Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You May Call Me Susan

A story I forgot from my previous post:

After our long day of walking walking walking, we wanted to find somewhere close to our hotel for dinner, perhaps a pub or Indian food. So we walk down the street, and all of the cafe's are overflowing with people. One cafe after another, and people out on the sidewalk in front. I leaned in to Julie and said "Is it just me, or are we the only white people around?" "It's not just you, we ARE the only white people around. And the only women." She said. Middle Eastern men surrounded the area. It was dark, we didn't know where we were going, and it was starting to feel uncomfortable. We turned a corner, I put my purse/backpack on the front of me, and I could feel someone walking very close behind me. I step towards Julie and out of the way, hoping the person would just walk right on by.

"Hello Ladies!" A young man from the middle east approached us, along with his friend. "What are you doing tonight? Going to dinner, going clubbing, out for drinks?"

"Just looking for a place to have dinner" I replied.

"Ah, two lovely ladies in London looking to have dinner. Maybe we could join you and the four of us have dinner together?"

"No, but thanks." Again, our accents were noted... "Where are you from?" Julie said "The United States, near California" (the geographic location of California is global common knowledge... unlike Utah, which was mistaken for Canada). "Oh, we're from Kuwait, our countries are very good friends. Tell me miss, did you vote for Obama?" he asked. "Yes, I did" "OH, thank you so very much!" he said, making a bowing motion. At this point I'm trying to walk away, and he keeps right up with us "Please will you reconsider, and have dinner with us tonight?" "No, but again, thank you." "Well why don't you take my number, and call me if you change your mind. Please, please just take my number." "Um, ok...." I said to get him to go away. He watched me record it in my iPhone, and made sure I had it entered correctly. "Tell me your good namew, please?" The first name that came to me... "Susan". and Julie said "Gina" "Alright Susan and Gina, we hope to hear from you later."

Finally they left us alone. And no, we didn't call.

We found out a couple of days later, from the man who is in charge of the security of the shipment of our company's product for all of Europe, Middle East, and Africa, that the middle eastern culture simply doesn't have women walking on the streets alone at night. He said it has nothing to do with us, the way we carried ourselves or the way we were dressed- and not to disparage these men- but we were mistaken for prostitutes. Harrods is owned by Al Fayed, who is the father of Dodi Fayed (Princess Diana's boyfriend who died with her in the crash). Therefore, a the area surrounding Harrods has a heavy middle east influence. I will talk about this more in a later post.

***On to the next day***

When I was a kid I loved the movie "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". In the movie there is a song about "Portabello Road", so I absolutely wanted to visit the Portabello Road Market:

The streets were charming and the houses were well maintained, painted different colors, and each had an interesting door and entry way. I was particularly impressed with this pale blue house and red door:

And even more impressed when I looked up at the building to discover that this was once George Orwell's house:

A view down the market road:

We stopped at a gellato shop where I got a single scoop lemon gellato- it minds me of the "Zitrone Eis" I used to get from the icecream trucks in Germany. The look on my face right here said "Julie, will you stop pointing that camera in my face and let me enjoy my gellato in peace?!?!":

After this we went to Notting Hill Gate, also influenced by a movie, but didn't do much other than browse in some cool record shops that specialise in rare, out of print albums. No pictures to share. Then we found an Indian Restaurant in Soho, which was not satisfying, to say the least. I expected of all places to get really great Indian, it would be there. The Bombay House in SLC is still the best.

After this we were strolling around the Theater District close to the Adelphi Theatre. We saw this arch that went into an alley, and we were intrigued. We were very happy to stumble up on the Nell Gwynne Pub... there's no way we would have found it otherwise. The Nell Gwynne is a 350 year old pub, and there was a very cute Irish bartender inside, who was very impressed that I could distinguish his accent. We stayed longer than we would have, and drank more beers than normal, because he was just so darn arorable. Pictures from the pub

The arch of the alley that intrigued us:

The ouside of the pub:

Not trying to be a narcissist, but Julie took this shot of me when I was looking out the window, and I like how it turned out:

The bartender offered to take a picture of us together, so here we are looking at him with slightly buzzed but starry eyes:

A cool shot of Covent Gardens:

After this we returned to our hotel room and poured ourselves into bed. Another full day with a ton of walking... loving and soaking up every single moment of our trip.

Tomorrow? We go to work. Tune in next time for the for the joy.....

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

London Loves Christy

Or so I was told... more on that later.

So, Julie and I wake up later than we planned. While we're getting ready, we get out the map and Frommer's guide to London and make plans. We'll take the tube up to Notting Hill Gate, walk over to the Portabello Road market, over to the Marble Arch and do whatever until the end of the day where we wanted to end up in Covent Gardens for dinner and night life.

As explained in my previous post, all tube lines were closed except for Piccadelly, which was the direction we wanted to go the day after and had loosely planned. We coulda done the bus system, sure, but we didn't want to. No problem, let's go to Piccadelly, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace.

Here I am at Piccadelly Circus:

Under the statue of Eros:

Okay, so I haven't been to London in 21 years, but this was NOT the Picadelly Circus I remembered! (I later came to realize that what I remembered was NOT Picadelly Circus). This part of London has been made famous by several films. Pretty much any movie that is takes place in London has a scene here, it reminds me of the central point of Times Square in NYC. After some souvenir shopping, we walked down the road towards Leicester Square. There was some kind of Fright attraction, seemed like a haunted house with actors, with people outside trying to get us to go in. We ended up talking to this cute bloke who looked a lot like Prince William... he was adorable, and oh so young, but we had to keep talking to him. He asked where we were from, and after telling him Salt Lake City, he asked us if that was in Canada. D'oh! So much for my ethnocentrism! We told him that we were there for the U2 concert, and he got all excited saying that he was going to go too, but his buddies backed out and now he has to go alone, and wanted to go with us. Awwww, he was cute... but no. We took his brochure for the Fright attraction, and continued on.

Leicester Square is the Theater District, or London's version of Hollywood. There a gorgeous park in the middle, and surrounded by several theaters that premier new films.

Further down the road we go, and ultimately end up in Trafalgar Square. A-HA! THIS is what I thought was Piccadelly Circus 21 years ago. It's such a huge place, it seems much more like a circus than Piccadelly Circus does! (Uh, yeah.... so the "Circus" part of the name refers to the circle that surrounds. The things you learn when you get old...)

Nelson's Column:

Awesome view from Tafalgar Square:

The Admirality Arch:

This is where the Royalty enters The Mall. The middle gate opens only for the Queen.

It didn't open for me. Fer rude!

Approaching Buckingham Palace:

I *DESPISE* this picture of me, but it is the best picture I have of the Palace.

After walking the grounds around the palace, we realized we had been walking all day and hadn't eaten a thing and we were starving, and oh so thirsty! The original Hard Rock Cafe is not too far from here, and I've been there the other two times I've gone to London, so let's go!

The original Hard Rock Cafe, in the same location for 38 years:

I had to get a picture of the John Lennon duds:

Julie and I inside:

I sat at this exact same booth with my dad, back in 1987:

The ladies thought I was weird and wondering WTH I would be taking their pictures for.

The waitress at the HRC spent some time talking to us, and she summed the vibe of London up perfectly: London is a place where anything goes. Everyone is welcome, everyone is accepted. No one cares who you are or what you wear, just enjoy the city and all that it has to offer. At St. James Park by Buckingham Palace there was an opera singer in a pavilion, and people brought chairs and blankets and they were all lying around talking, reading, listening to the singer, playing with their kids, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, relaxing... that spot is the epitome of London, and if there IS a heaven, this is what I want it to be like.

After eating at the Hard Rock Cafe, we went across the street to the Hard Rock shop. It was full and so we had to wait behind the velvet rope in the "VIP Line" outside. We were talking to the "Bouncer", who asked us where we were from. At this point it's apparently clear that our accents are in no way British... not that we tried. After we told him he said, "How do you like London?" I replied "I LOVE London!"

"London loves YOU." he said, smiling and full of sincerity.