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the [perfectly calm] adventures of david-andrew

island adventure

If you had the priviledge in your childhood to leave US soil, you must be very grateful. My parents preferred to take us places like Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen near Nashville, Tennessee and week-long stays at the New Tower Inn in Omaha, Nebraska (sadly no longer in existance – will miss the all-night swimming). Those places are very fascinating for their own reasons. However, there is a whole world of adventures out there as well. Between family vacations and school trips, I have had the wonderful opportunities to see nearly every corner of these united states. Now it was time to see the rest.

I know I’m reaching way back for this one, but it was a big trip for me. In February of 2009, The Pilot and I took a trip to London. It was the first time I have been outside the US. I haven’t even been to Mexico or Canada. It was not the eye-opening experience I expected, but it was definitely interesting and fun. In London, there was definitely a higher concentration of a certain accent, but really it was all familiar also. The mix of people really reminded me of all the different folks from all over the world I used to know and work beside in Chicago. I miss that. I now live in a “city” (really just a sprawling development) where, if you are darker than slightly tanned and have a funny accent, you are to be feared. I know I have to get out and into a more interesting life. That’s a big part of the purpose of all this traveling and writing. I want to pursue life, to really chase it down and participate. For now, I am based here in this cultural desert, but I go looking for water as often as possible.

Having only seen the much younger United States, I was immediately captivated by the wonderful mix of both the very old and new buildings in London. We rode the quite modern London Eye to see an aerial view of the old-world Parliament and Big Ben. We walked around Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abby. All of these historical buildings are surrounded by the latest in world architecture. We happened to be in London right when their schools were on a break. Most of the tourist type places were packed, but if you can manage to get to the London Eye when the lines are not crazy, it provides a fantastic view of the city. It’s a quick ride on a piece of engineering magic.

An important surprise stop was at the Selfridge & Co. on Oxford Street which was a short walk from our hotel, the Hilton Metropole. To get to the bustling Oxford Street, we walked through an area populated by Lebanese restaurants. Most of the signage in this area is in Arabic including the foreign currency exchange on the corner we used everyday. As with most major cities in the US, in London you cannot smoke indoors. I was amused by the gentlemen smoking their hookahs on the sidewalks under the cafe awnings. I never thought about smoking bans affecting hookahs. That seems wrong somehow. Hookahs should be smoked while lounging on cushions like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle, right?

Anyway, we reached the packed Oxford Street and we were starving. I told The Pilot I had to eat right now or there would be passing-out or blind fits ahead. There on the sidewalk he stopped and asked where I’d like to eat. I saw a sign above his head that I knew was destiny. “There!” I said pointing to a sign that said “Café Fred – Hot Food.” It was an odd little place. We climbed winding stairs to the top floor. We seemed to be doing a lot of winding in London. Nearly every restroom we visited was down some dodgy stairs through a dimly lit dungeon hallway.

Sitting by the window, we watched pedestrians on the street below.

What was I saying though? Oh yeah. After eating we decided to walk on Oxford for awhile. That’s when the important surprise happened. We ran into a Kidrobot pop-up shop inside Selfridge & Co.! I promise this is not the reason I went to London, but it was fun to run into their pop-up shop and Dunny exhibition.

I am very glad to have the experience of being a foreigner. I don’t think that you can fully understand what being an American means until you are identified solely that way. One

interesting experience we had was a dinner on our last night. We had several suggestions of foods we should try in London. None of the recomendations included English food, by the way. We headed to Soho for some Indian food at Masala Zone. It was nice and I think the food was tasty. I honestly don’t remember, which, to me, is likely a good thing. I certainly don’t remember any complaints about it. As we finished dinner, the server came to speak to us one last time. He asked where we live. We told him. “Yes! I win!’ he said. We looked at each other with quizzical grins. He then explained that the staff had taken bets on our nation of origin. So I finally got to feel like a foreigner, but not in the way that my Midwest accent is out of place when visiting New York City. It was felt in a new way. We were part of a collective. In that moment, we were not from the north or south, urban or rural, artists or salespersons. We were Americans.

Since we were already in Soho, we went out to an actual gay pub nearby. I defy you to find that experience in The States. I know in the Boystown neighborhood in Chicago there is a pub-style bar, but it surprisingly caters to a straighter clientele. Compton’s was just how I imagine a pub would be. Upstairs there were leather, high-back chairs with brassy buttons around the window tables that look out over Old Compton St. The walls were decorated with the heads of various animals. After querying through a list of drinks the bartender did not understand, we settled on a Guinness and a gin & tonic. So we finally had that uniquely British experience. Now we could return home.

London was an amazing 1st world-travel experience. I cannot wait to see the rest! I can’t wait to get back London as well. If anyone wants to move there with me, I’m sure I could be talked into that easily.



to see more pictures of our trip to London check out the London sets on flickr.

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Posted in toys and travel by lucysbeau on February 21st, 2011 at 10:29 PM.

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  1. Cheers!!!

    Visiting London would be a dream come true for me as well. All of the history right there in front of your eyes! On the subject of English food…I just can’t see you eating sweetbread or bangers and mash, haha, however some fish and chips with a little vinegar sounds good to me right now!!!