When I arrived on Sunday, I took the Piccadilly line from Heathrow Terminal 5 into central London. Firstly, I was glad that my nearly four-year-old Oyster card still works. Secondly, I was really surprised at the size of the Tube carriages – compared to the Seoul metro, they’re tiny. But the seats are a little bigger.
Once I got to my hostel on Sunday I found out that I couldn’t actually check in until 2pm – which meant that I had a few hours to kill before I could have a shower and a much needed change of clothes. I left my (Habiba’s) backpack in the luggage room and went for a walk.
The walk took me from Pimlico along the Thames towards Parliament, the London and and the South Bank Centre. I took a few photos. The weather was of the type sometimes described as ‘glorious’. I sweated in my day-old clothes.
One of the funny things about spending time in London is how, because of the number well-known people you pass on the street, you start doing double-takes because that person over there looks vaguely familiar. I saw two or three famous people On Sunday. Firstly, I saw Liam Fox being interviewed in Victoria Park.
I walked around a lot. Stopped for regular cups of tea. Read. Went back to the hostel for a shower and change of clothes, then did more of the same.
In the evening, I went to an Indian restaurant near the hostel and had a chicken korai. The food was pretty decent. As I was finishing, a group of four people came in and were greeted enthusiastically by the staff. One of the customers was Nasser Hussain, another was an older cricket personality whose name escapes me. The manager and the waiters chatted with them and took photos. Meanwhile, I spent more time waiting for my bill than I did waiting for my meal.
Afterwards I went back to the hostel, the Astor Victoria. I realised at some point that it was the same hostel I’d spent just one night at a year or two ago when my sleep was interrupted by some Croatian fans celebrating their national team’s ejection of England from Euro qualification (if I recall correctly). This time I was almost at the top of the building on the fourth floor (that’s the ‘fifth’ floor for any Americanoids reading this) in a six bed dorm with five Germans.
On Monday, I did more walking tea-drinking and reading (although I’m tiring a little of Titus Groan). I also went up to Camden Market for a look round. It’s changed a fair bit since the last time I was there – before the fire last year. There are lots of horse sculptures – because its housed in former stables – and lots of litter bins. I bought Habiba a gift (the nature of which I won’t divulge here). I’d like to be able to take her there some time – it’s the kind of trendy bohemian place I think she’d love. Even I kind of like it.
Later on, I met my friend Drew for dinner – we went to a Korean restaurant and had dolsot bibimbap: stone pot mixed rice. Our other friend Colin – we all roleplayed together when I lived in London – couldn’t make it; he has a brand new baby to look after, so I’ll let him off. It was really good to see Drew. We talked about our lives since we last saw each other, what – a year and a half or more ago. Drew’s an immensely nice guy – his humour and enthusiasm make him lots of fun to hang out with. I miss roleplaying with him, Colin and Pete.
When I arrived in London, I didn’t have a very definite plan of action. I didn’t want to do any hardcore sightseeing – which means there are still lots of attractions that I’ve yet to visit. Consequently I was feeling kind of directionless. I wanted to take it easy, but for all its greatness London isn’t the most laidback of cities, so it was difficult. Seeing Drew cheered me up a lot. Now I’m off up to Runcorn and Whaley Bridge to spend a few days with my family.