I wanted to show you a few pics I took at the Alfred East Gallery (with permission) of my great-great-great uncle (g-g-g uncs). He looks a lot like my uncle, though I don’t have any comparison shot to put up. He was one of the first Westerners to go around Japan. Since (I believe this is so) all of his work in the Gallery is under public ownership, it is available for viewing on the BBC “Your Paintings” website here, though keep in mind that not all of it is Sir Alfred’s.
Mum took some better pics of me beside his bust in the gallery so you can see that we sort of kind of look alike. Maybe. I don’t know.
Other things I wanted to write about – or rather show off are some pictures mum took at the castles and when we went to Milton Keynes with Nan…
Nan has swag
Mum also took two particularly ridiculous photos of me at Kenilworth Castle:’
My head as a crenelation
ugh. at least mum’s in it too, in the top right
The photo above actually has a story behind it. Mum, Nan, and I were leaving Kenilworth Castle, and she spied this little horse standee and said that I should take a photo behind it, neglecting to realise its comical smallness in comparison with my relative bulk, and that there is a large, steep, wet-grass slope behind it leading to my ultimate doom in a field full of cows (and cow shit). However I prevailed, and in fact, our actions encouraged a retinue of German tourists to be tempted to do the same.
p much my reaction, re: ze Germans
I took the train to London from Northampton (and not Wellingborough because it was cheaper or easier or something that I can’t remember). Mum told me she used to drive to the very same station and take the train into London when she was on her course after she and Dad moved out of London – more on this later. I initially had planned on lugging all my stuff to St. Pancras underground (which is a pretty long walk from the East Midlands platforms), and taking the tube about 8-9 stops to Earl’s Court, where I was staying. Then I’d have to walk about 4-5 blocks (maybe about 5 minutes unencumbered, as I discovered). This is why I took a black cab:
Also it may shock you to know that the red case weighs approximately 32kg and the blue about 27kg. I was away since April! <_< Technically I’m only over by… 13kg. <_<
Since I ended up spending loads of time with mum on the day I left (which was much needed – we went to Waitroses and I bought some magazines, and then we saw her friend Rachel who lived around Northampton), a lot of the restaurants were closed by the time I thought to venture out to eat. It weirded me out, since for some reason I have the impression restaurants in Toronto are open later. I went to a place called Dragon Palace and ordered a starter and a main, but only had the starter as they were closing and it was massive. It was a sort of crispy sweet duck, that was on the bone – the waitress stripped it all off for me. It came with little pancakes, some sauce, and mixed veg (spring onion and cucumber). They were really good and cost around £6.90 ($11.35).
I spent much of the next three days at the RGS/IBG conference, though I did enjoy most of the talks, the opportunity presented by some of the presenters not being at one of the sessions allowed me to go to the V&A which I enjoyed, though I rushed a little bit so I wouldn’t miss the next session.
Globes at the RGS
A dress at the V&A
Statue at the V&A
Staircase at the V&A
I really loved the staircase – it’s by the café (where I had a delicious ham and emmenthal sandwich – £4.75 ($7.80)). I scurried back for the next session. On another day, I couldn’t find a session that I felt truly passionate (or even weakly) about, so I decided to go to Harrods to buy some tea (I love their first flush Darjeeling and English Afternoon teas). I wandered the Food Hall, which is probably the best part about Harrods (as I can’t afford anything else there). A nice gentleman at the charcuterie counter allowed me to sample as many meats as I’d like. I had three or four types of salami – one fennel salami struck me as particularly nice, and I’d have bought some were I not deathly afraid of the hostel’s shared refrigerator(s). I wandered around and came across a counter with sushi and dim sum, so I tried a single piece of tuna sushi for about £1.50 ($2.50). Verdict: the fridge was too cold so the rice had that weird dry taste that happens when you keep it in the fridge for any length of time. The fish was good though.
The dim sum at Harrods
I also bought a pistachio meringue which was about as big as my face for £2.50 ($4.10).
The inside was soft but pretty nice. It was way too big to eat more than about a quarter of it though. (on the RGS lawn)
After my successful meeting with one of my biggest heroes ever who may want to work with me for my PhD (not naming names) I went and celebrated by eating at Mai Food, probably the nicest Japanese place I’ve been to in a while. I sat at the counter and ate probably way too much.
Entertaining fact: all of these sauces go with different things I ordered, and they’re all mine.
Spicy tuna maki
A duck, a squid, and a pork skewer
Gyoza (pork dumplings)
Green salad – you won’t understand why I got this unless you spent time in a country where eating salad is a pain in the ass because you have to bleach or iodine or acidify your vegetables so you don’t get a horrible gastrointestinal disease causing you to go to the toilet way too much
Takoyaki – pretty good, though to be honest, I like the ones at Manpuku better- they have a special machine imported from Japan, though, so it’s not a fair comparison.
Perhaps Japanese food (of some varieties?) hasn’t become as ubiquitous in London as it is in Toronto, since the owner asked me if I lived in Japan due to my apparently excellent knowledge of Japanese cuisine – I just told her no, I hadn’t, but I really loved their food. I enjoyed eating at Mai Food very much, though I think if you want a table or to ensure you can eat there, you have to get there early, or make a reservation, because it was packed.
The next day I was meeting my Mum at London Bridge station (which I won’t forget also because of Orwell’s writing of it in his hop-picking diary [I’m reading his Diaries right now]), so I thought I’d cycle over using the Boris bikes from Earl’s Court. I made it to Kensington and realised that the stupid machine made you wait 5 minutes between rentals, so I cabbed it to the closest Underground station and bought two day passes (which was useless in the end because Mum wanted to take cabs everywhere because of her hip). Boris bikes also aren’t very fast – I have amazing quads (no brag, I swear), so I get up to speed pretty quickly, but since they only have three gears, you can’t get up to ridiculous speeds very easily.
My feelings on that weird race that happens when approaching stop lights on a bicycle which makes you appear to be a slow, inexperienced cyclist
London Bridge station is really confusing and so Mum and I had some trouble meeting – I got frustrated too quickly and felt bad because Mum got a bit annoyed with me, so I apologised. We took a black cab to the Tate Britain in order to see the Lowry show (we are big fans of Lowry probably due to the Mancunian nature of his work, and I’ve liked his work especially ever since Mum took me to the Salford Centre when I was a youngish teenager). We decided to have a drink before we went in at the charming garden café – we each had tea and a Pimm’s Cup. I found out my brother had gotten married and was very happy for him – I will always associate that café with that event, even if it is thousands of kilometres away. We went inside and bought tickets for both exhibitions which were on – Lowry and another two artists of the 20th century who did modern things, whose names I’ve forgotten because I’m a terrible person. We really enjoyed the Lowry exhibition, though it was a bit crowded and relatively chairless (important for my Mum as she has to sit down every so often because of her hip). I managed to ask a security man for a portable folding stool, which he thankfully found quickly. He was very friendly.
part of London Bridge station
The only time I saw the Houses of Parliament since I didn’t venture there after. (on the way to the Tate Britain)
A hall leading to the Lowry exhibition
A little sketch I liked at the Lowry exhibit (no photos : < )
After the Tate Britain, Mum and I went to the Marks and Spencers at Marble Arch at the end of Oxford Street. We had lunch first, as the cabbie dropped us off around the corner, at a pub. I had a venison and blueberry burger, which wasn’t how I had expected it to be, and Mum had fish and chips. Marks and Spencers was OK, though Mum didn’t quite find anything as perfect as last time she’d be in. We had toasties in the café and went to Primark, since Mum was looking for a carry-on bag, which she didn’t find, though I got a nice huge carry-all purse of holding + 7 (which can hold a ridiculous amount of stuff).
Trying on a ring at Marks and Spencers and generally being a bit ridiculous
The next day, after I went with Mum all the way to Gatwick to drop her off (and back to Earls Court), I did a morning of Sherlock Holmesery. The excitement started at Baker Street Station, which is decorated with Sherlock Holmes themed tiles and ‘advertisements’.
One of the creepier Holmes tales, The Solitary Cyclist (full story). The tiles had the same pattern as the silhoutte
I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum which is actually at 221B Baker Street, which was moderately disappointing for the price (£8/$13.15). There’s a queue outside but what they don’t tell you (well I was told but saw several others who weren’t) is that you need to first queue inside the shop to buy a ticket. Then you queue outside to be let into the house. The first floor was pretty cool. The house is like a post two up two down – nothing on the ground floor, two on the first, two on the second, two on the third, and a half fourth floor with a pretty interesting looking toilet. The first floor has the Persian slipper, one of my favourite features of the stories (where Holmes keeps tobacco):
Also there is a fireplace and two chairs where you (and a friend though I was alone…) can pretend to be Holmes and Watson with the aid of… hats.
One awkward “canyoupleasetakeaphotoofme?” later, and here I am. Note that the hat wasn’t comically small, just that I had my hair piled on my head in a clip.
The second floor was items from specific cases and little informational items, such as this:
The third floor really freaked me out because it was all terrifying wax figures (hold this thought for a little bit later at the Transport Museum). I did mention a little half floor at the top which I was quite enamoured with,
It had the toilet, and a nice(ish) view. I imagined living there. It would be expensive.
The coolest toilet ever
I went back to Baker Street Station and took the Metropolitan line (the oldest line) to Euston Square to see the house they use to film the Sherlock television series (BBC version). I like the Metropolitan line stations; they’re monumental in some abstract sense, probably due to their age.
The platform at Baker Street Station (Metropolitan line)
So I did end up finding the Sherlock house, as it is literally around the corner from the Underground exit. It’s a weird street, rather quiet for being around the corner from Euston Station.
No awkward asking to have my photograph taken here
Here is a series of silly Sherlock gifs for your entertainment:
I can’t wait for Series 3, but there’s no air date yet. Kate is the best for introducing me to it.
After that, I thought about eating lunch and looking for a cafe, so I biked over to St. Pancras, realising that I was really close to the British Library. I don’t recall ever having been, so I went there first (after spending a decade looking for a bike return station). So I went through into the courtyard, which was nice, and had a café (which was closed). So I found the café in the library and had a sandwich and some tea. I noticed on the way in that they had a Propaganda exhibition on, so I decided to go. I enjoyed it, though it was a bit big. There was so much material, and I spent maybe 2 hours in the exhibition hall.
Thinking about exhibitions and trying to look intellectual eyebrows
After that, I realised it was too late to go to Covent Garden Market and the Transport Museum, so I headed back and hung out with the Scottish guy I’d met at the hostel, Davey, who makes skateparks and also skateboards himself. I forgot his instagram, otherwise I’d share some of his pics. We ate and then were going to go to this afterparty for this skateboarding conference, but we got there too late, and therefore had to go across the street to the pub to meet up with a crowd of entertaining skateboarding people. One of them was already wasted, and he fell asleep and it was hard to wake him up. The lady at the pub did not like our group. We had to leave as it was closing time, and the lady was shooing us out. Ian, one of the other Scottish guys in the hostel, was a bit drunk, and didn’t believe me that I could give him a piggy-back to the hostel. I did, for about 400-500 metres. It was fun walking back to the hostel – I got to ride Ian’s skateboard, and then Davey did some sweet tricks on the road (causing cars to slow down or swerve around). Ian bought me a Daim chocolate bar due to his belief I’d never tried one – after opening it, I’d realised I had, since they sell them at IKEA here. I felt a bit bad because I realised that I was always the last to bed in my hostel room (of four women). I was very quiet and didn’t turn on the light, but I still felt awkward.
The next day I went to Picadilly Circus and walked through Leicester Square to Covent Garden Market. There I bought a proper butter knife and an old Soviet pin for “hard work” – the translation netted me a discount, so I only paid £4 ($6.60) for it. I wandered around and decided to eat lunch before I went to the Transport Museum, which is on one corner of the square. I went to a decidedly overpriced and crap restaurant with pretensions, whose name I’ve even forgotten, by virtue of its “half price” special. I had a Caesar salad with chicken that tasted burnt, paid my £6 ($9.90) and left. The tone was set for the afternoon. The Transport Museum refused to honour my English Heritage membership, because I apparently needed an additional person to save 50% off the price. The entry for students was £11.50 ($18.95), the most expensive museum entry I’d paid in England.
Luckily, I learned the cost of an annual pass to the Transport Museum was the same price. So I insisted. And got it. This is a museum that you probably only want to go to once. Maybe it’s better with other people, since it does contain terrifying wax figures.
oh god why
Though it did have a cool posters exhibition, it cost extra, so I didn’t go. I just stared longingly at the tantalising “sneak peek”
It was a bit weird too seeing the old buses and trains and that because I imagined (again) my parents riding on them when they were still in service.
After spending a bit too much time in the museum, I headed towards Trafalgar Square, where one of the super helpful London tourism officials took a photo and reminded me of my Mum, mostly because of the thumb in the top left:
It was nice because I got to reminisce about being on the Square as a child – you used to be able to feed the pigeons, and my new friend hilariously said that I must be older than he thought, as it was banned a long time ago. He suggested I go see Soho and Chinatown by taking a detour through the National Gallery (behind me in the photograph). So I did. The National Gallery is the best. I bought a guidebook which had ten tours in it, so I did one or two of them. I left through a weird untrafficked exit and found Chinatown. I had bubble tea (my first in ages) that was only okay (and twice the price as it is in Toronto). I also bought Chinese buns and ate them later for supper.
Soho was pretty cool – I found the best alcohol shop that had everything I ever dreamed of:
I bought some Sloe Gin (gin made with sloe berries which you can’t really find in Canada) and some violet liqueur. I will use these with all the tonic I have left from buying a 12 pack. I seriously don’t know how I have this much tonic in my apartment.
After my fun and entertaining day, I slept, woke up at 6, and went to the airport. I had issues. Issues of weight. Mainly that both my bags were overweight. But also that my carry-on, which was until now perfectly fine, was too big for the cabin. I argued my case, was told to stick it in the “sizer” and was told it was too long. I was also told that I couldn’t have my blanket tied to the outside, or my bottle on the ring on the outside either, so I took those off and put them in a tote bag. Then my bag was weighed as 4kg too heavy, so I took out a bunch of stuff, and put it in the tote bag, asking where the Post Office was. The lady was surprised that I was going to post it, but approved my carry on on that factor (after having scrutinised the size of my purse), after only charging me one excess baggage fee of £65 ($108). Tired and feeling crap, I went upstairs to the only place open (The Post Office was closed, though had it been open, I’d have thought for a second about posting my excess stuff), which was Krispy Kreme. I had a doughnut and a tea, and began repacking my rucksack with the things I’d just taken out. It’s a farce, it really is. Soviet Britain – though I didn’t have the same problem on Finnair when I went to Helsinki. Then when I tried to go through security I was told I could only take two bags – my tote bag apparently counting as one item too many. So I stuffed my purse into my tote bag, and went through. Then when I got to the x-ray conveyor, I took my purse out, and then put it on the belt. Again, it’s a farce.
At the airport
Finally through security, I wandered around aimlessly. I didn’t buy any duty free, as I did buy what I wanted when going to Finland (an Yves St. Laurent Touche éclat pen). I faffed about online for a while, but my 45 minutes ran out. I eventually got onto the plane and we all were sitting one row too far back on the ancient fairly crap Air Canada plane, since the labels were in the wrong places. I got into the right seat, and off we went. I watched a few movies: Oblivion (ok, but drags on a bit), The Bling Ring (couldn’t finish, utter shite), and the first hour of Star Trek: Into Darkness (I shouldn’t have watched the Bling Ring!!!). I guess I can rent it, though.
I was glad to see Dad when I got to the airport. My bags didn’t take long at all. Then we drove home. And I played with the cats. It was awesome.
This has gone on for far too long, so I’m out