Writing from Mexico – 3 – Londontown!

Ah London.  I still love the place.  Yes the vibe when it’s a dark and dreary day is pretty grim but there is SO MUCH to see and do around there that really – I don’t see how one could tire of it.  I imagine that if I lived in London I’d just be out of the house all the time doing things, exploring, sight seeing, eating, drinking, shopping 😀  It would get pretty expensive pretty quickly – I suppose that’s why London is the work work work party party party capital of the world (i.e. that working is an absolute must in London town).  That was before Brexit of course – the inhabitants seem pretty grim about the long term prospects of living there.  Crazy how politics can FUBAR everything!  Starting up and living in a commune appeals more and more these days.  Maybe that’s how it all got started in the 60’s – were the communes started up by people so sick of the ‘system’ and the inexplicable mental processes of the majority that they all decided to leave and put up tents and call it a town?  Most likely!  Must look it up.  Anyway – onwards with the travel tale:

The Airport and the Underground

So landed at Heathrow and waited in the longest queue for immigration and having made a determination that this was going to be a low-budget intrepid style trip, we decided that taking the train was the best way to get to Ashwins.. so we got on and it wan’t too full – seats were all taken but there was plenty of space to stand with our luggage so so far so good.  Then at the next station about 5 more people got on.. then 5 more at the station after that and then another 10, and then another 10, until we were so squashed up with people that really – I could barely move anything and was squashed up so much against the suitcase and Steve that I was worried how he was going to draw breath!  Seriously have never been in such a packed train before in my life!!  Even in that cramped space through – I still loved people watching!  There was an old dude in a tweed jacket (TWEED) with a cheesecutter hat and a glorious grey beard; a really dapper looking tall African man with a camel coloured coat and porcelain patterned scarf and the most amazingly shiny burgundy brogues.  A lovely middle eastern looking girl with fabulous hair and the most amazingly well eye-lined eyes.. sigh. I love how well put together everyone seems to be in London.  I could watch them all day 🙂  I was (rather inadvisably) in my orange dress and converse boots with a red cable knit jumper on top.. not really well put together at all but I was beyond caring.  After yet another few people managed to squeeze into the tube at the next station we gave the game up as being too difficult – so we got off and caught an Uber the rest of the way.  If we’d stayed on we’d have had to try to get off at the next stop – change trains, and then walk for about 12 minutes to Ashwin’s.  And given how many people were on our train when we got off – we didn’t think we had ANY chance of trying to get on a train WITH our luggage once we got out.

Ashwin was so sweet and worked from home that day so he could let us into their place.  We had cups of tea and a big catch up with him for a few hours then decided we needed to crash despite it only being about 11am in the morning at that point.  The next thing I remember was Ashwin waking us up at 7pm for dinner!  Eek!  We must have been exhausted from walking around Singapore!  Dinner itself was lovely – We caught up with Swetha then and found out about their travel plans (they were moving to Singapore in the next few weeks) and told them of our general plans (which was a pretty short explanation really as we literally had nothing more than flights to Mexico City booked at that stage).  Ashwin had made a chicken curry with rice and it was GLORIOUS.  I think he’d actually made the same thing the last time I was at their place (with Vaiji on my first round the world adventure) and it was really yummy then as well – must be his go-to dish for when people come around.  I loved it so much I’d resolved to get the recipe off him if I ever found myself with Indian ingredients at hand again.  We had lots of wine (of course) then crashed out again to a blissful sleep.

Man-Directions and Wanderings

The next day was set aside for adventuring around the city and we met up with Steve’s friend Blake that day to get him to show us around.  So get this – Blake gave Steve a postcode to find him by.  Just a postcode.  And Steve thought that that was enough!  I was like – dude – you cannot, in London, set the map to direct you to the centre of a postcode and expect to find a person there.  What lunacy.  But no – Steve flatly refused to ask for further directions stating most matter-of-factly that if Blake thought that was enough, it would be enough.  So off we went.  With google maps directing us to the middle of a postcode somewhere in oh I forget where – near Brick Lane or thereabouts.  Madness.  Anyway – we got there (an hour late as we’d got on the wrong train which took us all around the countryside before taking us to the station we wanted – we were just lucky it was a loop train otherwise we’d have been stuck out in the wops and completely confused!) and sure enough – it was a street lined with food img_5879vendors and apartment buildings and even when we got right to the middle of the where the directions took us – nothing obvious to be found.  So Steve braved the roaming charges to give Blake a call and guess what?  He appeared out of a doorway right in front of us.  So yeah. He really did live slap bang in the very centre of his postcode!  What are the chances?  Anyway – we had a lovely day being shown around the city, had a pretty yum mutter paneer pie for lunch, several beers and a sangria.  Then visited the way eccentric and eclectic Camden markets and finished off with dinner at Blake’s favourite wee turkish restaurant.  Blake was one of the skaters Steve sponsored when he had the Skate’n’Sno Shop on Symonds Street so they had many a reminisce about the old days over many a beverage.

Kensington and its Museums

The next day was adventuring on our own – we took a double decker bus to Kensington (on Sweta’s excellent recommendation) and it dropped us off, rather fortuitously, right in front of a waffle shop.  So of course we had waffles and then when we got up to leave, found that there was a pub around the corner.  So of course we had a pint and a half of beer to fortify ourselves for the rigours of museum exploring – which was the task of the day.  img_5961We tried the Museum of Natural History first but alas – due to school holidays – the queue of small over-excited children and haggard but determined looking adults stretched around the block from the entrance.  I was all for waiting in line but Steve would have none of it so we headed for the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Now this place was nothing short of magical.  SO MUCH BEAUTY and history I could hardly absorb any of it.  Around every corner was another precious relic of some important historical era, just halls and halls and rooms full of things that were older than the whole civilisation of New Zealand.  There was a book there from 1013.  TEN THIRTEEN for goodness sake. People were writing books!  And I’ll bet that around that time in  New Zealand Moa were forgetting how to fly.  Did you know btw that all the museums in London are free? img_5962
It’s incredible that all this wonderful history should be just there for the absorbing and the most you might be asked for is a polite donation.  I highly recommend visiting every single museum if you’re ever in London – that alone is worth the airfare IMHO.   Well having had our fill of the V&A we left in search of lunch – deciding after evaluating every choice available to us (Steve – as you know – is an incredibly picky eater) that the best option was pizza.  My god was it an excellent pizza.  We snuck a bottle of Chino Chilli sauce with us and that made it even more excellent TBH.

 

After the pizza we noticed that the line around the Natural History Museum was down to about 20 people – it was around 3pm and I’ll be by then all the kids would have tired themselves out and be ready for a nap.  img_5939So in we went and yet again.  Absolutely magical.  LOVED IT!!!  Arrghh I could have spent an entire DAY there but by then our feet were starting to whinge and moan again about all the unprecedented standing up and walking around they were being subjected to so we kinda raced through the early exhibits heading as quickly as we could for the dinosaurs.  AND OMG THE DINOSAURS.  Jesus H.  Well actually the complete opposite of anything to do with Jesus H – but you know what I mean.  It was surreal.  Faced with evidence of these monsters that ruled the planet before we were a twinkle in the universe’s eye – I felt quite insignificant.  I mean, I feel quite insignificant all the time in the global scheme of things but this was another step further – like all of humanity was in fact, insignificant.  img_5943We are the latest 5 minutes in the history of this planet and if these creatures evolved and hanged and multiplied so fantastically, only to die out COMPLETELY in the previous 15 minutes then what on earth will happen in the next 15 minutes ahead of us??
cWhat are we setting ourselves up for?  I have to say – I kinda believe in the theory that human kind is wiping itself out.  I really do.  I feel that we, or the planet, realises at some basic un-pin-pointable level that we’re fucking things up badly here and that we need to go.  Like leave or die.  But whatever happens – I’m also confident that we won’t be affected.  Our children won’t be affected and our children’s children won’t be affected.  We will all potter on and ponder the same questions while inexorably taking further steps towards humanities departure from the Earth.

 

Anyway.  That was rather a side-track wasn’t it?

Friends, Food and Wine

That evening we met up with all the Malayali kids that were in London for dinner at the loudest restaurant I’ve ever been to: a place called Tayyabs that was Pakistani.  The line for the place was out the door on to the road so I was really pleased that Lakshmi booked us a table ahead of time.  The food was delish but we were literally screaming at each other over the table in order to be heard.  Man it was good seeing them all.  Faces and smiles that remind me of all the laughs and happiness I associate with seeing them 🙂  Years and years of mad Malayali get-togethers and prayers and whatnot.  And yes there was much happiness and many laughs that night as well. I especially remember the conversation about New Zealand phrases that are somewhat hard to explain to non-Kiwis.. things like “Far Out!!” and “Sweet as!” and “Yeah Nah.. Yeah”.. So hard to explain why these things mean what they do!

 

After dinner Sharmie invited Steve and I back to her place for a drink but realised half way home that she didn’t have any wine – so she dragged the poor uber driver around London a bit looking for a place that would sell us a bottle of wine at midnight – and having acquired one (a NZ red no less) we tottered back to her lovely flat and Steve passed out asleep while she and I stayed up till 3am talking about life, love and our families – as you do at that time of night when in the presence of wine.

The Bus Tour and Leaving London

The next day – we were a bit worse for wear (to say the least) so left quite late and did a bus tour of London.  We were insistent that we would sit on the open top of the bus, despite the freezing wind, so by the end of the tour I was literally starting to feel my motor functions shut down.  Like a robot running out of charge.  The tour was lovely and most informative but apparently I was giving monosyllabic answers in the form of mostly grunting when Steve decided we should get off the tour and deforested me with some excellent seafood pasta and a cup of tea. img_5954Ah tea.  Now I see why England loves it – because it’s F-ING FREEZING and nothing defrosts you faster than tea.  Well maybe vodka would be more efficient – that’s probably why the Russians prefer it to tea.  Not very English though is it – to have a nice cup of vodka in the afternoons?  Lol Imagine it – imagine London if vodka had taken off instead of tea.  I’ll bet the rest of the world would be quite different as England would have been too busy making and drinking the stuff instead of colonising everything within reach.

 

Anyway – I digress again.  We made our way back to Ashwin’s after that – getting Swetha a bunch of flowers and Ashwin as box of coffee pods to say thank you for putting up with us – and then took off for the airport!  We wisely decided to uber the whole way this time – stuff trying the underground with all that luggage!!  And there it was!  Our London trip done and sat at the airport, in a bar, having beers and lychee gin & tonics before our final flight to Mexico City!!

 

Which I’ll harp on about in the next installation.

 

Besos y Tacos amigos!
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