Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oh, Mr. Milito, Your Money's No Good Here

I've been in London about a day now. The majority of that time was spent getting to Mike and Clarence's place and taking a jetlagged nap on their couch. I know both of these guys from teaching English in Japan, and I imagine there's about a hundred pictures of each of them throughout this blog already. I'm about to go to afternoon tea with Mike at a fancy looking hotel, so I will be brief.

After getting off the plane I had the pleasure of standing in the immigration line for a long time. The whole thing is really silly to me. I realize they have a job to do, but the questions they ask remind me of interrogating Japanese students during "conversation tests" in my teaching days.

"What's your job?" "Student"
"What are you studying?" "Marketing"
"Where are you staying?" "My friend's house"
"What's the purpose of your visit?" "Sightseeing"
"What sights do you want to see?" "All of them."

His story checks out.

Mike's place is in Islington, and I took the underground as it was the cheapest option.

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So I'm sitting on the tube, the ride must have been an hour, when the train stops, and everyone gets off, and it doesn't start up again. Great. A train worker pokes his head in the door and says that the Picadilly Line is now closed in both directions because a train is "smoldering" on the tracks. I don't know if this was riot related or not (I doubt it) but it was unsettling regardless. Luckily I was able to take another line the rest of the way and Clarence was kind enough to meet me at Finsbury Park station.

Clarence was hungry, and I was still pretty groggy and couldn't say if I was hungry or not, so we went to a cafe after dropping off my luggage.

I'm pretty much obsessed with doing local things, so I had the full English breakfast. It was giant. Highlights included a slice of black pudding and a giant pile of beans. It was enough food for like four people.

I finished my meal, paid for the food, and even put a pound in the tip dish even though Clarence said it was unnecessary. What a great guy I am. We are about a block away when the cafe's cashier catches up with us, holding the damn £20 note I'd just given him. He said he couldn't accept it because it was too old. What!? I handed him a different one. Nope that was too old too. So we walked all the way back and had a chat with the manager(we really should have just said tough crumpets and walked away; sometimes I think I'm too polite for my own good). Back at the cafe they were all really rude about it. I finally found a note in my pile that was to their liking. Another customer in line was also getting huffy, explaining that on new bills the watermark of the queen faces the picture of the queen. Really, do I look or sound like I care what you are talking about, when I have a pile of money that is evidently not suitable to buy things? How old the damn things could have even been when they had holograms on them is still confusing. At this point I'm a bit worried that I am holding a pile of fake money, bringing to mind my Peruvian counterfeit run-in. There was a bank across the street that luckily was willing to exchange these totally unacceptable notes for slightly differently shaded notes that all the looked the same to me. Crisis averted, day is saved. Mike told me not to embarrass him by saying "the queen faces the queen" at opportune moments all day. I won't be stopped.

Mike and I went to Camden market after he got off of work. Thing is, there were riots all over the place yesterday, so now all of the shops are closed, the streets are sparsely populated save for the packs of police patrolling the streets, and sirens were frequent. It seemed to me that the action in London was mostly over, but I've read that there have been riots in other cities as well. I'm not a huge shopper, so honestly I thought the area was cooler in its current state anyway.

I picked a pub that I thought sounded cool out of my guide book, and Mike was kind enough to accompany me there. At one point we sat in the front row on top of a double decker bus, which was a pretty darn cool view.

The pub I picked was The Spaniards Inn, which sounded cool because it had a lot of history. It dates to around 1585. They mentioned several cool people who liked to hang out there, but I got the hint some of it was advertisingly convenient "legend". Dick Turpin the highwayman lurked here, Dickens visited and mentioned the place in Pickwick Papers.

It was mentioned in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The place was definitely cool, but I wouldn't say you could sense its ridiculous age by looking inside. We got a couple pints and chatted, but the food was too expensive so that was the extent of it. We had some awesome Indian food then went home. Mission Accomplished.

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