Tuesday, March 11, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 3

My jet-lagged brain is struggling back through memories of yesterday to see where we began. Neither of us have been sleeping well. The four hour (day light savings happened, right?) difference is too small to make the adjustment easy!

The nice thing about vacation is that you get to start whenever you want! Yesterday, I tried a hot breakfast at the hotel. It was good, and I even had a croissant. First one in ages and it was worth it. We spent some time researching and then headed off for haircuts & a wet shave for Hulky. Yes, with a straight razor! We went to a place called Groovy in Chinatown. Chinatown seems to be the same in every city, though I'm not sure why anyone would expect differently. I got my hair cut, we had lunch at a pub nearby, Hulky tried something called a Skittle Bomb, which was , and then we went back for Hulky's hair and face. I have some pictures, but I'm too lazy to upload them right now.

After that, we were both feeling pretty sore & tired from all the walking we've been doing. Back at the hotel, we read for a few hours and then went out to dinner. Hulky's mom's co-worker is from London and recommended a place called Duke of Clarence. Great ambience, not overly expensive, very friendly & helpful in understanding how pubs work here. The food was excellent. I was only good for one beer, Hulky only for two. My tolerance is pretty low post-college (hah, it's been almost 4 years since graduating so I would kind of hope so) and Hulky's is definitely affected by having been sick lately. We did some drunken wandering to another train station after that and headed back to the hotel to read more. I felt tired for a while, but not enough to sleep. Alcohol does that to me, unfortunately.

Cultural adjustments

Seeing everyone drive on the left is a trip. We're mostly used to it by now, but at turns, I still look the wrong way for on-coming cars. I'm sure that would take a while to really ingrain. I'm glad we're not driving! We haven't taken a taxi anywhere yet. My stomach still turns sometimes when I see a car on the left side of the road.

There are people from all over Europe here. I've heard plenty of French, a little Russian, and all kinds of accents speaking English. It feels a little like being in a movie. Both of us are having some brain-lag when we hear people though. I think I'm mostly adjusted to the British accents we've been encountering, but other European accents are still confusing me. It takes me more than a few moments to sort out what people are saying. They're probably used to that from tourists though.

London IS a lot like Boston. The crazy subway arrangement. The buildings, especially the townhouses. The random streets and LACK OF STREET SIGNS. I think people who live near Boston and like Boston would have a lot of fun here. I don't go into the city that often at home, but it's home so it is familiar & dear to my heart anyway. It is cool to see so much "old" stuff though. American history is so relatively new and we don't have a lot that has lasted the ages. Even just buildings that started off in the mid-1800s are so much older than a lot of what you'll find in the States. And there are so, so many of them!

Today is our double-decker tour day. Seems like another late start :). I'm ready for breakfast!

Monday, March 10, 2014

London Honeymoon: Days 1 & 2

Saturday, Day 1

From Heathrow, we realized we hadn't done a lot of research on how to get around. It's not that we thought we'd have our smartphones with us, it's just that we didn't think about how much we rely on them to get around on the fly! We found the Underground without too much trouble and spoke to someone at a booth about what Oyster card (like the Charlie Cards for the MBTA) to get. Two 7-day passes for zones 1 & 2 were bought and we got directions for what lines to use for our hotel. We had some fun giggling at the station name of Cockfosters, which was announced repeatedly as the end-of-line station.

Navigating the "tube" stations hasn't been very difficult. Either they're not that hard to navigate with all the signs, or we're just very used to the arrangement since it seems a lot like the train system back home. The major difference is that you have to tap your card out at each station so you get charged appropriately. Due to our 7-day passes, I don't think we have to worry about those charges. We also get refunded for the £5 deposit on each card when we go back to the station at the end of our trip.

The Eye of London, right by our hotel.
By the time we got to our hotel, it was somewhere around or after check-in time at 2 PM local. The hotel is not very far from Waterloo station in the Bakerloo line. The front desk let us know that they gave us a free room upgrade to a studio suite, which has a nice little sitting area. No complaints from us! It's nice to have a bit of extra space and not just a little bedroom. Sadly, our view is entirely of the hotel next door, which has a bright blue light topping it at night. Our curtains are very efficient at blocking light, however I couldn't get them all the way closed for the first few hours of sleep.

Where I wrote this blog post.
After we settled in and figured out how to activate the lights (insert room card in a slot by the door), we did a few things in an order I can no longer remember: read for a bit, struggled to find somewhere to eat using yelp.co.uk, and went down the street to look for some kind of deli. We hadn't visited an ATM yet, so there were a few places close by that we couldn't go to. We both got fish & chips at a little hole in the wall. It seemed very delicious, but we were also very hungry by that point. We went back to the hotel in a food coma, read some more, and then slept. We fell asleep sometime around or after 7 PM and stayed in bed till 11 AM on Sunday, though we woke up several times in the night.

Sunday, Day 2

After a late start, we did some more searching online for where to go today. Markets seem pretty popular, but we weren't in the mood for that kind of wandering. We decided to pick a destination and then wander in that area. Harrod's was it, so we noted down the directions and headed off. We found a much closer entrance into the crazy Waterloo station this time, by the national rail. It cut our trek from the hotel to station by about half. On the train, I noted that the subway trains are a bit narrower here than in Boston, much cleaner, much comfier, and it's a much smoother ride. They're not kidding about "minding the gap" at some of the stations: there as as much as a one foot gap between the train and platform edge in some stations, plus sometimes a bit of a step down (as you exit).

One of many pastry cases at Harrod's.
Harrod's is huge and expensive. You can find several room of the same kinds of things (like purses and jewelry). The food areas were neat, it's basically just a huge store of many different rooms. It's not all open like department stores tend to be in the USA. The booze collection on the lowest floor (one floor below street level) was pretty neat. We found some bottles of scotch that were £30k!

We headed back out into the lovely weather (a high of 17ÂșC, we wished we had brought shorts) and down the road into Victoria & Albert's Museum. To be honest, the British history stuff was a bit boring to us, being mostly religious artifacts (British Google wants me to spell this as "artefacts") & bits of architecture. The Chinese & Japanese collections were more interesting. There was no weaponry in that museum. We grabbed lunch at a place called "Eat." which was pretty good. Hulky had a hot meat pie, with beef & bacon I think, and a side of very tasty mashed potatoes. I grabbed a sandwich (gasp! I know, not gluten-free like I usually do) and a very refreshing berry juice. I wouldn't mind eating there again. It reminded me of a Panera in terms of relative price & options, but possibly better quality food. After that, we went to the Science Museum, which had a very good ground floor collection with Industrial era items, but the layout was atrocious. The map didn't make anything clear. We couldn't find stairs to use between floors as it seemed like every staircase we encountered ended with fire exit doors. They were not well signed.

It was around mid-afternoon by then, so we headed back to the hotel to rest our feet and legs. Hulky had a bath and fell asleep afterwards. I am messing with photos and preparing to rouse him so we can find food. We're thinking of catching a movie tonight, as I don't think we have enough energy to hunt down a club. I had a mocha at the Science Museum, which I hope won't interfere too much with a reasonable bedtime. We're planning on calling the front desk to wake us around 7 AM so we can get started earlier tomorrow.

Later: We went and saw the new 300 movie, which was fun. It was bloody & violent just like the last one, but this sex scene was pretty bad in our opinion. Maybe we're just not into fight-sex?

More photos can be found in my London Honeymoon set on Flickr.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

London Honeymoon: Travel Day

I can't promise that I'll do recaps of our travels for every day on our trip, but there's been so much going on in the past 24 hrs alone that I felt it was worth recording. Plus, I didn't bring my personal handwritten journal, typing is so much faster/easier, and I always like to share!

Travel day

We spent Friday in a mad rush. I had a last minute doctor's appointment, we did laundry, printed out our itinerary (and troubleshot the obnoxious printer at my parents' house), and we squeezed in a nice lunch at a local burger joint (Retro Burger). We also saved our packing for that day, but that took less than 30 minutes once the laundry was done. Fortunately, we only do one or two loads per week, and Friday was only one. By the time we got back to our apartment, we had some time to watch some Mythbusters on Netflix, do a walk-through of the apartment, cuddle with Fae, and then it was time to go! Hulky's mom drove us to the airport.

No wait at the IcelandAir check-in desk!
We were so early that IcelandAir's check-in desk was not even open yet. It took more than a few minutes to get through the line to security, not helped by a group of confused looking students who didn't understand how to leave a gap so other people could pass through to the TSA agents. They always like a laugh, so we made some jokes as we passed through. We spent a couple of hours drinking at restaurant Our server was very sweet, not wanting to give Hulky a drink he wouldn't like, no matter how much we insisted on giving him a drink of the bartender's choice. The iced coffee drink was very good, a nice amount of bitterness to go with the sweet. Getting drunk at an airport when you're excited for a flight, with someone you really like, is a lot of fun.

Sadly, somewhere in the past five or so months since we booked our plane tickets, our seats got screwed up and we both ended up with window seats in different aisles. Fortunately, the flight attendants were very helpful in getting us seated together on both the flight to Reykjavik and from there to London. I slept very little on either flight, but Hulky dozed for an hour or two. Let us tell you now: a waking hangover, when you don't get to sleep any of it off or not enough anyway, is pretty unpleasant. Our excitement is all that pulled us through, I'm sure!

The Reykjavik airport looks like an IKEA. We both went into the bathrooms and came out with expressions like, "That is fucking AWESOME." I took a picture of my "stall". It was seriously about the size of a small bedroom (maybe in a Boston apartment).

Bathroom "stall" at Reykjavik airport.
The cafe in the wing of the Reykjavik airport that we were waiting in had booze everywhere, as though they were soft drinks. It was very surprising. I failed to get a picture of all the nips by the checkout. I had some very good Icelandic Greek-style (I'm sure they don't call it that, but I couldn't read the label so I can't be sure) yogurt there, as well as airport sushi. I didn't die, so you know, it wasn't that bad. The rice never tastes right when sushi isn't freshly made, it has an odd texture. Anyway, the next flight, we had a nice chat with the guy in the aisle seat, who was from western Canada and on his way to a booze cruise in Ireland & Scotland. Badass.

All of our flights were on time and we got to London around 11:30 AM on Saturday (local time). Next post, a bit about Saturday, cultural observations, and what we've done so far today!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Eat, sleep, story time, repeat.

The longer I look at and hear the word "story", the weirder it sounds.

Last week in therapy, my therapist reminded me that sometimes people will repeat the same stories over and over in their lives for an actual reason. This was something I used to warn my friends about, that I might tell them the same stories several times over the course of our friendship. There's the story of my lip getting bit by my cousins' dog when I was five years old, which garnered me five stitches and the scar I sport today. There's the background information of my grandparents' dogs, especially Blacky & Princess, the black labs, but also Dolly, the giant mutt. There are specific memories, there are general histories, and there are concepts that I share with the same people time and time again. I've come to realize that these are tales that I consider to be essential to my identity.

There are also stories & conversations that I have over and over because I forget. A lot of my background stories are repeated because I just don't remember telling them before. The conversations that I repeat, however, are still a mystery to me. They are still things I am puzzling through. I might tell you over and over because I do not feel like I am being heard. It might also/actually be because I do not understand the issue myself and I am hoping that the millionth time will result in a fresh perspective. Most of the time, it's fair to say that the listener should not take offense to my repetition, it is probably nothing to do with them all to do with my own perceptions. I'll work it through eventually.

I remember deciding to be in recovery from self-injury. It took the same conversations in my head and in my journals, over and over, for years, before I could really accept that I was doing it. I had to figure out what kind of thoughts were acceptable to me. Is it okay for the topic to flit through my mind, but not actually consider doing anything "bad"? Within the past two years or maybe less, I decided that I was recovered. It was one of those miraculous moments that just came to me without any effort. I thought of it, I knew it was true, and I felt relieved. This is not to say that I don't still struggle with negative thoughts about myself or my situations from time to time! For whatever reason, my brain was ready to accept that certain coping mechanisms are just not an option anymore, and no longer fight about it.

Sometimes, I worry about writing the same stories over and over on my blog. There are a couple of reasons why this is silly: 1. This is my blog and I can do whatever I want with it. 2. It's okay to be sorting things out, even for years, and I know that writing and re-writing helps.