London Town: Mates, Markets and The Return of the Mexican

While my trip to London wasn’t what I had originally planned it to be, I made the most out of my few days there. The original plan was to meet the writer for my book there for a few days of research. He had to change plans and instead of losing about $800 in airfare and lodging, I decided to play the tourist for a few days.

london thymes river london eye from far

I arrived to Heathrow around 4pm and walked to the underground, stopping along the way for some SIM cards. I  broke my own rule by not making sure the cards worked before leaving the store and, sure enough, the cards I got for my MIFI didn’t work. In a place like Asia it would not have been that big of a deal, but in London those cards cost me around 30 Euros. With no way of getting in touch with this little bodega, I’ve already disputed the charge thru my CC company.

Finding my way to the Underground (subway) was super easy being that all the signs are in English (a nice respite from france and the next trip in spain). The trip was about 40 minutes to my stop and was really really easy.

I found an airbnb for surprisingly cheap ($50/night) right in piccadilly circus. The location was EXCELLENT. It was a 2 minute walk out of the underground stop and centrally located to the main tourist locations. The place was the 3rd floor on a walk up and I was a bit surprised (not having read the reviews very closely) to see that it didnt have a kitchen. It was just 4 bedrooms and a bathroom. At first I was a bit pissed, but then I realized I really didn’t need a kitchen (although it would have been nice). The room came stocked with bottled water, tea, a kettle and some candies and snacks. The host was really nice.

london piccadilly circus at night london big ben with underground sign

My first night I just wanted to get something quick to eat. After a little roaming I found a steak house. I should have kept walking. First of all, I was looking for a burger, which they didn’t have. Second of all, the service was HORRENDOUS. The waitress was rude and seemed bothered by the fact that I was there. I had an app or two and got out of there. Not a nice first dinning experience in London. That was it for the first night, I had a long day of traveling and decided to get an early start the next day.

I had received a recommendation to go to a outdoor food market (Borough Market, by london bridge) and opted to walk the 30 minutes instead of take the tube. I figured the exploring would be good. I walked by the london eye and over the river thymes. I arrived at the market only to find out that it was mostly closed and would be in full effect the next day, wednesday. I was able to get a little nosh though and figured I’d come back the next day. For the next few hours I wandered, aimlessly, around London. Hitting most of the main sights and developing a wicked (?) blister in the process. Walking 8+ miles in a day was not a good idea and I’d pay for it the next few days.

london-big-ben-bridge london houses of parliament london big ben and houses of parliament london-burger-shop-burger london burger shop

I made it back to the airbnb for a bit of a siesta and then went back out to Hyde Park, which I’ve heard so much about. I’ve heard it compared to Central Park in NYC which, I can assure you, is no comparison. CP has personality, hyde park does not. As soon as I got to HP it started to drizzle. Not ideal, obviously, with the camera gear I was carrying. Regardless, I took the long way around (adding to my mileage count for the day) and finished, back where I started, at the underground station.

londons hyde park pond

The underground was really accessible and I encourage anyone visiting London to take full advantage of it. You get an “oyster card” (just like metro card) and just swipe in when you enter, and out when you leave. The card figures out how much to charge you based on how far you go. The signage and directions inside are really easy to understand and I never once found myself on the wrong train, or on the wrong side of a track.

london taxi under street light london thymes river boat graffiti

For dinner the second night I checked out yelp and found this little Japanese place (misato) just a few blocks from my apartment. Misato is a small, unassuming kind of place which had lots of reviews on yelp. I waited on line for a few minutes and then was rushed to a seat. They were churning people in and out of here at a pretty quick rate and they were handing you a menu while waiting on line to speed up the process. I asked a girl behind me in line what was good and she recommending the Tonkatsu rice. It was lightly fried pork with rice and a salad. I also got a sushi roll (worthless) and a miso (pretty good). The whole meal cost me around 12-15 euros (dont remember exactly) and I was out of there in about 20 minutes. A much more pleasant dinning experience then the night before.

london misato tonkatsu dish

That night I had the pleasure of meeting a couple that was renting the other room in the airbnb. Bo and Alexis (living in SF and Missouri, respectively) were the kind of people you love to meet while traveling. They were warm and welcoming and down to grab a beer around town. That’s all I need to be happy. A cold beer and new friends to chat with.

london big ben selfie

We all grabbed breakfast the next AM at Muriel’s Kitchen in soho (about 3 minutes from the apartment). I got the english breakfast which was just OK. The meal was a bit expensive, but thats expected in London and certainly expected in the area where we were. We parted ways and while Bo and Alexis went to a museum (ugh) I went on to Camden (a suggestion from a guy I met in a bar in bordeaux). Camden was a tourist trap (thanks a lot Ben). I walked out of the underground and was immediately engulfed in shops and tourist crap. “Keep calm and …. GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE”. I got out of that area pretty quickly and instead opted for another park (Regents Park). THIS was a much nicer park (IMO) than hyde and had more character. I walked through the park to the “inner cirlce” (the center of the park) and stop for a beer and a cookie at the little restaurant there. It was a nice, relaxing trip.

Next up I figured I would try to get back to the Borough Market. I grabbed a tube ride (hahah) and was there in about 20 minutes. The whole market was open today and the place was buzzing. There were TONS of food vendors and little shops with stuff you could eat right there, or take away with you (breads, meats, etc). I proceeded to eat my face off.

london borough market pieminister box london borough market pieminister pie londons borough market - curry londons borough market - curry londons borough market - curry londons borough market la tua pasta londons borough market - fresh tortellini

My first stop was at Pieminister for a “Field Ranger” (free range chicken pie), which I got “hot” and it was really good. It wasn’t a desert pie, but a meat pie, and it was tasty. There are only a few places to sit (or stand) and eat throughout the market, so if you find one, consider yourself lucky. I was juggling my food and beverage until I finally found a place to put it all.

After the pie I hit a little fresh pasta spot called La Tua Pasta. I ordered the crab tortellini for about 7.5 pounds (the money not the weight). These were delicious, albeit a bit heavy. My last stop was for a seafood curry. It was OK and certainly 3rd on my list of the foods I ate at the market.

Surrounding the market there are tons of bars and other restaurants and I grabbed a beer at the Wheatsheaf pub. I didn’t realize this, but a lot of the beers in London are served at room temperture… aka, gross. Give me cold beer or give me death. Suffice to say, I didn’t have another one.

It was time for a siesta and a bit of cleaing up around the room. My mexican travel buddy would be arriving shortly. You remember Marina, my travel partner from asia back in may (feel free to jump back and read up on some of those posts). She was going to be in town for the night and I offered her a place to crash. I also had made plans with Bo and Alexis to meet up after their showing of “The Book of Mormon”.

Marina arrived with here GIGANTIC backpack and we made plans for the night. We ended up hitting a little chinese place called Mr. Kong’s. Another TERRIBLE service experience. It blows my mind that people who are in food service can’t put in just that little bit of effort that makes the difference between horrible service and passable. I mean, find a new job if you can’t bring yourself to treat people with a single ounce of respect or courtesy. While there we tried the crispy duck, which came highly recommended on foursquare and yelp. Perhaps we got a dry one, but it was almost too dry to eat. We had a minced beef lettuce wrap order as well, which was good.

We later met Bo and Alexis and Tom Crib’s bar around the block from the apartment. I guess this Tom Crib guy was a bareknuckle boxer back in the day and now he either runs the bar, or probably used to own/run the bar, because there are photos of him looking all badass all over the place. Well, it was hot in here and, surprise, surprise, the beer was warm. We went to get Bo and Alexis something to eat and then on to another bar. We chatted for a while and were kicked out, very promptly, at midnight. For such a metropolitan city, with so many tourists, I am surprised that most of the bars close so early. I think there are ‘club’s that are open later, but it’ strange that a bar that has probably been there for 200 years isn’t able to stay open past midnight. Back to the apartment and off to bed.

london eye at night with doc in front london eye at night with dock london eye at night

The next day was just spent packing. My friend Phil, you may remember from my time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. was in town for a couple weeks (he’s from London) and was nice enough to meet us for breakfast. He said he was offered a “bump” from his flight from thailand to get in the next day, stay in a nice hotel, and get a first class seat instead of the coach seat he had. He gave that all up to see little ol’ me. I told him he was CRAZY and that he should have taken the bump.

That’s all for London. It was off to the airport.

My flight to Lisbon (stopover on my way to Seville) was uneventful. The flight from Lisbon to Seville, on the other hand, was a shit show!! I’ve been trying not to vent too much as I am very fortunate to be travling and doing what I’m doing and I am sure you’re not here to listen to me bitch. But let’s just say this. If you run an airline and have the knowledge that a flight will be delayed more than 12 hours in advance (how is that even possible!!!) than how the FUCK!! can you delay that flight even more at the new departure time. Well, welcome to TAP Airlines. What a mess that was.

I was very thankful that I had lounge access for the 8+ hours that I was stuck in the Lisbon Airport.

That’s all for now folks. Stay tuned for more adventures while I spend the next few weeks in Spain and EAT EVERYTHING I POSSIBLY CAN!!!

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