Today would be my fourth day in London and it's definitely been an entirely worthwhile launching point for my first tour through Europe. I've picked up a lot of tips and recommendations from all the people I've met and done most of the main tourist attractions. I better recap before I forget all the things I've done:
Friday/Saturday: Flew first class after missing my flight. Arrived at Heathrow Saturday afternoon local time. Took a 45 minute trip to the Swiss Cottage stop along the Jubilee Line and promptly got lost looking for my hostel. Found said hostel a little while later, dropped off my things, and started wandering. Ended up at a local supermarket, witheld a strong desire to whip out the camera, but was still amazed at everything on the shelves. Right along the road was a small shopping mall. I have a very strong interest on how locals go about their days and what more of a microcosm of local society than markets. Ate Indian, headed back, and passed out.
Sunday: Woke up, had breakfast and met my first of many Aussies. Studied the Underground and made my way to Brick Lane, a popular flea market, and then to the British Museum. I was also lucky enough to be close enough to the Gherkin and Lloyd's Building so I had a great time drooling between the two spots. Was still suffering through jetlag so the British Museum was much too rushed. Found an awesome comic book store on the way home so I had to make the detour. Crashed and then befriended Michael, a French Vietnamese, after waking up. He had just come in from Paris and he was in town to look for a job as a waiter. We ended up going to the Soho district in a quest for Vietnamese restaurants in the Chinatown area and I ordered a bowl of chow fun noodles in beef broth passed off as pho. Oh well. Had a few drinks, played pool with an Italian brother-in-arms comp sci student, Marco, and met Constantine, a super-energetic and jovial German, and Talib, a San Franciscoan studying in Amsterdam.
Monday: Breakfast and befriended another Aussie, David, who was 4.5 months into his 6 month vacation. Lucky bastard. Got plenty of travel advice and we ended up heading out to Tate Modern to meet up with his friends he met while touring Asia. Walked along the River Thames, spotted the Globe Theatre, the Millenium Bridge, and then Tate Modern itself. We went in, went out for lunch, then I met Patti and Ben. Had tea at a cafe overlooking the London skyline, rode the London Eye, and walked past Parliament and Big Ben. I parted ways with them and headed back to the hostel while they went to watch Spamalot. Met up with Michael again and he had a good lead on a job at another Vietnamese restaurant. We headed northwest to a rather dodgy part of town, but ended up at a great dining spot. The food was amazing and I was seriously surprised. I had no idea there were even Vietnamese people in London. There was, however, a slight glitch with Michael's opportunity, but we were told to go to a sister restaurant a few blocks away. We sat down and talked with the restaurant owner who ended up giving Michael a shot at a waitering gig and even offered him a place to crash until he could find a place of his own. Showered, passed out.
Tuesday: Checkout day. Had breakfast, packed up my things, said goodbye and good luck to Michael, and headed to the station where I met Jin, a Chinese girl from Beijing who had finished studying international business in Scotland, published romance novels, and had just come from Palmer's Lodge. We ended up spending a majority of the day together and had a lot of fun walking around since she was much more familiar with town than I. First stop, though, was my second hostel, Ace Hotel. Got lost on the way, found it, dropped off my things, and headed out. Took a gander at St. Paul's Cathedral, walked the Millenium Bridge, took my second trip through Tate Modern, bought a kickass messenger bag, ate the best tuna and cheddar sandwich ever at Eat., toured through the Tower of London, walked across the Tower Bridge, posed in front of Platform 9 3/4, went inside the British Library, got locked out of the Underground, and walked a disgusting amount to the next-nearest tube station. We parted ways as she went to see a classical music concert and I headed back to my hostel. Met a Spanish girl named Joanna, had dinner, and you guessed it: passed out.
Today will be my last day in London, and I've pretty much done all I can do for now since I've run into a slight complication with my flight out to Brussels. More to that in a bit. Today, I had a failed venture to find Wimbledon before going to the Design Museum. I checked out some awesome pieces of architecture done by Zaha Adid (http://www.designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2007/zahahadid) and there was also an exhibit here of anti-consumerism and design with a greater purpose other than catering to big business. After that, what did I do but end up in a shopping quarter. One of the stores I really, really loved was Muji, an English/Japanese design company (http://www.muji.eu/index.asp).
Anyway, I booked my flight to Brussels for 6:10 AM to save about fifty bucks, I also found out that I should be leaving for the airport at around 2:00 AM to catch the train. Problem is, the underground closes at 12:30 AM and I have to somehow learn the bus system. So what I'm going to do instead is go grab some dinner, pass out, check out at around 11:30 AM, take the tube and train to the airport and bum it until I'm on the other side of the English Channel. In the worst case, Ryanair will create a first class and thereafter upgrade me if I miss my flight.