Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greetings from Old Blighty

Here I am, back in London. In Belsize Park at the moment, using Spooner's macbook, which is a bit of a challenge. I'm getting a slow start today on account of jet lag and a very tiring arrival day. But I got up at 9 a.m., so my internal clock is half way to being adjusted.

The trip over was uneventful, but LONG -- 15 hours from door to door, using every mode of transport but boat. First the drive to the Massport lot in Framingham, then the Logan Express bus to the airport, then the flight (landed around 7 a.m.), an hour and a half on the tube to Belsize Park and a short walk to Spooner's house. The only good thing about the flight (it sure wasn't the food -- this time I tried the Hindu meal, and it was the same as all the other alternatives that Virgin Atlantic serves up, i.e. rice, overcooked veg and mystery sauce -- which upset my digestive system something wicked) was the inflight entertainment. I watched the film Somers Town, which I'd wanted to see while I was in London but it had just left the cinemas in Swiss Cottage and Finchley Road. It's by the same director who made This is England, and stars the same kid, who is about 15 now. There's really not much of a plot -- it's mostly vingnettes about a kid from the Midlands who's come to London, and his new mate, a Polish immigrant boy whose dad works in construction at the new St Pancras International station. It's quite charming, and I always like when I recognize places in Brit movies.

So, after my nap yesterday, I hopped on the 168 bus down to Camden Town, bought a bagel at Fresh and Wild, and headed for Regent's Park to wander around. It's a vast place -- not as big and wild as Hampstead Heath, but it took me longer than I'd guesstimated to make my way past the zoo to the Victorian drinking fountain, around by the bird sanctuary to the west side where the London Mosque is, over to the band shell which was blown up (killing 7 Royal Green Jackets in the band) by the IRA, around the Inner Circle -- with a wander through the secret garden at St John's Lodge -- and out the York Gate to Marylebone Road.

As I was walking down the Marylebone Road to the tube station at Baker Street, a tourist from South Asia stopped me and asked how to get to Oxford Street. This was a first -- it's always been me reluctantly asking someone for directions. Maybe I finally look like I know where I'm going (that's only semi-true). But I was able to quickly show him on my map where he was and how to get to Baker Street for a bus to Oxford Street. Once I was in the tube station, I had to ask someone on the platform if the train for Plaistow (wherever that is) would stop at Aldgate East.

I met up with my mates Helen and Judy in Whitechapel High Street, the beginning point for a guided walk about Jewish radicalism in the East End from 1881 to 1905. Jet lagged as I was, I think I was able to take in most of it at the time, but I can't remember any of the people we learned about at the moment, except for Samuel Gompers, who we learned attended the Jews' Free School in Bell Lane (building destroyed in the Blitz). We saw the Jewish Soup Kitchen in Brune Street, the former site of Mossy Marks' deli in Wentworth Street (I have to find out if that's the place that James Mason visits in The London Nobody Knows), and ended in Princelet Street. Afterwards, Helen and Judy and I had dinner in a restaurant in the newly renovated (read: soul sucked out of it) Spitalfields Market. (Rosenbeans, you wouldn't recognise the place -- it looks nothing like the funky market we went to four years ago.)

Pedometer reading for yesterday: Over 20,000 steps, 8.5 miles.

  • £20 to top up my Oyster card (I'll need to add more later)
  • 69p for the bagel
  • 7 quid for the East End walk (it costs £3.50 if you're non-waged)
  • £1.05 for postcards
  • a tenner for dinner

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  1. You have certainly hit the ground running. Sounds like a great trip already!

  2. Sounds like fun! If you see any good museum family guides, please snag them for me! Thanks!

  3. WOW that's a lot for the first day. You're pacing yourself appropriately we hope. Glad to hear you made it safe and sound. Looking forward to seeing your photos as well.