Last month A really long while ago, I was in London. I was excited, because it was my first time to tread British soil beside the times when I was transfering to another flight at Heathrow airport. It's kind of funny that it took me so long to ever get there.
Getting around using public transportation:
Here's the website that will tell you how to get from A to B. You can use the tube or buses within London, but I only used the bus twice. Once from my friend's house to get to Camden Market - I had a nice view sitting on the upper deck - and then to get back to the airport.
That day I didn't have One Day Travel Card, so I used an Oyster Card. It's a card that you can recharge online or at automats. They want to encourage the use of paperless tickets, so if you use an Oyster Card you get cheaper fares.
If you want to travel outside of London with the train you can get an extension for your Oyster Card. There is also something called Oyster Card Travelcard.
I feel like a complete failure and loser for not being able to figure out the real difference between Oyster Card and One Day Travelcard. *sniff* (Screw them, really... I researched it on the internet, but I don't get it and nobody I asked seems to understand it either.) . Anyway, I think if you want information about Oyster Card and Travelcard it seems the Wikipedia page still explains it best. Too bad that I didn't see it before I went on vacation.
I arrived in the afternoon and as my friend doesn't live in London, but in a small village a bit outside - a deadly boring place according to her - I wanted to see a bit of London first before going to her place. The first question was then, where couldI leave my bag? I don't know why I assumed that all tube stations would have lockers, but I learned I was wrong. The lady who sat next to me in the plane told me that they had lockers at Victoria station and she doubted they had them elsewhere. Anyway, if you arrive from Heathrow, Victora Station, a tube and railway station, is probably the next place where you can leave your luggage. They don't have lockers, but they have a service where you can leave your luggage. It costs a shocking 8 pounds. *gulp* It's a 24 hour service, but if you only want to leave your stuff for a couple of hours you still have to pay 8 pounds.
If you walk out of Victoria Station you then have the choice between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. I decided that it was a bit late already and that I would leave Buckingham Palace for another day (that never came...). On my way to Westminster Abbey I noticed that a) a lot of Londoners are dressed in suit and b) they all walk quite fast. Someone I know complains about the Gemütlichkeit of people here, now I know what he means. In general, I find people in London to dress better than here. And a lot of cute guys are running around. :D And a lot of Spanish people. And a lot of the people in suits are foreigners. I've noticed that in other countries like the States and now Great Britain foreigners seem to be better integrated into society and are less confined to low paid jobs. One of my friends, who is British, said that in England people are more open and willing to give you a chance to prove yourself, while in Germany without the right degree you don't get far.
On my way I saw this church. And this house. It looked so old-
fashioned and cute among all the modern buildings.
On the left hand side is a picture of Westminster Abbey. Surprisingly unspectacular to me. Not sure what I was expecting. On the other side of the street is this huge building with a flag on top of the tower. I saw a lot of people who looked touristy to me walk inside and come out. I asked one of the official looking people at the entrance what it was and if you could get a tour. She said it was the House of Parliaments and that there was no guided tour, but that you could still walk inside and have a look at the debates inside. I didn't really have any plans, so I walked inside.
That's the entrance hall inside the House of Parliaments. It's *huge*. Look at the ceiling. I listened to a debate in the House of Commons that was about the dangers of cannabis. A member of the government was arguing that the danger of cannabis was overrated and not more harmful than other legal drugs like alcohol or cigarettes. I noticed that the members of the House of Commons looked like tourists, they all showed up for the vote. At first I was wondering why there were so many tourists as the age range was amazing - really young men and really old women, the grandma type - and also because some of them had the bad dress taste of Robinson Club tourists. Totally not what I expected after I had gotten the impression that half of London was running around in business suits. They also didn't sit down, but were just walking buy. Later one of the guards told me that they were voting in two different rooms. One room was for the "Ayes" and the other one for the "Noes." The noes had it in the end, so I guess, the government guy didn't really convince anybody. The debate in the House of Lords was quite boring, more civilized. The hall here had a richer decoration. The two Houses are also distinguished colorwise. The House of Commons is decorated in green and the House of Lords is mostly red.
First and foremost, I must admit - I was not able to buy any yarn at all! This totally pains me, *booohoooo*. :( The last day, Saturday, came and I had decided that this was going to be the day where I would not oblige myself to be a good tourist, who would visit all these cultural institutions. Instead I wanted to indulge in shopping. I find shopping in general extremely boring, because I usually go shopping when I need something and usually I don't find it. Plus oxygenfree shops, big crowds of people and long lines in front of the changing rooms - soo bad... Anyway, shopping for yarn can be more fun. It's just I first went to Staple-something Market (??) (which I confused with Camden Market). There I managed to meet up with my friend, who came with her boyfriend and who had also arranged to meet with another friend of hers. From there we went to Camden Market. My friend, being Spanish, started speaking Spanish with her Spanish friend and her British boyfriend, knowing some Spanish, but not enough to follow the stream of words that Spanish people produce when they talk, understood only a bit of it. I think he felt a bit frustrated for not being able to join in the conversation. I tried to entertain him a bit, but I think he was also thoroughly bored with the market. It's more a girls thing, I think.
So, after Camden Market we went to this little yarn shop, I knit. It's a nice shop with a lot of Malabrigo and handpainted yarn. Despite the low value of the British pound though, I found the prices for the handpainted stuff to be quite shocking. Even if they had been in Euro, I would have found them expensive. Luckily, handpainted yarn is not a must on my list. Other interesting stuff was yarn from Habu Textiles, like stainless steel yarn, and this blend of merino and possum fur in DK weight - really soft (hm, after reading more about possum fur here, I'm not so sure anymore if I really want to use it. I'm also slightly confused about the use of the term "fur" when you're talking about yarn = just hair, when it's coming from an animal.). I'm just not really the kind of person who buys expensive exotic yarn without having any kind of project in mind. There are questions like, what do you want to knit? How much do you need? Returning leftovers is not easy when you buy the yarn a couple of hundreds kilometeres away from home. And with two guys who were not overly interested in yarn my mind was just not free enough to reach any conclusion... :/ The end of the story is that I didn't buy anything from this shop. By the way, the shop doesn't carry any Rowan. I had assumed that every British yarn shop would carry Rowan yarn.
Afterwards I suggested that we go to a Pub first seeing how bored the guys looked instead of going straight ahead to the John Lewis Department Store on Oxford Street as my friend suggested (I thought after Camden Market and the other yarn shop they needed a break). She was concerned that it would close soon (it was around 6 pm). I said, "Well, that's a big department store, on Oxford Street, and today is Saturday. It's very very unlikely that they will close earlier." Yeah, RIGHT! 7.15 pm we were standing in front of a closed department store and in the window I was able to see balls of Rowan yarn! *sob* (One of my friends later explained to me that the John Lewis Department Store has this social conscience in their business concept included where you treat your staff nicely, meaning nice opening hours, fair salaries, etc. I also read in the newspaper that despite the financial crisis and some minor cuts they had still paid high bonuses to their employees.) And of course, no other department store around Oxford has a haberdashery section... That's how I managed to go to London and come back empty-handed. *sob, sob* I guess, that means I have to go back there again. And there are surely not going to be any bored non-knitters coming with me! :D
On my list of things to do in London was also going to a knitting group. It so happened that, although the three groups I had discovered had irregular meetings, all three of them had a meeting the Thursday I was in town. Serendipity strikes again! :) I decided to check out the Stitch & Bitch group. They seem to be a quite active group that do fun stuff like knit graffiti. On the left hand side is a picture of a knit graffiti I discovered in London. I confused the addresses though and in the end went to another group. They were nice, but less enthusiastic about knitting than my friends from my Sunday group are.
They have a "controlled drinking zone"! :D
Ok, I need to go to bed now, but I really want to finish this post. The short version: British Museum is really nice, lots and lots of culture - go there. Didn't see the Natural History Museum, which I regretted, because I got told that there is a huge dinosaur skeleton in the entry hall - go there. Victora and Albert Museum is also interesting - go there. Nice sections about fashion, jewelry, etc. (I just found out they have a knitting section on their website with patterns!)My guidebook said that the museum would close at 5 pm, I think. That's just the half-truth though. At five certain sections close, but many of the interesting sections, the silver jewelry section, for example, continue to be opened. One more thing about this museum: the gift shop is great. I found it somewhat irresistible.
Guess what that is. It's an antique comic! Click on the picture to see a larger version.
A moai, a stone statue from the Easter Island. He's just awesome. I like big statues.
That one reminds me of one of the ghosts in Chihiros Reise ins Zauberland (Spirited Away)
I like the frescos.
The Stone of Rosetta. With the aid of this stone, it was possible for Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphs. I remember this guy's name so well, because when I was an intern in Egypt, there was a street named after him and in this street there was a shop where you could get really good kushari.
A tapestry in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
View from the south bank of the river Thames.
The Tate Modern Gallery is located here. I find the installation in the Turbine Hall to be really great. I really loved that one. You can join free tours. I joined one that was called vortex and something. I like to get explanations to the pictures, although sometimes afterwards I still don't understand what makes them so great. Sometimes the explanation is as weird as the picture.
I didn't see the big dinosaur skeleton in the Natural History Museum, but I found a really cute smaller one here.
I'd say London is worth a visit - go there! :)