Friday, January 06, 2012

England part 2: Piccadilly palare

I'd never spent Christmas in a foreign country before, but England was a lovely place to do it! Just about everything was closed due to the holiday, though, including the underground, which limited our options considerably. A group of us walked through several different neighborhoods and through Brompton Cemetery, which I really enjoyed because I love old cemeteries. Not in a gothy Hot Topic way, mind; I just thnk they're so peaceful and the headstones are often quite beautiful.

Mausoleum in Brompton Cemetery. Note the medallion of what I presume to be the occupant.

G and I thought this mausoleum looked straight out of a survival horror game. "Find and replace the angel's missing arm, and then the door will open...fight some zombies..."

Beautiful old gravestone in Brompton Cemetery

On our way home, we stopped in a convenience store for snacks and souvenirs. When I took out a 10 pound note, G pointed out that Charles Darwin was on the back! Can you imagine Charles Darwin on American currency? Well, okay, he would never be on it in the first place because he wasn't American, but even if he had been, the religious right would throw an absolute shit fit.

Back at the flat, I took a nap and then we went to Masala Zone for dinner. Get this: they had a 5 pound surcharge to cover their workers' transportation costs since the underground was closed! I don't know if it was 5 pounds per customer (which would cost about $62 extra for our group) or per table, since I didn't see the check, but if it was per person, that's ridiculous. It's nice that they were looking out for their employees, but sorry, that's fucking bullshit. Pay it yourselves if you're so concerned about it! Oh, and while they were at it, they added a "voluntary" donation onto the check for an orphanage in Mumbai. Come on! If you want to put a donation box at the front counter, that's one thing, but tacking it onto the bill just sucked, especially since there's no way to ask them to remove it without looking like the biggest asshole in the world. "Yeah, take that orphanage donation off the bill. I need to buy some more trashy magazines and My Purple Bars. Those orphans will just have to get over that dysentery on their own."

Anyway, everybody seemed to enjoy their food except for me. I had chargrilled chicken and rice which was decent, but I also got a Masala Coke (Coke, lemon juice, spices, and mint) which tasted even worse than it looked and pistachio kulfi, which basically tasted like really freezer-burned ice cream. So on the walk back to the flat, A took pity on me and bought me a huge slice of lemon cheesecake, which was absolutely fabulously nomtacular.

On Boxing Day, the subway was closed again, so we took a bus to Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square

Sign for the Paralympic Games, which is taking place around the same time as the Olympics and has the same logo, only colored. Someone online said it looks like Lisa Simpson giving a hummer and now I can't unsee it.

Trafalgar Square

Blurry shot of Trafalgar Square, including one of the famous lions.

Cool ship in a bottle, Trafalgar Square

After looking around at all the statues and fountains, we stopped in a bookstore. I had to laugh at a book called The Xenophobe's Guide to Americans, which had the Statue of Liberty on the cover, holding money and McDonald's fries. According to the book, we're obsessed with conspiracy theories, making money, and talking loudly. (To be fair, they had guides for other nationalities too, so they weren't just picking on us!)

Uh huh huh huh...uh huh huh huh...

Awesome ad seen in a shop window. Santa, a dinosaur, and a lightsaber wielding Jesus? Sure, why not!

Pretty fancy courthouse!

Interesting statue seen while walking to Piccadilly Circus

After lunch at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, we went to Piccadilly Circus, which reminded me a lot of Times Square with all the billboards and neon lights. We had dissension in our ranks because not everybody wanted to go to St. Paul's Cathedral, so it wound up just being me, Padre, and the lads. Occupy London had tents set up outside.

Occupy London tents set up in front of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Exterior of the cathedral:

St. Paul's Cathedral

You couldn't take pictures inside, so you'll have to take my word on it that it was beautiful. Not so beautiful: the walk up 500+ stairs (not a typo!) to get to the top. I'm not in the best shape, and I swear to Christ I was about to have a fucking heart attack. At least gorgeous views awaited us:

View from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. Almost worth climbing over 500 steps to see!

That suggestively shaped building is called The Gherkin.

View from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral

At the very top, there was only a small (maybe 4 feet high) wall separating us from plummeting to the pavement below. It was pretty crowded up there, with not much room to maneuver, and I was getting a little frightened. Padre wanted to take a picture of the lads and me, and although I haven't seen it yet, I'm sure I have a look of abject terror on my face. I was grinning like a madwoman while saying through my gritted teeth, "[Padre], can we hurry it up please? I'm kind of freaking out here!"

After meeting up with everybody else, we walked through Chinatown, where I saw this strangely named restaurant.


We stopped at a Thai restaurant for dinner. When I went to use the bathroom, I had to wait outside of them until somebody came out because I wasn't sure which one was for women and which one was for men! The doors had some weird hieroglyphic symbols on them that I couldn't figure out. Back at the table, J explained to me that one was supposed to be a very stylized drawing of a dude standing up to piss and the other one was a woman squatting. Would it kill them to put genders on the door as well? Sheesh!

We ended our evening with a baroque concert at St. Martin-in-the-Field, and although the music was lovely, I kept falling asleep. Then we walked for a really long time and got a little lost, but we finally caught a bus that took us back to the flat. We passed by Harrod's on the way, and it was stunningly lit up for Christmas.

Back at the flat, I limped to the bathroom and took three Advil for my aching calves and feet.