Monday, June 9, 2014

London Sun

To London again, the third time this year and none of the thrice has felt like a remotely similar experience. I planned this trip, partly to celebrate my cousin's 30th birthday, and partly to reward myself for having finished classes for the year and to kick off the summertime. I was incredibly fortunate in having a rather stunning weekend of weather, though of course I fancy the notion that the sun was shining via my presence. Regardless, while the fine weather tends to make my allergies go berserk, it made for a delightful weekend to be romping around London.

I arrived Friday afternoon after a pleasant trip on the Eurostar, and had previously decided that I would indulge in a park for the afternoon while I waited for my cousin to finish work. When I studied abroad so many eons ago, our school was located right on the border of Regent's Park, a place my friends and I mutually agree we didn't visit nearly enough. However, I remember at least one blissful experience when my director for the Shakespearean comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” suggested we relocate rehearsal to the park on a similarly sunny afternoon. With that in mind, I decided to pass by my old alma mater and feast my eyes on the beauty that is this particular Elysium.  My memories had served me well because I think it really is one of my favorite parks around so far, full of flowers and festivity. After that, I met my cousin at work and we made our way to the Clapham area where I got to see her new apartment. For the evening, we had planned on going to a bar I had found online called “The Toy Shop”. I ran across it while curious if London had any bars that serve cocktails in baby bottles, like I've experienced in Paris. This place claimed to not only have said offering, but also heralded “absinthe wine gums” which sounded equally as tantalizing. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the bar, though whimsical in appearance, we were disappointed to realize that they no longer had either delicacy, apparently changing the menu fairly often. One bartender said he had never known them to have the wine gums at all. In his attempt to placate us crestfallen grail-hunters, however, he offered to dip some marshmallows in absinthe and see what the result would be after lighting them on fire. I honestly can't say it had the same effect, but while resting atop our cocktails served in old glass MILK bottles, we appreciated the attempt nonetheless. Most hilarious about the evening, though, was the food. We ordered one of their sharing boards that is apparently meant for about 2-3 people. In reality, they could probably feed twice as many, and we made for quite an interesting sight, us two blonde American girls with a veritable feast laid before us. Lesson learned? If you ever want to attract men to your table, order obscene amounts of munchies. We had several male figures feel it was totally within their right to try to scam food off of us all evening, sitting right down at our table and either flirting or making random chitchat to get at our spread. There had apparently been a big polo event in the area earlier that day so they were already drunk, and it's still wildly debatable if they even noticed us sitting at the table until realizing we were the gatekeepers to their nourishing nirvana. I can't say that my cousin or myself were even mildly impressed by these reckless scavengers. At around 10pm we had decided to vacate the bar that was now swarming with a totally weird crowd, until by good friend in London who was supposed to meet us finally turned up. Aside from loads of laughter and a couple more hours of ridiculousness, we also managed to polish off another two bottles of wine, one of the many reasons the next day didn't feel nearly as energetic as I was hoping for.

Still, Saturday proved that although the morning had to rain a little so as to uphold London tradition, the rest of the day was in sync with the summer season and Cousin and I ran some errands about town before coming home to get ready for her birthday dinner. We met two of her other friends, both guys, both profoundly late (the cads!) and proceeded to go bar hopping into the night. The only problem is that we found ourselves at the whim of the one native Londonder and rather than heading to bars that were more our style, managed to go to one decent venue, but ultimately ended up at a place that brought me back about a decade to when I was completely intolerant and bitchy whilst irritated. Ok fine, I don't mean that I'm incapable of either of those traits even now, but I have definitely grown up and become a lot more tolerant at bars, specifically when the event is not my celebration. However, this place was dark, so crowded that you could barely move, and the music was so loud that talking to anyone, whether we knew them or not, was virtually impossible. At an age where I still love to drink and socialize but really prefer to use the opportunity in the hopes to communicate with friends and/or meet new people and/or enjoy the ambience, none of these were possible. Not only that, but the shortest girl in the room is ALWAYS the one people tend to push by, assuming at first glance that the dip in the crowd is a opening to walk through... Negative, ghost rider... The laws of physics make it impossible to walk through solid human flesh, sorry... Happily, the bar was very close to my cousin's apartment so we gladly made our way home and decompressed over water and Dorito's.

Finally, Sunday was basically a continuation of our culinary delights for the weekend. Lots of food Friday night, a great brunch and dinner Saturday, and the end to the weekend was a trio of excess. Another brunch in the bright summer air, sitting outside on a pavement café. After that, high tea at a fancy hotel where we indulged in finger sandwiches and scones. And in the evening, a lovely meal of Indian food, my favorite thing every time I am London bound. The only sad part? I don't think I've ever had a spicier biryani in my life and I spent more time trying to get my mouth to cool down than enjoying the wonderful taste of the meal. It was an early night, as my train back to Paris left at 7am from St. Pancras this morning, and thus the end of my recent British excursion. 

After so many extravagant meals, it seems the time has come to get back on the healthy wagon as beach weather abounds. There has been talk of a half marathon... We shall see...

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