London, Day 5 – Chinatown, West End Walking, Pub Dinner

October 10, 2012 (Wednesday) – on this day we woke up craving some HK-style breakfast, so I fired up the laptop and did some searches to see what was good. There were a couple of places in London Chinatown with decent reviews; after figuring out how to get there, we walked over to King’s Cross to take the Piccadilly line to Leicester Square.

As this was effectively our first real day as tourists in London, I was pretty excited about everything, making sure to take in as much as I could. I picked up a free Metro newspaper and flipped through it on the Tube, all the while observing my fellow passengers. I noticed some people using Kindle devices, some reading real books. On that first day I didn’t think it, but now I can safely say that nowhere have I seen more Kindles in use at the same time than on the London Tube.

It was only a few stops so we quickly arrived at Leicester Square station. It was around 11 AM and really crowded, and when we got back up to street level I noticed some people lining up, perhaps for a midday show or something. Maybe that’s why it was so crowded. We made our way up Charing Cross Road and quickly found the restaurant.

I don’t know why I didn’t check earlier, but the restaurant was closed until noon and the few right next to it were the same. No matter, we figured we’d use up the time walking around Chinatown and Leicester Square, and maybe find an alternative place to eat. We walked through the entire Chinatown and found that most of the restaurants there didn’t open until 12:00. I guess there aren’t many people getting early-morning congee in London Chinatown.

After the meal, we walked all the way back to the hotel, along Charing Cross Road, through to Tottenham Court Road, and then back on Euston Road. It was a super long walk, but it was also a great way to see London. Along the way, we stopped at Heal’s to use the bathroom, and bought a Tesco Mobile top-up voucher from Tesco (yes, I was obsessed with Tesco Mobile). Heal’s was really nice; I browsed and fantasized about buying and owning their furniture while waiting for JC to come out from the bathroom. On Euston Road, we passed by the Wellcome Collection.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the hotel room recovering from the walk and playing with my new SIM card, setting it up to work with my phone. It was great having mobile internet again!

The highlight of the day had to be the pub dinner. Believe it or not, I’d never been to a pub before, so even the ordering process was new and interesting to me: go up to the front, order your food and drinks, pay, and then bring the number sign (and your drinks) back to your table. The food was brought to you when ready. Dang! Who would’ve thought?

(Another thing that we learned at the pub: a “jacket” is a baked potato.)

The Ultimate Mixed Grill
The Ultimate Mixed Grill

I decided to go all out with the Ultimate Mixed Grill, which included BBQ pork ribs, Cumberland sausage, rump steak, gammon steak, chicken fillet, 2 fried eggs, and beer battered onion rings. Washed it all down with a pint of Staropramen, recommended by the barman. JC had a leek and potato soup, a slice of steak and ale pie, and of course, a cup of tea, with milk. What a meal!

It was still a bit early after the meal so we headed to a bus stop to do one of our famous “get on the first bus that comes” tours. As luck would have it, tonight we got the 59 to Streatham Hill, Telford Avenue. It was a nice ride at first (we saw Big Ben for the first time!) but it turned out that this was a commuter bus heading back to the suburbs, so the second half of the ride was just views of dark, residential neighborhoods. I did get a kick out of the computerized announcer announcing the name of the line after every stop, though. When the bus got to Brixton Station, we got off and stopped by Sainsbury’s before taking the Victoria line back to the hotel.

We finished off the night with another round of drinks from the hotel bar. Having chatted with the bartender the night before, I knew that it was his last night at work before going to Scotland on holiday. Actually, I had thought about going to Scotland as well, but at that point I was starting to feel unsure. I kind of had an “OK, you’ve had enough, you’ve spent a lot of money, maybe it’s time to go back to the States” feeling. We were also starting to feel some travel fatigue (notice the lack of photos in this post due to my not wanting to lug my camera around). It is possible that talking with the bartender was the impetus I needed to push forward and seize the opportunity that was just a few hundred miles away. If so, the hotel-priced whisky I drank over those two nights was worth every penny.

Next: London, Day 6 – Aquarium