London, Day 9 – Too Smart for the Lift

October 14, 2012 – Sunday

Having booked passage to New York City the day before, the first order of business on this day was to go to Foyles to buy a Lonely Planet guidebook. We had the Tokyo one when we were there and it was indispensable. Since I knew nothing about New York other than the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, I definitely needed it. A quick check of the Foyles website showed that it was in stock.

By this time we were veterans of Charing Cross Road so we made our way over there quickly and easily. Because we had a late start and hadn’t eaten yet, we didn’t stay to look at the famous bookstore. We bought the book and then went to look for a place to eat.

Previously, we had walked by a place just down the street that looked like a casino to me. I think I saw a gaming machine out in the front, but maybe I was mistaken because it was actually a pub, and because today was a Sunday, there was a sign out front advertising some tasty-looking meals. We decided to give this casino-looking pub a try.

Sunday Club Sauces
Sauce festival

The roasted items on the left side of the menu above sound pretty good, don’t they? The actual product varied just a little bit. I’ll just say that I enjoyed being at the pub and being with JC.

After lunch, I wanted to go check out M&S for their food deals. I had seen an ad in the paper where you could get a complete dinner for two with wine for £10 and was curious. The deal must have been too good, however, because once we got there most of the selections were sold out, and the ones that were available required heating in the oven. I was hoping that they would have some preheated options, but I suppose it was a moot point at that juncture. Still, if I ever live in London (or maybe stay at a place with an oven), I’d love to try out one of these deals.

As it was with Waterloo station, the trip wasn’t a total loss. The M&S was on Long Acre (near Covent Garden), along with a bunch of clothing stores like H&M, Gap, etc. Having frozen our butts off the night before, we went in search of some warmer clothing and found some touchscreen compatible gloves and a wool sweater at Muji. Nice. Now, we could be warm while using our smartphones at the same time!

We were a bit tired now so it was time to head back. Covent Garden Tube station was just across the street, so we went over there to take the Tube home. When we went inside, there were long lines waiting to get into the lifts (elevators). I scratched my head a little bit and scoffed at all the lazy people not wanting to take the stairs. “We’ll be smart and take the stairs and be faster than everyone else”, I thought. We headed down the spiral staircase and saw some people coming up in the other direction. They all had peculiar expressions on their face. As we walked, continuing to expect to see the platform soon but still not, I realized why the people looked the way they did. They had been walking up the stairs that we started walking down many minutes ago.

As we got closer to the bottom, I tried not to say anything to the people who had just started the climb. I mean, what can you do? Tell them to go back down? I had no idea how much more to go there was. It was like a no-man’s land, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Finally, when we got to the bottom, we saw signs warning people not to take the stairs. Dang. Were there signs at the top warning people not to go down the stairs? I didn’t see any, but even if I did, I probably would have been too smart to heed them anyway. Sigh, the burdens of possessing a superior intellect.

Sunset in London
Sunset from our room

We took a quick rest at the hotel before taking the 205 to the City. From there, we walked over to the Tower of London and crossed Tower Bridge. We bought some hot candied peanuts from a street vendor. We walked along the southern bank of the Thames (and saw a guy below digging for artifacts) before crossing back to the other side via London Bridge. I was really glad that I had bought the sweater and gloves earlier in the day.

Tower of London and Tower Bridge
Tower of London and Tower Bridge

Now, we were smack in the middle of the City. We kept walking and reached the Monument to the Great Fire of London. It just boggles my mind that there are so many old things in London, that so many events have occurred and have been recorded there. For me, everything stops once I trace back to my grandparents. I have no proud heritage that goes back hundreds or thousands of years. Maybe that’s why I want to write all this shit down, so that there will be a record for my descendants (if I ever decide to have any).

From Monument, we entered the Tube station and walked over to Bank so we could take the Central line. You gotta love the British for their one-word place names. Monument. Bank. Embankment. Central. Admiralty. My favorite one is Bank. Imagine someone asking, “Where are you?”, and another responding (grunting) “Bank”. There’s a caveman-simple efficiency to it.

Once we got on the Tube I continued looking at my guidebook, and something didn’t seem right. We were trying to get to the Pho Mile, but were heading in the opposite direction. There was no wireless data in the Tube and I couldn’t go online to check. We got off at Chancery Lane and checked Google Maps and found out that we could have taken the 242 from Bank. Fortunately, there was a 242 stop right where we were, and soon we were on the bus on our way to Shoreditch.

We got off at Kingsland Road, home of the Pho Mile, and had a so-so meal at one of the Vietnamese restaurants there. Although the place was recommended by the guidebook, it wasn’t a type of place that JC and I enjoy; we like down-to-earth, genuine, authentic food. This place was more of a hipster, pretentious, go-there-to-look-cool-food-is-secondary type place. After so many times of being disappointed with Vietnamese restaurants outside of the Bay Area, you’d think we’d learned our lesson.

After we finished our meal, we walked the rest of the Pho Mile and saw some restaurants that did look authentic, and lamented why we didn’t do the rounds before going to the place in the book. Well, it was almost 10:00 PM and we were pretty hungry, plus we wouldn’t have known unless we had tried it, anyway. So, it wasn’t too bad. We walked back the way we came, then decided to keep on walking instead of taking the bus. We walked through an area behind Old Street (possibly Hoxton) that had some bars and pubs, and then through a residential area, eventually making it all the way down to the Old Street Roundabout (via Brunswick Place and East Road). There, we took the 205 back the way we came, ending the night with a nice, quiet whisky in our room.

Next: London, Day 10 – Transport Museum