Optimistically Cautious

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Europe Day 2: London

One of my best mornings occurred that second day, if not only because I wasn't operating on anyone else's schedule. I took my time with a morning shower, relaxed with a cup of Twinnings tea, and even watched a bit of a cooking program on BBC. I had to check out by 11, and to be honest, I wasn't too keen on departing from Ramada Encore - it was drizzling outside, and I think it's always a bit disconcerting when the journey to Point B is unfamiliar.

I sucked it up eventually, and dragging my 42.8lb suitcase behind me and with the help of a very nice Tube attendant and newspaper vendor (they must hate tourists), made it to Tottenham Court Road and then the Jesmond Hotel, where the girls would be meeting me later that afternoon. As we would discover over the course of our trip, the Jesmond really was a diamond in the rough - clean, reasonably priced, offering a generous breakfast and within walking distance of a few different Underground lines, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for accommodation in London.

Our quad room on the main floor of the Jesmond

A picturesque British block

After dropping off my luggage, I wandered over to the British Museum, only a ten minute walk from the hotel. Free to the public (much like most other museums in London), it's a wonderful place to spend a day, though one could easily take two weeks to read all of the informative plaques. And though this may be sacrilege to some - I would, without hesitation, choose the British Museum over the Louvre any day.

British Museum foyer

"Throne of Weapons," a chair made from decommissioned weapons after the end of the civil war in Mozambique

Before returning to the Jesmond, I waited out the rain in the Starbucks across the street (yes, that made it two visits in two days). Not understanding my request for a "tall mild," it turns out their slang for a regular brewed coffee is "tall drink." Other differences include their liquid additives - only whole and skim milk are available (probably influenced by the tea drinking population). I still wonder how many Londoners frequent Starbucks on a regular basis - though with 471 locations throughout Britain, their appetite for gourmet coffee must be pretty high.

It was still pouring as I made my way back to the hotel. The weather over the last two days had such sporadic qualities, not quite being able to decide what it wanted to be - shifting between sunny and cloudy the day previous, and today, just pouring. I was glad that I had arrived on Friday to much nicer conditions.

Typical English weather forecast (but as we would find out, this would be the wettest year on record since rainfall began to be recorded in the 1700s)

Annie, Janice and May all arrived in one piece, and we set out to Regent Street for a bit of shopping and dinner. After some running to London's Visitor Centre to pick up our London Passes, I directed the girls to Topshop. I ended up buying a fall coat, my most expensive purchase over the three weeks, as well as a purse for my Mum - both items having travelled Europe and then some upon return to Edmonton.

For dinner, we ended up at Ozer, a Turkish restaurant, after a man who was presumably the owner enticed us inside with the promise of a free pizza. He delivered what in Canada would be considered a large pizza, so on top of that, each of us ordered an additional dish. My spinach and cheese pizza was certainly filling, but I think I would have preferred a less overpowering topping - perhaps arugula or basil.

Spinach and Cheese pizza

Well-fed, we called it a night and readied ourselves for a full day of sightseeing.

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