Wandering down to London

wandering around London 3

a guard at Buckingham Palace

One of the nice things about living in Edinburgh is how easy it is to get to London from here. The train takes just over four hours, departing from the middle of Edinburgh and depositing you at King’s Cross. There are plenty of flights, as well, but once you deal with getting yourself to and from airports, it’s taken you just as long door-to-door (and you’ve had to surrender your liquids). Continue reading

London notes: food

With the exception of, well, pretty much anyplace in Italy, London is my favorite food city in Europe. Long gone are the days of tittering about the blandness of English cuisine; London restaurants are creative, varied, and plentiful. Here are some of the notable eateries from my last visit. Continue reading

London notes (with porn)

the Olympics countdown clock in Trafalgar Square

I was all set to settle in to my summer travel hiatus when an invitation arrived for an interesting-sounding press event in London. I did a quick check of ticket prices (totally affordable, thanks to EasyJet), sent out a couple emails to see if friends would be in town (they would!), and decided to go. I think I’d jump on almost any excuse to go to London these days. I have a huge crush on this city. Continue reading

Manchester notes

Manchester street

Last week was all about visiting cities which are delightfully grittier than Munich. Not that it’s hard for a place to show more grit than our home city (which could be mistaken for the setting of many fairy tales), but last week’s destinations were particularly satisfying in their lack of polish. Cheers to the Travel Bloggers Unite conference for giving us an excuse to visit Manchester for the first time. Continue reading

Upcoming blogger meet-ups in Europe: TBU and WEBMU

As a misanthropic introvert, I wouldn’t expect to be big on meet-ups, but I’ve definitely learned to love them over the course of my blogging career. A lot of fascinating people write expat and travel blogs. No matter the size of your blog or its audience; meet-ups like this tend to be very welcoming, and a lot of fun. Continue reading

London keeps calling

Let’s see, where was I? From Italy I’ll skip ahead a few months to March, when I went back to London for another week of BritFun. This was the trip where a charming old chap tried to pick up my friend Em and I. Naturally, there are other trip highlights to report, too, so let me get on that.

The timing of this trip was designed to coincide with a David Sedaris* reading. Did you know he recently moved to London? Not that I’m stalking him or anything. It was fun to finally learn what Hugh looks like, though. Dapper.

That wasn’t even our only trip to the theater district; we also took in a (very affordable) matinee showing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring James Earl Jones. Oh, that voice. TKTS won’t tell you this, but some theaters release some half-price tickets at the box office shortly before a performance.

We visited a couple of London’s amazing museums, including the National Portrait Gallery (which I love so much I want to marry it – Judi Dench and the Tudors all under one roof); the Tate Britain (where we intended to see a special exhibit involving elephant dung but we got lost in the joys of the permanent collection instead – especially the John Singer Sargent and Francis Bacon rooms); and the Victoria & Albert (for a small but interesting exhibit on high-tech art). We also did plenty of gallery hopping. London oozes art.

And of course we ate some delicious things, including giant thalis at Masala Zone and sushi at about a dozen places. Alas, my note-taking was a little lax when it came to all the great restaurants and pubs. There was also tea at Sketch, whose waitresses were decidedly unfriendly but I am going to go back soon anyway because 1) they have a staircase covered in blood and 2) I didn’t get to use the pod toilets yet. Plus I am hoping their macaroni and cheese is good.

Besides all that, we took some wonderful walks. Em has a deck of cards, each one featuring a different fun walk through London, and they came in quite handy for coaxing us into new, different neighborhoods. One walk was through the hipster and sex shop district; another was through the judicial area, where the barristers buy their wigs. Alas, we didn’t see anyone wearing one. There’s a goal for my next trip.


* If you are unfamiliar with David Sedaris, go get yourself one of his books right now. Preferably an audiobook. Me Talk Pretty One Day is a good one to start with. You will pee your pants.

How not to chat up an American

Last week my friend Em and I were wandering around London looking for somewhere to quench our thirst. Walking past one particular pub, something caught our eye. A leathery man standing outside with a pint and a cigarette thought it was he. Actually it was the sign next to him declaring all drinks half-price today. “Go on in! You know you want to!” We did.

After we picked up our delightfully affordable drinks from the bar, we turned around to see that outside man had come in, and was headed our way. “I told ya. It’s a good place, in’t it?” Actually, the sign told us.

“Where you gals from, then?” Before we could answer, some emphatic instruction was added. “Please don’t say America!”

“OK, I won’t then.” I looked around for a table.

Pick-Up Lines That Work: Get the Girl Tonight!“I live in London,” added Em in a more friendly tone. She has much more patience for people than I do.

“Ah, so you ARE Americans!” As if he had beaten some sort of awful, embarrassing confession out of us. “Nah, that’s not all bad. I love America, actually. Well, San Francisco, anyway. The girls there are always all over me when I tell ‘em I ain’t gay.”

Sure they are, buddy. Sure they are.

“You’re not? Such a pity, since I only fuck gay guys.” I didn’t really say that. Instead I ushered Em over to a table in the corner. He got the hint and left us alone.

You might be surprised how many dudes in bars try to lead with the “You’re American? I hate Americans!” schtick. I’ve heard it a dozen times, and it still baffles me. I keep expecting them to follow it up with a discourse on how they despise pale skin and brown hair. Or talking to women.

What’s your favorite pick-up line? Does it involve an insult to the recipient’s country of origin? If so, please tell us in the comments how many times said line has successfully gotten you laid.

Squeezing the fun out of London

I have had the good fortune to go to London twice this year, with more trips planned soon. Such an infinitely entertaining city, with friendly people and charming accents. I could spend years there and not get bored. This time I was hosted by the lovely and talented Em and her husband Jeremy. You might notice a certain similarity between this post and one on her blog.

Em just moved to London, so it was fun to get to explore her new city with her. We found a local pub with her favorite beer (I use this term loosely) on tap and another one with a fun-filled pub quiz night. Our all-American team did surprisingly well given how many questions had to do with English soccer and Mr. Bean. Still, I recommend that they recruit some locals for next week.

I don’t usually like shopping but even that is more fun in London, especially when there are kitschy blow-up Christmas decorations overhead. There’s no Thanksgiving in Europe to hold back the Christmas stuff, so it starts appearing as soon as the whether gets nippy.

My trip happened to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day. Unfortunately we didn’t see any bonfires, but there were fireworks all over the place. Next time I’m hoping for some effigies. Even if I have to make them myself.

A lot of our time was spent wandering aimlessly. One can do this all day in London, passing from one neighborhood to another while being constantly entertained. And if you happen to wander into a museum or gallery or two along the way, all the better.

One of our days of wandering centered around Rivington Street, an area full of galleries, cafes, and artsy little shops. We had a cheap and delicious lunch at Cargo while admiring the graffiti art. We took in some wonderful exhibits at Rivington Place and White Cube. Later on we stopped for coffee on the animal-print sofas of Zigfrid von Underbelly and spent about an hour photographing ourselves in the mirrored mosaic bathroom.

Another highlight of the trip was our many bus rides across town. When you’re not in a hurry, it’s much more fun to travel on the top level of a red bus than deep underground. Especially if you get the front seat, and you’re traveling west into a glorious sunset.

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