Day 9 (continued)
June 9th, 2007
On the Ryanair flight to London Stansted Airport, we met two Irish guys who mistook Jake for a Canadian. They gave us both a beer (Ryanair even charges for water) and said they buy beer in the duty free shops to snub Ryanair for charging so much. The flight from Dublin to London was magnificent.
From the sunny heights I could see all the way up the Irish Coast, a few islands, and then the English coast and rolling farm countryside. Although wonderful, the flight left us an hour away from central London. The train ride, although forced and expensive, was beautiful, as we coasted smoothly into Victoria Station in London.
With Jane, we grabbed a bite of Indian food on Belgrave Street, near Victoria. London has the best Indian food, and it was relatively inexpensive. We went back to Victoria and caught the Underground and Victoria line (black line) to a station that sounded like “Compton Bridge.”
We had a few drinks at a pub, but it was late and the pubs were closing, so we headed to the house of Jane’s friends. They had an amazing house that I fell in love with. At 29 years old, the married couple owned a 4-story house in the 2nd zone (close to downtown) with rich, modern living rooms, wooden floors, a balcony, and several guest rooms. I fell asleep on the couch, thoroughly impressed.
June 10th, 2007
We arose late today and escorted Jane to her station before she left. Then we switched to tourism mode and hopped onto a British double-decker bus for a ride around the city, like “Joey” on Friends. (Note: don’t take the red line—it is long and unnecessary—instead take the yellow line for a good, personally guided tour) After many delays on the red line, we hopped off and walked alongside the Thames River towards the Eye of London.
It was a beautiful walk on what turned out to be a lovely sunny day of about 23°C (78°F). After an hour of walking around, we decided to lay in the park (near the Eye) for a while. Having spent a relaxing afternoon, we headed over to the river cruise station (comes with the €19 bus ride). We made it on the last boat at about 18:00 which took us up the gleaming river to London Bridge and back. It was wonderful and showed us most of London’s major sites with live explanations.
Afterward, we walked back to the Eye to grab some Indian food at the cheap buffet. One thing to note about London is the outrageous cost of travel for Americans. A chicken wrap at a McDonald’s in America costs about $1.19, while in London, it costs ₤1.19 (pounds). The currency ratio, though, is about 2:1. I feel really poor in London, and thus, fancy food is not a high priority. Spend money on food and wine in Paris, go visit the sights of London.
After eating, we went on the Eye of London (₤14!) at sunset. About 8 people ride in a car that goes 120 meters up in the air for about 30-40 minutes. You can walk all around taking amazing pictures of every corner of London. The car ride went too quickly and soon we were back on the ground. We played some Frisbee in the park and watched some locals play music before taking a female stranger’s suggestion that we go to Covent Garden to find some good bars, pubs, clubs, and nightlife.
We got off the Underground, headed right, and walked straight into the first pub we saw. It had Australian (looks like British) flags all over the window and back wall, and I first noticed a drunk Brit on a stool against a wall, kissing the poster of a blonde woman. It’s good it was that poster, because most other posters showed classic rock singers of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. We met a bunch of great people in the British pub, but specifically 3 of them stood out: Boston/Newcastle guy, Paul, and Michelle.
Paul and Michelle are probably about 40 years old and are amazing. We drank beer and talked forever about our homes, sports, and even tried impersonating one another’s accents. A British Southern accent is as hilarious as an American British accent. In an attempt to determine the difference between a British and Newcastle accent, I became lost. However, the other guy spoke out of nowhere to see if we were insulting Newcastle. Upon discovering that we were not, he chimed into the conversation. It turned out he was from Boston and had lived in Newcastle for 5 years.
We spent several hours at the pub with Paul and Michelle before accepting their invitation to dinner when the pub closed at 12:30AM. Jake and I, feeling poor, each had a beer and split a Caesar salad. However, after an hour of great conversation and dinner, they demanded they pay. Why refuse? They were so nice, and as the Underground was closed, they took us in their cab ride home… and paid for us. All in all, these incredible British friends of ours had spent 25 pounds on us, a wonderful present indeed.
We walked from our drop off point at the Victoria Station to the Aston Victoria hostel, another good place for about 30 pounds, and fell fast asleep.
I for one had just had one of the single greatest experiences of my life, and I will never forget the kindness of the British.
June 11th, 2007
We awoke around 9 in the morning to check out of the hostel by 10 and hopped onto a yellow line sightseeing tour bus. What first appeared as a quick ride turned into a 2-hour relaxing ride all around London. The guided tour on the yellow was wonderful and brought us right back to Victoria for our train ride out to the London Luton airport.
From there our international traveling skills brought us back to Paris Charles De Gaulle. We took the train back to Gare Du Nord [Note: the train office wouldn’t provide my free RER ticket guaranteed through my rail pass, and after I frustratedly bought one, they didn’t even check for it!]
Once back home in Paris (should if feel odd to call Paris home?) we enjoyed a night with friends, worked on a presentation for French Politics the next day, and then we did what Parisians do best: live the unexpected and relax.
June 12th, 2007
Our Dublin/London adventure was wonderful yet exhausting. We arose early for our French Politics presentations and exited class very tired. Nothing very exciting happened that day, but we certainly did our best to recover and enjoy the usual Parisian celebrations at one of the apartments.
June 13th, 2007
Another uneventful day of relaxation in Paris followed another day of class. Everyone, groggy as usual, dealt with class and ended up laying around in parks, sipping wine, and talking all night. I am so blessed to live like this, here amongst kings and queens, as though we are kings and queens…
June 14th, 2007
Today is Thursday, and instead of a field trip, the class met late (around 11:30AM) to prepare lunch for a special guest, who consults for international companies like Exxon Mobile, Airbus, etc. She was a fascinating speaker, who talked a great deal about remaining open minded, and discussed the difference between the intent and impact of your conversation in cross-cultural communication.
Afterward, Emily and I walked and talked about things while getting pizza from Speed Rabbit, an excellent pizza place. Pizza is great in Paris. It is cheap, very filling, and can feed lots of people with very high quality food, and we ate it at Emily and Naomi’s. After a long night, in which Jake showed up surprisingly late after meeting a random Turkish guy on the street, we headed back to our place, starting a load of wash before going to sleep. Tomorrow, we go to Amsterdam!
The journey continues in next week’s issue…