Sunday, September 6, 2009

Easy Going in London

So yesterday’s exploration of London was concentrated primarily around the Russell Square and Tottenham Court areas, as well as Oxford Street and the abundance of streets spreading off it into smaller, alley-like streets with much to see and do.

Shortly after leaving the hotel, as I was making my way towards what I thought would be the Russell Square underground station, I suddenly heard some voice in a foreign language that didn’t quite fit the moment. That was Hebrew, spoken by two very nice looking gals.

Hardly a huge surprise; London is a very popular tourism destination for Israelis. There is also a rather developed Jewish / Israeli community here in London.

So those two gals are standing next to some food / candy stand right next to (what I still sure was) Russell Square station, checking out the prices of Pringles boxes. I approached them and struck a conversation, in Hebrew of course.

- “Hello”.

The left-hand girl looks at me, answering very nonchalantly, in Hebrew of course:

- “Hello. How much does this cost?”, holding a small box of Pringles.

The fact that I was speaking her native tongue (to which she replied in her native tongue as well), standing right beside her with a huge tourist-like smile didn’t seem, I guess, to deviate her thought process away from the Pringles box. I guess that the desire to find out the cost of that box was burning so violently inside her that all other details seemed minor.

- “I don’t know, I don’t work here”.

After a moment of embarrassment, another moment of mutual laughter just to break the ice after the social faux-pas that had just taken place, I asked them if they are aware of a good place to grab a bite. They told me that I can’t go wrong in Oxford Street, with literally millions of places to eat, drink and whatnot.

Bid them farewell and off I went to the underground station. Got a 3-days pass and entered the Tube system only to realize that I have no clue how to get to where I wanted (Oxford Circus). Failing to find a Tube map on the wall, I went out and got myself a map.

Holy Moses, these guys in London clearly have public transport at their top priority. There are just so many underground lines, trains, buses, trams and whatnot, which makes owning a car in this city an almost-certain exercise in wasting money, efforts and the environment. You can get around pretty well using public transit; rent a car for the odd weekend you’re going away, and you still save lots of time, effort and money.

Very short Tube trip and I’m in Oxford Street, where everything happens on Saturday night.

The first thing you grasp once you look at this place is not how big it is, but rather the abundance of things to see, do and, more importantly, eat. Herds of people in the street, with pubs, bars, restaurants and cafe’s bustling with people. What a fantastic, great atmosphere! Weather was excellent, a clear night with semi-cool breeze to freshen you up and get you going in this brilliant city.

I was starving not much unlike a stray dog and was looking for a nice place to eat. Doing so, I got to feel, first hand, the effects of what’s called “The Paradox of Choice”. Having so many options to choose from really made my life miserable. There are endless spots to eat and drink in here. Pick a cuisine, and you have it here. This is foodies’ heaven.

I ended up eating in this place – Gosh, I failed to obtain its name – you enter, pick all sorts of really nice looking dishes they have on display, then sit along long tables (next to people you never met in your life) and eat. The food was delicious, the atmosphere exhilarating.

I then went on to explore the area by foot. I got all the way to what I believe is Piccadilly Circus. Kind of like Manhattan’s Times Square – in fact, that entire area around Oxford Street looks beautiful at night time.

Mark Knopfler’s “Border Reiver” (new single from his upcoming Get Lucky album) playing in my ears, and I am strolling the streets of London. I feel a deep shame that in my 31 years of living, only now I got to experience this place. I love it.

Parked my butt in “Bella Italia”, a coffee bar / restaurant up Argyll Street, to unwind from this long walk.

Decided to walk back to the hotel, rather than taking transit. Distances here are not so great; but that, of course, is relative. For Canadians, the walk from Oxford Circus to my hotel (slightly above one mile) wouldn’t seem such a great distance, but in Europe this appears to be a great voyage. I suppose that, with public transport so efficient and handy, people don’t even bother walking around. Or maybe they’re in a hurry, I don’t know.

20 minutes of walking and I was approaching my hotel, when I noticed an interesting sign promising the best hamburger in Bloomsbury (the neighborhood in which my hotel is located). As I am a great fan of hamburgers, I couldn’t say no to such a nice, lucrative sign and stepped inside. I believe the place was called Bloomsbury Diner, but it wasn’t really a “Diner” – it was a restaurant with great service. I ordered the Bloomsbury Burger, which is a hamburger topped with an extremely generous layer of goat cheese.

Yum.

Finished eating and went back to the hotel. Only after lying down on the bed, I realized how tired my feet were.

What a great day, looking forward to tomorrow.

 

Isaac

2 comments:

Laurenzia said...

Great to have you this side of the water and get you all active in this blog again! I'm looking forward for all the upcoming posts.

I love the way you dive into a new city, it courages me as my trip comes closer.

I just wanna add, that I think it's the metric system that makes the distances longer.

Isaac said...

Hi Laurenzia,
:-) Good to hear from you.

Yeah, I guess "diving" into a new city really is the way to go. I think that planning too much ahead of time takes some of the excitement out. Other than planning for shelter and ensuring you're not doing anything particularly stupid, one should really just flow with things and act upon the moment.

You'll have a blast in your trip to Canada, I'm sure. We miss you here and I'm certain we'll get the chance to get together again :-)


Isaac