May 24, 2006

Other: Catching Up Is Hard To Do!

I know, I know: I’m way behind. London’s a busy place, okay? And now that I’m near a high-speed connection again (civilization! Joy!) I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
The Hell do you mean Edmonton’s up 3-0 on Anaheim in the West finals? Damn, this season’s playoffs have been weird!

Day 24 – Newcastle-on-Tyne to London
In addition to late evenings, it gets bright at about 4:00 right now and sunrise is around 5:45.
Fucking huzzah.
Otherwise, no problems on the trip down, despite a ticket machine not taking our money. Or rather, taking it a little too enthusiastically: ended up fishing out our now-crumpled £10 note with a ball point pen. (Is there anything they won’t do?) Rescuing the money from further mechanical ravishment, we bought tickets from an actual human and wended our merry way to London Town.
Met up with the Significant Other’s cousin Kay and her beau Abed and did some minor-league sightseeing up and down the street. I’m never that adventurous my first day in a new place, but was coaxed out with the promise of Turkish food (rare on Canada’s West Coast) and bagels in the morning. Since we walked in a very “ethnic” (i.e. mixed race) neighbourhood, it actually felt a lot like Vancouver, only with Arabic Muslims mixed with blacks and whites, instead of Vancouver’s Chinese mixed with Vietnamese, Koreans and whites. There are other races in the mix too, of course, but that’s who was the most visible.
There’s a big difference in structures, though. We went down a street called Brick Lane, and it has a real Victorian feel to it. Ironwork, cobblestone and brick houses (duh) are all prominent, and the SO pointed out where Jack the Ripper worked his wonder on two of his victims. Kay enthusiastically took up the theme, while Abed and I tried to be distracted by everything around us.
We passed by a lively outdoor food market (it’s was about 11:00 pm) full of folks taking a breather from the clubs and gearing up for the private parties. Very cool spot.
Not a bad first day in town, all told. People do keep staring at my kangaroo hat, which amuses me as much as it does them: it’s a fantastic hat (Hat in a Bag), but not exactly what one expects to see in an urban centre. If you can find one, though, buy it!

Day 25 – London
Headed out to do the first of many, many Essential London Experiences that are available here: Brighton Beach. Kay had to meet a friend who was there from California (and she went to Brighton Beach?!), so the SO and I were on our own.
I was glad to see that quite a bit of the old hippie/bohemian showing through, despite the efforts of chain stores to horn in. Lots of strange and funky little stores with strange and funky items for sale, and while I’ve heard that London’s a good (read: safe) town for gays, I really didn’t expect to a pavilion advertising “Bangkok’s Best Ladyboys – Highlights of 2005!” every night. Posters for the show were common, and the pavilion was bright, gaudy colours in the middle of town. Interesting.
Wandered out to the famous Brighton Pier, of course: it’s oddly like a restrained, British Coney Island or Pacific National Exhibition. We took a ride through the Ghost House and were utterly terrified - that the poor thing would break down while we were riding it. The sea air must wreak havoc on the machinery, and the wind and tides were something fierce. The prices matched: that was the only ride we tried.
From Brighton, we went to the riverside and picked up tickets for the night’s performance of Titus Andronicus. Not Shakespeare’s best, to be sure, but seeing it in the Globe really added to the experience. Brilliant design for a theatre, even now.
Advice: buy your tickets early, and go to the restaurant across the street from the box office. The wine’s indifferent, but the service is good and the food marvellous. Keep it light, though: the plays can be quite long, depending on the folio version they are doing. Titus lasted two and a half hours, for instance. Also, if you really want to be a “groundling” (standing on the floor in front of the stage), pay for a seat in the lower balcony anyways. You can still stand on the floor, but you’ll have a place of refuge from under the open roof. Rain and chilly temperatures this late May night.
Touring the Globe tomorrow in the morning, then off to the Tower in the afternoon, with a bit of St. Paul’s in the middle somewhere. Better get the legs rested!

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