04 December, 2007

London Trip Journal Entries: part 1

Today I've been feeling rather down, so I decided to flip through some writing I did in London. I thought I'd transcribe a few entries, and share a few photos:

"October 19

Sitting in a cafe in Cambridge now. It's been an oh-so-extravagant afternoon for me- I bought a hoodie! Or a jumper, as they'd call it. I feel incredibly under dressed here in jeans and my converse all stars. I forgot what slobs Americans look like next to Europeans. I haven't quite figured out how to dress for Cambridge or London yet. I feel so silly worrying about these things, but I can't help it.

Anyhow, today I wanted to write about some differences I've noticed. Everything is a little bit odd to me. It's all familiar-enough to make me feel like it's a safe adventure, but different-enough to force me to pay attention to everything, all the time. Social expectations are a little lost on me, but I can feel they are different from San Francisco.

I've noticed how environmentally aware people are. Lifestyle changes to save the planet aren't great burdens placed upon them, but necessary shifts in attitude. A lot of people have washers but no dryers, for instance. There are taxes imposed upon drivers in certain areas. It's just a different attitude about things. Convenience always wins out in America, but it doesn't seem to be the case here. I appreciate a certain level of convenience though... it's hard to judge how things are here when I'm only here for two weeks.

Money is another thing. People spend money differently here. Of course everything seems expensive to me, but that's because of the exchange rate. But $20 is almost throw-away cash to me, while the people I was with balk at spending £19 on something like a toaster. I don't know how to explain it, but Cambridge people aren't consumers in the same way Americans are. I'm not sure how to explain the difference. It IS expensive here. But, hm... it's like $20 isn't the same as £20 worth of stuff. It's like everything is about 1/3 more expensive. I'm not talking about the exchange rate, but if $1 had the same worth as £1, then what we buy for that dollar would cost £1.30 to them. I dunno if I'm explaining it right. There's just a difference in what the money is worth...

A few other differences in phrasing, "for rent" is posted as "to let". Of course there are the obvious "vest", "trousers" versus "pants", "jumper", "brolly" , "wellies", etc. I was looking for my black pants and had my young cousins in fits of giggles before I realized that "pants" means underwear. Whoops, I meant looking for my trousers, kids.

Also, doorknobs. Placed higher than anything in the US. On almost everything. My hand keeps bumping things while searching for the handles. And half the time they don't even have handles, just a lock that you open the door with as you turn the key..."

"Oct 20

A Greek, a German, and an American went to London...

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it was the start of my first day in London. I met up with a few students from Cambridge at the train station this morning. It was very cold, despite my layers, and the coffee in my hands didn't seem to be warming them any. (I think I've begun buying coffee every few hours just to keep my fingers from freezing. CAFFEINE WEE!!!) I met up with my two traveling companions, and we made our way into the city.

We began our day at the British Museum, seeing the largest collection of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Grecian art I'd ever seen. It was overwhelming, and we didn't even see half of the museum.

We met up with some friends (two more Greeks, another German, and another American) at a local pub for lunch, where I was surprised to learn that pub food is NOT bar food. Pub culture is somewhere between bar and coffee house culture. It's a social space with alcohol, but you can take your kids with you, or write there, or meet there. It's not a bar, or a club. And the food wasn't so bad.

After lunch we did the tourist thing, and walked down to see Parliament and Big Ben- which wasn't nearly as tall as films make it look. It was lit to its best advantage though, and looked stunning. It was neat to see such an iconic structure. When I took a picture, someone walked by yelling, "it's just a CLOCK!" Yes, but it's a pretty clock. *shrug*

We continued along the bridge to the South Bank area, which was more touristy. We walked along the river bank, listening to the water lapping against the cement and mixing itself with the sand. It was here we watched the sun go down, amongst kids on skateboards, a mime or two, and tourists pointing crudely at one thing or another.

It was low tide, and two artists were making a sand sculpture in a protected sandy area along the river. I threw a few coins into the center of their target on the ground that said "please throw a coin if you take a photo", and recorded their brilliant little sand octopus. Why are tentacled beings so damn cute?

One thing I noted today: the soles of my boots are very thin, and the streets and sidewalks here are very textured. Rarely do you see the solid, uniformed blocks of cement that create the San Francisco walking experience. Here I could feel edges of bricks, cobblestones, and textured pavement every few feet. It drove me a little crazy.

There are no billboards here either- advertising is prohibited excepting buses and the Underground. So of course, every available surface of the Underground is covered in ads. But it was refreshing to note the architecture around London, instead of the crap that usually covers the architecture.

We wandered all over the South Bank area until we could see Tower Bridge. I took a billion photos today. Everything was lovely, and I think I could get used to living here. I feel refreshed, even though my legs ache.

We were all tired and silent on the train ride home. But I was lucky enough to catch the barista at the coffee stand in the Cambridge train station, and I got a steaming Hot Chocolate to sip as I bundled up and walked home. Yum."


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

The Redhead said...

Thank you, I will try!

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