Friday, April 16, 2010

London - Part 2 of 6

Part 2: Thursday - The One With Greenwich and SHOPPING"

After a very restless night (I never sleep well the first night in a new place) we got up at 8:30am to have breakfast at the hotel.

I don't think I can properly explain how absurd (I was going to write 'surreal', but I'm not quite sure if that's the right word) breakfast is at that hotel. They have complimentary continental breakfast. Most things are on the buffet as per usual. Not toast however. No, toast is only supplied if you want it. There's a small toast-lady (at least, that's how we've taken to refer to her) who'll walk around asking tables "Toast? White or brown?" (I've never heard her say anything else, so we're starting to think that's all the English she knows ;) ). She'll only ask one table at a time though, and you have to be quick, or she'll only take the order of 1 or 2 people at that table, and then disappear. We have a theory that they can only toast 4 pieces at a time, so she sees no reason to take orders for more ;) Also, you have to be careful how you order. The standard portion is 2 pieces, so one morning we ordered "1 white and 2 brown" - expecting to get 6 pieces in total. Nope, we got 3 pieces in total. Fair enough, our mistake in not being clear enough. The next day we asked for "2 white and 4 brown"... and ended up getting 12 pieces in total! After that we just took to each answering for ourselves and not trying to sum it up in any way ;)

Henni and I both commented that anywhere else we'd be completely frustrated by the level of service, but here it's so wacky/far out that we just laugh and take it as part of the experience :D

After breakfast all three of us walked to the British Museum. It's almost become a tradition for us to visit that together, and it's SO huge, so there are still lots more to see. This time we visited the Chinese/Japanese/Indian/South Pacific sections, part of which was really interesting, the rest - not so much. Lars was hugely amused to find both a snake god Nagiri and a goddess Pavarti in the Indian section though. We have a feeling a certain author may have gone there for inspiration ;)

From the museum we walked past a games store to see if any new expansions to Munchkin had been released (not the case, but we found another Carcasonne-like game that looked interesting) and then on to the nearest station to take the train out to Greenwich. I have to say, I was NOT impressed by people's reactions to my crutch in London. I'd remembered it today, as I knew we were in for a lot of walking, and had expected the same level of courtesy as I'd experienced in NYC, but that was not the case at ALL. In NYC I'd say people stood to give me their seat 90-95% of the time. In London it was 50% at most. I was especially annoyed on the DLR to Greenwich where the train manager pointedly looked at my crutch and then asked me to move as he needed my seat :-O I'm very glad I didn't actually need-need the seat, but I was definitely very unimpressed by his actions. And no, there were no signs that that seat was reserved for the train manager. Ch!

Ah well, we arrived safe and sound and walked through the Greenwich foot tunnel to the other side. Once there (after I'd rested for awhile - the 99 steps back up from the tunnel were a bit of a challenge ;) ) we found a wonderfully quaint British pub called The Spanish Galleon where we had the best lunch of the entire trip :) Definitely a place worth revisiting.

After lunch we walked over to the Maritime Museum to have a look around there. Unfortunately it wasn't all that interesting, so very much a waste of the little strength my feet had left at this point. Especially since it meant we got to miss out on the Royal Observatory. Ah well, I was the only one who really wanted to see that, and it's not like it's going to go anywhere before I make it to London next ;) Instead we walked back to the nearest DLR station to take the train back to the center of London. On our way there we stopped to get some ice cream... usually I probably wouldn't have thought that noteworthy, but it ended up being the basis of a running joke for the rest of the vacation. One of the flavours offered was Hokey Pokey which is a flavour of ice cream invented in New Zealand. I don't particularly like it myself, but was very amused to see it offered here. I became even more amused though when Henni ordered it, only pronouncing it "Hockey Pockey". I don't know why we thought it that funny, but both Lars and I cracked up laughing. Even more so when we realised she had no idea what it was, and only ordered it because of the name!

Funny! ... but probably one of those "you had to be there" moments. Henni later commented that it would be a great name for a house boat (of which there are several in Little Venice), setting us off again ;-)

Aaaaanyway, Lars, Henni and I went our separate ways with Lars going off trainspotting again, and Henni and I taking the train back to Oxford Circus to walk down Regent Street (and drool at the gorgeous Swarovski figurines) and browse in the HUGE Waterstones bookstore by Piccadilly Circus. However, I was very unamused to find that out of the four books I'd found and wanted to buy, they only had two of them - two of the three I'd found by Walter Moers. Figuring I could always go back to Foyles, I didn't mind too much, but walked around for a bit looking at their other offers. I don't know if I'm getting more picky or what's happened, but I didn't find nearly as many books of interest as I would usually have! Strange ;)

While I was browsing one of the cashiers suddenly noticed I was holding The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear and called out "Great book!" As I'd already read that one and completely agreed with him, we had a small chat about the book and Walter Moers' other books - including the one I hadn't been able to find there. I 'complained' that they didn't have it, and he went to look it up for me. Turned out it was sold out from most of their stores in London - at least the ones in central London. Upon hearing this I mentioned, "I hate to say this, but they have it at Foyles..." He looked at me, and then with a grin replied, "Go Foyles!" Not often you actually have cashiers tell you to seek out their competition ;)

It didn't end there though, when I later went to pay for the books, another cashier was cashing me out, and when he came to Captain Bluebear, he called out, "Hey, John! Check out what she's buying!" to get the other's attention! Obviously he's not making it a secret that he likes that book ;) Well, it IS excellent! He then had great sympathy for me buying such heavy books, "And you're on a stick too! I hope it's just temporary?" After the indifference of the train manager earlier, it was great with some sympathy, even if I didn't quite know how to answer that question. Ehh... it's permanently temporary? ;)

We'd spent enough time shopping that it was time to meet up with Lars by now. We'd arranged to meet at the HMV by Trocadero and "go nuts".... and we kinda did ;) I don't think we've ever before bought so many DVDs in London... on the other hand we've never before been there while they had a £3 sale! :D

Dinner was had at a very delicious Spanish/Mexican (not too sure which) restaurant by Leicester Square called "Chiquito". Lovely food, excellent service, and while a tad more expensive than TGIFridays, not insanely so, so this may be our standard first-evening-restaurant from now on :)

We were all completely exhausted when we came back to the hotel, so didn't spend much time on games, but just had a quick look-see at the things we'd bought that day. We did laugh when Lars showed us what he'd bought though. "London, Baby!" and "I choose the hat!" had been regular comments while planning the trip (Friends references to those not in the know), and Lars had found the hat! We later agreed that while Lars might have chosen the hat, the hat chose me, and Henni's head was just too small ;)

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