Wednesday, April 23, 2014

London Called

Spring break finally arrived, and I have to say it lived up to all the expectations I had been so preciously building over the past few weeks. It appears that this is the year of the British Isles, as I have now been to Ireland twice, London twice, and finally ventured to Scotland as well. My awesome cousin just moved to London about a week ago, and before anything else, let me just say that amidst jet lag, an epic life transition, having just started a new job and not even gotten unpacked yet, this girl rallied for our weekend away like none other. 

I arrived in London last Wednesday so I could wander a bit and have some fun there before heading up to Scotland. I love taking the Eurostar, it's so quick and easy, it's almost astonishing when you get off two hours later and find yourself in a completely different country. My phone even had service underwater! Oh, technological advances... Since I studied abroad in London in college, and have been there several times since, there are fewer and fewer touristy things that have yet to be untapped. However, one of the big ones I had still never visited was the new Globe Theatre. When I lived in London in college, I went to the British American Drama Academy, where I studied acting in a conservatory for a semester, focusing on traditional training like High Comedy and of course, Shakespeare. I was also lucky enough to have been cast in "Much Ado About Nothing" as part of our final project through the program. I have always been a Shakespeare fan, so it's a little strange I never actually made it to this attraction. 

For whatever reason, the weather was stunning all of last week. I sat by the river with a quick sandwich before being able to get into my cousin's apartment while she was at work, then walked across one of London's many bridges to find my way to the Globe. It turns out they were rehearsing for "Titus Andronicus" that afternoon, so as part of the tour we were unfortunately unable to wander around the inside of the theatre. We were, however, able to go in, sit down, and watch rehearsal for a while which was a pretty sweet substitute. After my requisite cultural experience, I headed over to Oxford Street where I indulged in the materialistic phenomenon, Primark. The sister store to Penney's in Ireland, I was not at all disappointed by the perfect sized pocket book I bought for the weekend, a new summer dress to be worn as spring moves forward, and the cute little rain jacket I ended up never needing because Mother Nature was being our bff for the week.

For dinner that night, I told my cousin I was desperate for some Indian food. The past two times I've attempted this goal in London, I've ended up at more modern Indian restaurants. And while they were always delicious, I wasn't able to have the dish that I learned to love in London, and found out was just never made the same in NYC... Chicken Biryani, which in England is normally served with an extra sauce I just can't find elsewhere. This time, we went to Brick Lane, which is the Indian Row of London. The only difference is the amount of restauranteurs aggressively attempting to make you come into their venue, shouting out 20-50% discounts and free glasses of wine, to the point where you're almost turned off and want to run down the street screaming "a plague on both your houses" or some such fanfare. Happily, we chose one of the many available spots all promoting their claim to fame, and where I finally, at long last, tuckered into my Holy Grail of Indian nourishment. After dinner, I realized we weren't all that far from a pub I used to frequent when I lived in London so many years ago. You have to love the funny little names of all the pubs in the British Isles, and this one was no exception, aptly called the "Blue Lion". We popped in for a pint before last call and while the bartenders were unnecessarily bitchy and they have definitely renovated a lot since my heyday, it was a nice bit of nostalgia nonetheless.

On Thursday I was fortunate enough to head outside of London for the afternoon, to visit a friend I made through another friend in NYC years ago. She just moved to a beautiful house about 50 minutes outside of the city with her husband and new, adorable baby boy. If you imagine the old manors with vast tracts of land, not quite as pristine as Downton Abbey but equally as awe-inspiring, you've got it about right. After wandering the house for a bit, we had a delightful lunch in a nearby town before I had to catch a train back into London. My cousin and I went to a really yummy tapas restaurant for dinner that night, which she had been to when she lived in London before. Popular and hopping on the night before the holidays began, we had to wait about an hour for the table, but that gave us plenty of time to do what I had been talking about for weeks... Have a Cadbury Creme Egg Mcflurry... Swooooooooon! Both the restaurant and the pre-dessert were quite worth the wait, and we wandered home that night satisfied and completely excited for our early morning adventure to Scotland the next morning...

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