04.03.2009 - 10.03.2009 6 °C
So, after booking two trips to the UK, I finally managed to get myself to London. It helps to look at the dates on your ticket. I flew into the lesser-known Gatwick airport and then caught the train to Clapham Junction, a fairly major area in Greater London. Why? To meet up with mates for a beer at the pub, of course. Might as well immerse myself in the culture. I'm essentially sleeping in the lounge room of two good friends from high school, James and Richard - which is just as well because accommodation in London would have otherwise been either a) unavailable or b) bloody expensive.
Up early the next morning (10am) and seeming as it's bright and sunny outside (WTF?) I might as well figure out how the hell I get from Streatham to Central London. Wandered to the local bus stop, figured that "London Victoria" sounded pretty central, and hopped on. I became increasingly concerned that perhaps I should have checked out the bus stop map as the trip wore on, but in the end I was saved by the one sight I'd recognised in the whole trip - Big Ben! What the hell - I got off at the next stop and figured it was as good a place to start my tour of London as any.
From there, I started to tick off the typical tourist list. Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, The Eye, Buckingham Palace. Can I just say, by the way - why is London Bridge even regarded as interesting? It's the least interesting bridge I've ever seen in my life. I've built more interesting bridges. Anyway, the day was of course closed out with more after-work drinks with friends and locals. The pubs here are brilliant - not just for the range of beers, but also the beautiful, aged, solid wooden interior they all seem to have. Perfect for meeting people.
The weather continued to defy meteorological norms and again I was woken by shafts of sunlight. What better to do than spend the rest of the day inside? So on the bus again and straight to The Tate Modern, one of London's premier contemporary art galleries. You know you've struck gold when the foyer contains a three storey high tarantula, occupying a nuclear bunker filled with rows on rows of steel beds, each with a copy of a classic work of post-apocalyptic science fiction. After a few hours of wandering around and feeling suitably pessimistic about the world, I again set off for after-work drinks, only to nearly leave my backpack in the pub on the way home. I'm such a newbie.
I think I'm starting to get a real taste for the London experience - spending time waiting for busses, trains and The Tube, drinking in pubs, and apparently the third one is complaining about the weather, but it's yet to be anything but sunny. I had a defining moment on the way home the other day. I was sitting on the Tube, casually reading the football news in the London Paper and listening to my iPod like everyone else, when I casually looked up at the Tube map to see what stop I was at. Then I went back to reading the paper, and it hit me. I'm doing what normal Londoners do, and I'm not anxiously tracking the train's every stop in case I miss my station! It was a little thing, but I was really enjoying myself and to think that I could fit into a society like this was quite empowering.
Now, I am planning on coming back to London to work, so I didn't think it was a great idea to spend all my time here right now. So when I woke up on my fifth day in London and it was yet again sunny and clear, my natural Aussie instincts, sofar lying dormant, kicked in and my first thought was "bugger it, I'm doing to the beach". So I packed the swimmers and a towel and straight on a train to Brighton.
Ok, so I didn't pack the swimmers and towel. It was sunny, but it was also seven degrees.
Brighton is a beautiful, relaxing seaside city, and it reminds me a lot of coastal Newcastle, albeit with better nightclubs. I pretty much just spent my day walking along the beach, the piers, and through The Lanes - fully of trendy bars, interesting knick-knack shops and clothes shops and tiny, twisting alleysways that emerge onto views of the beach. The best part about walking through The Lanes was coming across a shop called Cyberdog, which sold dance/rave clothes and gear. No, not that kind of gear. I wouldn't normally have gone in, maybe just a casual glance - but I was drawn to it by the music they were playing - a drum and bass mix of the theme from Tetris. Awesome. It's from "Tech Dance Euphoria, mixed by Yoji", in case you were wondering, Mum and Dad.
I dawdled until sunset because I'd seen shots of the Old Pier in cafes, and it looked beautiful at that time in the afternoon, and I wanted to try my own hand at it. I took about thirty shots, but narrowed it down to two. I'm very picky.
I'm sure there'll be more updates on London - but for the moment I'm figuring out my next few weeks of travelling. Sigh - travelling is just so tiring - I'd give anything to be back at work.