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Monday, September 17, 2007

Weekend recap -- and a visitor!

Coming soon…pictures with actual people in them!! But first, the news…

This weekend, my friend Christy-Anne came over from Charlotte. She arrived on Friday and found her way to my flat, then met up with her friend Adam that afternoon. He just moved over here to work for a big law firm. My team had a happy hour after work, so I met Christy-Ann and Adam for dinner in Soho at an Indian place. You may know that I pride myself on eating almost anything, but spicy food has been my biggest obstacle…yikes…this was some spicy stuff, but they brought some kind of yogurt sauce to cool it down.

See, now you're missing those food pictures, aren't you?

Afterwards, we went to a club called Floridita…a bit random – go to London to hang out in a Miami/Havana knock-off -- , but one of the event planners here at the office was able to get us on “the list,” so we didn’t have to wait in line or pay. However, after one $14 cocktail, considering the fact that the guy/girl ratio was a little skewed (guess groups of dudes don’t really think “let’s go salsa dancing” sounds like a fun boys’ night out…), “we” (“we” being “me”) called it a night. (Though we did stay a good hour and had some fun watching a few older guys and their sweet young things!) I’d had a long week at work, and I was just worn out! Plus, it is just very logistical to go “out” because I’m in the very east end of the city. The Underground stops running at 12:30, and you don’t want to be walking around by yourself because it’s kind of a wasteland around my building at night…and a cab even the short distance home from the train station is $10.

Soho is full of interesting people-watching, that’s for sure! (I am trying not to use the phrase "freak parade," oops, there I went...we're talking the 80s punk rocker types...I also saw the skinniest pair of legs I've ever seen on a grown-up.)

Saturday we headed to the Tower of London, and I had forgotten how very interesting it is. You really get a sense of the incredible history that this country has, especially with the monarchy. We really had a good time at the Tower for several hours…in part because the weather was GORGEOUS. (Let me point out that I have yet to see rain here, though I think my good luck will come to an end this week.) Then we walked across Tower Bridge and along the southern bank of the Thames, which was chock-full of people because of a Saturday festival. By then, it was about 3 p.m., and we hadn’t eaten lunch, so we were starting to get a little fed up with the crowd. But, once we made it to our destination, the restaurant at the Tate Modern, we were thrilled. The venue is really stunning because it’s a wall of windows looking out from the 7th floor over the river – St. Paul’s across the way, etc. We had a fantastic late lunch of cheese and crackers, chicken sandwiches, etc., and I had an enormous piece of flourless chocolate cake. We walked around the galleries at the Tate Modern for a while. Although some modern art is sort of laughable or easy to dismiss, I also think it’s just much more intriguing and interesting than a lot of the classic stuff.

We tried to get tickets to a play at the Globe Theater, the recreation of the original Shakespearean stage, but they were sold out for Saturday, so we booked for Love’s Labours Lost on Sunday evening. Then we just walked around the festival for a while. We got a great table at a restaurant and shared a bottle of wine with some snacks while watching the people and just enjoying the lights of the buildings along the river. Then we (er, I) again called it a night. I’m sorry, but it was 9 o’clock, and we’d been walking around since mid-morning. Am I turning into an old lady or what?

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early for the 10:15 service at St. Paul’s, followed by brunch at Pauls bakery next door. The service was interesting; probably the best part was watching the little choir boys file in wearing their collars. Most of the service was music, with a short homily. It was pretty amazing just to sit and look around the cathedral. Brunch was probably the best thing I’ve eaten in ages…I had a fabulous latte with a leek quiche and a pistachio macaroon, and Christie-Ann had a tuna salad baguette with a “pain chocolat” (that would be a pastry, not a medical condition, for you non-French speakers). As we ate, the bells were tolling like crazy, and it was just really pleasant.

From there, we walked to the Monument, which was closed for renovations (it commemorates the great fire of 1666, I believe), so we couldn’t climb up it. (Will be closed until 2008, just so you know.) We took the tube over to the Liverpool Street station and walked around Spitalfields Market for several hours. Again, the exchange rate HURTS! There are few good deals to be found…though I did get yet another multi-colored scarf, since I find them both practical and fashionable. Spitalfields is very cool, and I would recommend it; it was a nice way to pass the Sunday. There were lots of stalls with cool purses, coats, tops, dresses, etc. I restrained myself, although I am quite tempted by a certain black and white houndstooth coat with a wide patent belt, which would look just smashing and oh-so-London when I am back home.

We were due at the Savoy Hotel at 4:30 p.m. for tea, but we ran into a snag when some train lines were delayed indefinitely. I was quite proud that my ace navigational skills identified an alternate route and we arrived on time! Tea was OK, but not exactly worth the price, which turned out to be $70…hard to eat $70 worth of cucumber sandwiches and pastries! Nevertheless, it was an experience, and I’m glad we did it…they had a pianist, and it was fun to do something a bit prissy for a few hours.

From there, we hustled over to the Globe at 6:30 for Shakespeare, which was quite good…they have recreated the original theater, so they sell 5-pound tickets for “groundlings,” which means you stand the whole time. So, we’d decided that after walking around all day, we’d probably be glad to spring for the 30-pound decent seats, and we were! The theater is open to the elements, and it got a bit breezy once the sun went down. Overall, it was a pretty good story, but it’s one of the comedies, with lots of sexual puns, and at the point when a man in a donkey costume mooned the audience, I felt as if I were in an Elizabethan version of a Will Ferrell movie…

After that, we ended up eating at one of the most bizarre “fast casual” places I’ve ever experienced. It’s called Nando’s, and the menu literally came with instructions for Nando’s first-timers. My induction to spicy food continues.

Anyway, time to return to the working world…Christy-Ann and I will go out to dinner one more time before she leaves early tomorrow morning. She is out by herself today doing Harrods, etc.

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