- August 24-27
Ben: Not an article but a book, and one I haven’t read completely: Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island is a nice synopsis of Great Britain.
Kyra: Oh, I like Ben’s. I’m a Stranger Here Myself is basically the inverse, where Bryson writes about coming back to the U.S. after living in England. Here’s a cheap Buzzfeed: 54 Amazing Facts About London That Will Blow Your Mind.
Where we stayed
Ben: We arrived in London on a typical rainy day after catching the red eye from Keflavik in Iceland. This was our first bad decision. If you take a red eye, you’ll really miss a whole day due to lost sleep. I’m sure most people were like us in thinking that catching the red eye would allow them time to sleep on the plane and then have an “extra” day in London. In reality though, we quickly walked to our hostel (Phoenix Hostel), getting there just in time to be told that check in was at 14:00 and we’d have to wait to take our much-needed naps.
Kyra: After feeding ourselves, while waiting for check-in, we spent time determining our next stop as we had no other plane, train, or bus tickets booked after our last day in the hostel.
Ben: When we finally checked in, we hopped into our triple bunk bed and passed out until dinnertime. The hostel was fine (and highly rated on HostelWorld.com), but we were ecstatic when our friend Abbie mentioned her flatmate was away and we could stay at her place in Holloway. She was a gracious host and provided laundry, food, and great conversation for the night we stayed.
Kyra: My coworker, Carl, told me a horror story about studying abroad in London and winding up with a surprisingly large bill at the end of their first meal. From that point until the end of their time in London they only bought and ate apples. As a result, really my only culinary goals for London were to not have any part of Carl’s story happen and to see if Fish n’ Chips in London were better than Anchor’s in Minneapolis.
Ben: John, the Irish hostel host, gave us some great information on a local Fish n’ Chips place, The Seashell, that had a “Fish Box” (the less-than-perfect-cuts of fish) for only 6 euros.
Kyra: With one exception, our meals were all budget friendly as we still had leftover Iceland expenses: a hole-in-the-wall curry place, vegetables and hummus from local shops like Sainsbury’s, food truck finds, and kofta salads from kebab shops.
Ben: Our most memorable meal was with Abbie and Sam, from Tootoomoo, a self-described pan Asian takeaway service in London that delivered to Abbie’s. The meal was accompanied by 1664 beer and discussions on free will.
Local View and Lessons learned
- Kyra: Our friends told us a bit about Cockney that essentially personifies the game Mad Gab (Dog and Bone = Phone).
- Ben: Hostel life isn’t for everyone. Sure it’s fun to chat with people from around the globe and learn about their path, but waking up to foghorn snoring or cramped quarters is not. Also, locking your items in a cubby that is just a bit too small for your bag can be taxing on one’s patience.
- Kyra: Yes. The combination of sleep deprivation and hostel living resulted in me doing two things I had previously sworn not to: 1) Use Ben’s toothbrush when I couldn’t find mine in my locker, in the dark. FYI Ben uses his toothbrush to clean his retainer every night. 2) Shower in a closet-sized room then immediately towel off. I prefer wearing my robe, or at least towel, for a minimum of an hour before changing.
- Cycle – Widely used in place of bicycle
- Proper – “Let’s have a proper look”
- Takeaway – Takeout
- Freshly Cut – Used on restaurant signs to describe sandwiches
- Dodge-ems – Bumper Cars
- Cash Point – ATM
- Favourite – favorite
- Cheeky Nandos – no direct translation but Nandos is roughly the equivalent of “Applebees”
Kyra: A few years back my friend Natalie and I were chatting and for whatever reason I told her not to go to London, that it wasn’t worth it. About a week later I confessed to her that I had never been and thus had no real grounds for debasing London as a travel destination. During our short time in London, I contemplated what to report back to Natalie. Cons: It rained really a lot while we were there and I’m told it tends to do that, operating in pounds sort of stinks in terms of getting your moneys worth for USD, everyone speaks with a British accent. Pros: It is New York in a European context, museums are free, English makes everything easier to navigate, their Indian food is fantastic and found everywhere, a lot of parks, and acceptance of promiscuity in most forms of media (nudity in newspapers, use of the word “hell on billboards, etc.” Conclusion: In general, London felt much more like a stopover for us then a place we got to know. All of our friends who have studied there loved it and Ben had a great time during Wimbledon so I haven’t written it off for good yet (classic non-committal answer).
Ben: I’m going to buck the trend and do lowlights:
- Camden Market: A series of tiny shops covered by tarps hawking dumb t-shirts and crappy trinkets. We heard however that we didn’t make it to the best part: the food.
- Rain: Lots of it. And cringing at every gust of wind, hoping our 3 euro umbrella from a roadside stand wouldn’t turn inside out. When Hadley and I were in London a few months before, everyday was sunny and in the 80’s – I liked that London more.
Kyra: I was fortunate to be able to sit down with Alberta Soranzo for a personal project. Alberta is Head of User Experience and Innovation at Tobias & Tobias, Co-chair of the 2016 Information Architecture Summit, and incredibly badass. She told me there are only a few things in the world that I truly cannot do, one of which is standing up to pee as a woman with any accuracy. Alberta has an internal locust of control that has enabled her to take on leaps of faith successfully which is rather reassuring when you have very little permanency in your life day-to-day.
Brompton Bikes – a foldable, commuter bicycle
Rolling your own cigarettes (buying tobacco, papers, and filters separately)
And that’s a wrap on London, mate. Stay tuned for the next adventure!