Thursday, June 27, 2013

Edinburgh, Scotland → London, England

Our severe lack of a map caused us to make up really creative ways to find our way back to the hostel. Usually, the castle was a good landmark, and easy to see from everywhere, but the neighborhood we'd wandered into was buried behind tall buildings. Thus, we just started out in the general direction from which we'd come. When the castle finally came back into view and we knew we were at least in the right area, I decided I needed to duck into a market and grab some delicious British chocolate. It was very lucky I did. If I hadn't, we wouldn't have walked out and noticed, directly in front of us, the Lebowski bar. This exists!!!

They have an entire menu of white russians, which I was actually pretty sad about not being able to drink. There happened to be trivia going on as we walked in, too - Big Lebowski trivia, naturally. So we had to stop and sit for a drink. Secretly I think we were both hoping to stay for long enough to avoid the pool tournament back at the hostel, but no such luck. As it got dark, we headed back and joined the chaos happening in the commons room.

Feeling really tired, but also having paid 1 euro to enter the stupid contest, we went and got drinks and hung out in the hostel which was getting kind of crazy. At some point, our French roommate showed up and I lamely attempted to speak some French with him. Some time later, I noticed he was speaking in French to these two other people who looked oddly familiar. I asked the girl if she had been hiking earlier in the day, and it turns out it was the two people we'd seen hiking on Arthur's Seat, and the girl that had fallen! Her friend was in the pool tournament too, so we spent the rest of the evening practicing our awful French with all five of them while they (kindly) switched to English so we could actually have a conversation. As if I hadn't wanted badly enough to live in France already, talking to them made me want to go even more. We spent at least an hour just comparing our school systems. By the end of the night, I was dying to get there already (even though it was planned for the end of the trip) and I was in, what? the third day? They invited us hiking outside of the city the next day, but alas, we were headed to England in the morning to meet some pirates.

So we hopped on the James Bond train (why??) and headed down to London. The whole trip, I had this terrible problem with staying awake as soon as I was moving. Probably a combination of jetlag and lack of sleep, as soon as I got on anything in motion, I passed the hell out. It was annoying, because I would have liked very much to see some scenery along the way, but I just could not keep my eyes open. So I spent most of the train ride sleeping, and we arrived in London in the late afternoon. It was perfect timing for figuring out the tube, since we were carrying all of our things again, everyone was heading home for the day, and there were lines and crowds of people everywhere (sarcasm!).
Noah used to work at a pirate store, and was their Jack Sparrow. There's actually a whole community of Jack Sparrows all over the world that share information on where to get parts of the costume and fabrics, etc. So through an online forum, Noah set us up a place to stay a little ways outside of London proper, and we miserably lugged our stuff through at least 4 lines before arriving at the house. Scott had a fantastic little flat and was very welcoming. We hung out there for a bit and then headed back out to explore, and be super tourists!

 We also had to adjust drastically to the change in pace in London. Edinburgh was laid back and mellow. London was crowded and so fast paced I felt like I was going to get mowed down if I didn't get out of the way. Getting off the tube at London Bridge was like walking into a grand theft auto game (with slightly less violence). It took at least a whole day before we started walking quickly again and caught up with the rest of the world.

We'd had lovely weather in Scotland, but it was appropriately rainy and bloody cold when we arrived in England.

It was late in the day, so we wandered toward the Tower Bridge, passed the castle, and meandered along the south bank toward Parliament. Something I learned quickly about London: Pret a Manger is freaking everywhere. Jesus, they're more abundant than Starbucks in the states. At a four way intersection, there is one on every corner. The only good thing about this: they had food that I can eat - with vegetables! - when I was starving and there weren't any options anywhere else.

The second day in London was set aside for wandering, of course. We got up early and took the ridiculous amount of trains back into the city to eat at this (mostly) vegan place Noah had found online, Tibits, in Picadilly Circus.
Real food!
You make a plate, weigh it, and pay by weight. And they had sticky toffee pudding, much to my delight. So we stuffed ourselves, and then went out to find Buckingham Palace, and kill a few hours before we had to meet the pirates! There's a pirate ship along the south bank of the Thames called The Golden Hinde. It's right next door to a lovely little pub, where we were meeting a handful of Jack Sparrows (and Scott) that Noah knew through the forum.

 After spending hours walking around, we decided to take advantage of our day pass on the tube and went up to Camden town for a bit. There was a Whole Foods there (surprising!) that was absolutely full of raw and/or vegan food. I wanted to eat everything. We got an absurd amount of chocolate and junk food, and those Nakd bars they sell all over the UK that I am now seriously deprived of.

I find this statue immensely creepy. Why are the women of WWII just clothes?

Finally heading over to the pub, we met all the lovely Jacks and some lovely ladies who joined them as well. Because Noah has a lot of facial hair at the moment, we were very aware (well, him more than me) that hardly anyone wore beards or mustaches in the UK - that we had seen, anyway. Everyone was very clean shaven. So it was extremely amusing to be amongst all these men not only with facial hair, but all with the exact same facial hair, and that slightly Jack Sparrow look about them. They were absolutely wonderful, humoring us with our ridiculous amounts of questions, showing us around, buying drinks, and being generally fantastic hosts. Darren was also a magician -
I loved the flaming wallet. As we left the Golden Hinde and headed across London Bridge, Graham provided a commentary of the buildings and the bridges and everything, making me wish that anyone in our country knew as much about the towns and cities we live in as all these guys knew about London! At some point, it was decided that we all had to pee, and Darren, who worked for the Underground, snuck us all into a secret employee bathroom in the tube station, which, for some reason, Noah and I found to be very exciting.

 Beaucoup des Jack Sparrows.

Oh, you know, just payin' the check.

(To be continued)

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