Tuesday, November 27, 2007

London Highlights

Hello Blogsphere! I'm back from a drizzle-soaked, chilled-to-the-bone, museum, musical, and historical sight-saturated, family-intense, surprisingly endearing baby-spit-up-smelling, cuddle-filled visit to London. I know I've mentioned this before, but my nephew - Baby Bean - is adorable, and getting the chance to bond with him was one of the highlights of the trip.

Despite the weather, London is a fun place to visit and there's tons to do. I had a great time walking around Notting Hill, Covent Garden, and Hyde Park. In Notting Hill, near where my brother Frey lives, there's a cute coffee shop with inviting couches that plays old French songs and has delicious baked goods. Their coffee was better than London's Starbuck's, which tasted burnt to me. Hyde Park was relaxing; there were teenagers playing soccer outside, people strolling, flocks of swans and ducks, and wide open grass filled spaces filled with fallen leaves and dotted with impressive, stately trees. In Covent Garden, I had the best Belgium waffle I've ever tasted from a little kiosk. It was delicious! They must make the batter with heaps of sugar because the waffle, which I had plain, came out delightfully carmelized around the edges.

Speaking of food, I had my fill of Scottish shortbread cookies; they were impossible to resist, particularly since they were one of the few things that was not at least double the price of what it would have been in New York. I also tried clotted cream for the first time. Strange stuff. It looks like butter with a crusty yellow edge, but tastes like whip cream. My mom and I had it on scones with strawberry jam. On the way down it tasted delicious, but I must report that 15 minutes later I could still feel the sensation of it in my mouth and throat - sort of an unpleasant coating that made me fear for the health of my arteries. I also sampled the fish 'n chips - good, but not good enough to make up for it being fried. The stand out food was the Indian and fusiony Thai food. Excellent.

I took advantage of the lack of a strike to see some musicals in London, and am now of the opinion that the theater in London may be superior to that of New York, not necessarily for quality (although it was great) but more so for convenience. While in New York one must wait for hours for half-priced tickets and can't get tickets for tons of shows, in London it was a snap to get half-priced tickets and I was able to see "Wicked" - a show that I've been trying to see forever in New York. A review of Wicked will be forthcoming. I also saw "Chicago" which I also enjoyed. I love that song that the murderesses in jail sing about how they killed their husbands. He had it coming!

The other London attractions I enjoyed were Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the tour of the Tower of London. My favorites though were the museums. I dragged my mom to the British Museum where we saw the Rosetta Stone! - how cool is that? - the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern. That Tate was really cool. I'm not a fan of modern art but they had quite a range including some surrealist and abstract impressionist art. The coolest thing about the Tate was the actual structure of the building, an impressive old warehouse set on the bank of the Thames River with dramatically spacious, high-ceilinged rooms showcasing the art work. Even if you absolutely loath modern art, it's worth it to go to the Tate just to check out the facility, arguably a work of art in and of itself.

The visit also included some good family time, including a walk from the Tower of London up the Thames and over London Bridge to get to the Tate with my mom and Bacchus, nice dinners and lunches, and just chilling in front of the TV watching movies or taking turns gushing over my little nephew. My brother Frey gets props and many thanks for organizing the trip.

But, as with all great trips, it's always nice to get home. I'm very happy to back in my own bed, work, routine, and among predictable and familiar New Yorkers. The Brits are cool, but it's comforting to be back on the subway after the tube, to be walking on streets where pedestrians have the right of way, where Starbuck's coffee tastes like it should, where there's sunshine mixed in with the rain, where I have my whole closet and bathroom at my sole disposal, and where the cost of my morning coffee doesn't cause me to shake my head in despair at the dismal state of the American dollar.


Starshine said...

Welcome home! It sounds like it was a wonderful trip! I loved the Jailhouse Tango song from Chicago, too--my fave song in the musical. :)

Isn't time with family wonderful? Hubs and I were in Virginia with 30 of his family members for Thanksgiving, and it was just awesome. :)

J. Lynne said...

I loved London! :) The only thing I didn't like was the lack of trash cans out in public. I'd finish my coffee and be carrying the empty cup for an hour until I could find a place to toss it. My friend who lives there says it has to do with the bus bombings. Public trash cans are too easy to hide bombs in.

Also, I was there during the bird flu scare and my friend was quite afraid of the birds in the park, especially any that might look sick or dead.

I'd love to go back though. There was lots I didn't have time to see.

jehara said...

london rocks. it's one of the few places where i don't mind it being gray all the time.

wicked is a great musical. and i don't even like musicals in general. i am more of an experimental theatre type. without people singing.

glad you had a good trip and glad you're back. :)

Gypsy said...

Oh, how I love Chicago! :) Glad you had a nice time, even though I'm frightfully jealous.

They had a segment last night on the news about Europeans coming to the US for shopping trips because of the state of the dollar. Sigh.

InterstellarLass said...

Nice! London is a fantastic town. It's been entirely too long since I've been there. I saw 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' on my first trip there. Excellent show!

Anonymous said...

As a Brit recently moved to London from Brussels, I'd pick New York any day. Give me snow in winter and sun in summer, 24 hour convenience everywhere, reasonably affordable prices and everything else that makes New York what it is and I'm a happy boy. It's been too long since I was there last. Almost applied for a job at the new British primary school that opened there a year or so ago, but circumstances conspired against me. Maybe one day I'll find a way to get there again!

London is great but the world has much more to offer...believe me.

Starshine said...

Hi friend,

Happy Friday and have a great weekend! NYC is always so beautiful this time of year with the city lit up in Christmas lights!