Thursday, July 25, 2013

London 2013 Part Two: Camden, Coldplay, and a Famous Crossing

... Shop, and explore a brand new part of London! Of course the town is far too big to cover in one trip, and although half of me feels like I've returned to my long-lost home, the other half feels like I'm in some kind of alien city.

You discerning individuals should be aware that Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral are two different places, and we stumble upon the latter on our first excursion. With aching feet we sit down inside to 'admire the architecture', when in fact we're just trying to rest our broken bodies. Oh but yeah, the architecture is great too, thumbs up. Continuing on, we find our first M&S, where I get myself one of those flawless lemonades (I'm not actually entirely sure that I did get a lemonade at this point, but I know that I had intended to. What I do remember is getting a packet of salt & vinegar chips and being really confused because the packet was green and that's sour cream & onion colour). Photographic evidence suggests that it was cloudy with a chance of showers, and that I soon located some red phone boxes to Instagram.

The hotel, perhaps, deserves its own review entirely. Yes, there was wi-fi (even though I had to pay 5 Pounds for it); yes, breakfast was included (two slices of toast each served but a young Hungarian girl who may or may not have been a slave stolen from her motherland); yes, it was perfectly comfortable; but the one thing that got to me was the bathroom set-up: seems the designer had some irrational fear of shower curtains. The bathroom is a tiny box - walls and floor all tiled in brown - consisting of a toilet, basin and shower head. Yeah, that's right, just a shower head, chilling there opposite the loo. I raise a concerned eyebrow, and suggest that we check if the Premier Inn down the road has any availability. They don't.

At my current level of exhaustion, the furthest thing in the world from my mind is checking out the London nightlife scene, but at least the hotel room has a TV (and a kettle), which keeps showing re-runs of How I Met Your Mother, and a summer advert of sorts featuring Icona Pop's 'I Don't Care'. It's a pleasant way to fall asleep. And even if it wasn't, it wouldn't matter - because I'm in England.

Now, as much as I'd love to say that the next day dawned bright and sunny, it did not. The cloudy skies continued to threaten rain, and a biting wind caught us as we made out way to the nearest tube station (which, as it turns out, was not Victoria at all, but Pimlico). First stop is - of course - Camden. Ah yes, I want to drink their Starbucks, and wander around their markets, and just take in the general awesomeness. One step out of the station and a thrill runs through me - this is my place! This is where I belong, yo! It's a hot chocolate from Starbucks for me (and free wifi, yay), before we make our way through the markets, where I try my hand at bargaining with the vendors. Turns out I'm pretty good, I manage to get a 10 Pound jersey for 8, which is cheap even if I consider the exchange rate! Camden is just as wonderful as I had remembered, and at least this time I didn't feel the need to spend an hour looking for Coldplay's studio as I had last year - oh no, this time I was in search of Chris Martin's very neighbourhood. The internet tells me that the Martin-Paltrow's live in Belsize, which it then goes on to tell me is near Primrose Hill - a mere walk from Camden. Ha!

All creeping aside though, walking up Primrose Hill (which is barely an incline, let alone a hill) will give you the most stunning view of London, and you're sure to have quite an adventure trying to figure out just how each attraction relates to the next geographically. One minute you could swear your hotel is on that side of town, but at the same time you're positive it's somewhere near Big Ben, which is quite clearly on the other side of town. Hmm.

Back in Camden, we're ready to run for food at the nearest Micky Dee's, but luckily it doesn't come to that: Camden's bursting with Real English Pubs that serve Real English Food, and pie chips and gravy are the way to go. I try to avoid starring at the Amy Winehouse look-alike in the corner... Amy was from Camden after all, maybe her ghost haunts the local pub? Or maybe it's a distant relation of her's. Or maybe it's not.

We head off to the Tower of London in the afternoon, but find that the last tour has left about 3 minutes before - yeah, that's what we get for not checking the times online beforehand! So instead we head off to Baker Street and Abbey Road. The Rock n Roll Memorabilia shop on Baker Street was basically where my bank balance went to die (who doesn't need a set of Coldplay coasters, right?), and the Beatles store right across the road was a treat too. By now it's almost 6.30pm, but luckily the sun stays out until around 9pm during summer, so we take a stroll around the upper class Maida Vale/Abbey Road area. Besides the famous Abbey Road crossing, I have my heart set on finding a sign that says 'Violet Hill', like the Coldplay song - and anyone who knows me knows that once I get an idea in my head, I won't stop until I've completed it.

Turns out the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing is pretty easy to find: besides being on Abbey Road, right outside the studio, it's the only pedestrian crossing that groups of tourists are striding across in groups of four, much to the disgrace of the locals attempting to use the road to, you know, drive on. It takes a while, but eventually we have the money shot, and continue on our merry way through the suburbs. If you've ever thought that you couldn't live in London because it's a bit crowded, or run down or gross, think again: you could certainly live here. Oh no, wait, you wouldn't be able to afford to unless you had a farm of kidneys to sell whenever you needed to pay the rent. But anyway, I was on a mission to find Violet Hill, and I found it alright! It's a tiny road next to a park, and as I posed for a photo with the sign, the rain started - just a drizzle at first, and then picking up to a level where we needed to whip out that disgustingly cliche Union Flag umbrella we'd bought at some tourist shop (probably in Camden). We hit the bus and then the tube back, but before returning to the hotel, I had one more mission: find the TARDIS.

Yes, yes, I know I'm a geek, but what kind of Doctor Who fan would I be if I didn't try to find the real life TARDIS near the entrance to Earle's Court tube station? Whilst I'm pretty confident in my internet-creeping skills, I will admit that I did have my doubts, sloshing through the rain at 8.30pm on a Wednesday night, looking for a giant blue box. But HA! I found it! And a couple of photos later (and a quick stop at M&S to find dinner - of course I forgot to get a plastic fork, and was left eating my pasta salad with a teaspoon) and I'm satisfied that we can go back to our hotel and pass out.

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