan Crawford untouched and the Joan Crawford with glowing flawless skin.

Then I went and sat in Trafalgar Square for a while, before wandering in the direction of the river. The sky made everything from the Trafalgar Sqaure lions to Big Ben seem very moody.

While wandering the banks of the river, I got a text from Chrissy asking if I wanted to come to a pub quiz near her work. I managed to navigate the craziness that is 6pm at Waterloo station and get the Jubilee line to Kilburn. I was quite excited about my first real English pub quiz, I even ordered fish and chips to really keep it authentic, but I hadn't even finished my mushy peas when some police came into the pub and spoke to the bar staff. We didn't really take much notice but then bar staff came around to each table and explained that they were having to close the pub in the next ten minutes as the police had advised them it looked like there might be trouble coming to the area that night. I had seen a little bit about the riots on TV the night before and the Tottenham Court Road stop was closed when I took the tube in the morning, but I hadn't been worried about it until the pub incident. Making our way home was a bit freaky even though we didn't see anything. Chrissy and I got the train home via a pub closer to her house, which is in a different area of London, for a calming glass of wine. Then we watched the news on TV till about midnight. It's crazy. Last time I was in London they had just had the undergound bombings - it seems I am not a good luck charm.

No comments:

Post a Comment