On me Jack Jones around London
Drifting elegantly across fields of picturesque French countryside, the Eurostar headed swiftly towards the entrance of the Eurotunnel. The approaching darkness signified our arrival, yet unexpectedly the train came to a sudden halt. The cabin speaker crackled to life, informing us of a minimum two hour delay due to problems in the tunnel. Sighs of frustration filled the air as disgruntled passengers questioned its cause. It was definitely time for a coffee, I thought, as I made my way down to the refreshments area. It wasn’t very refreshing to find out – after paying for my coffee – that the staff had made some free of charge as a way of compensation – damn their slowness! On the upside I did get talking to my seated Japanese neighbour who taught me how to write my name is not only Japanese, but Chinese too! I loved her encouraging “Yeees” after I completed each symbol – I was very proud of myself at the end. Fortunately the delay didn’t last as long as expected, and no sooner than later had we passed through the tunnel, were we arriving at the beautiful Victorian station of St Pancras – I was back on home soil.
As I left the station I realised once again that I had failed to write down directions to my hostel – why do I always do this? I withdrew British currency for the first time in fourteen months – everything was like new again! It also felt great to speak English knowing everyone would understand me – well I suppose it depends how hard I pushed my scouse accent. I felt confident using the underground thanks to my time spent in Barcelona and Paris so I soon arrived at High Street Kensington where I walked to the YHA Holland Park – my place for the next five nights. The hostel was not what I expected to be honest; the pictures on the website were a bit deceiving; but for fifteen pound a night I wasn’t complaining. I’m laughing now as I think back to the highlights of the hostel. The two drunk, old men in my room when I first checked in – I quickly changed rooms; the shock when I saw three wooden boxes stacked on top of each other which turned out to be our beds; the old guy playing violin in the laundry room below at eight thirty in the morning, who got mad at me when I told him to stop; and the Italian guy who collapsed into somebody else’s bed early morning who was eventually taken away by paramedics – I got a free breakfast out of that! If you’re bored of life, go stay in a hostel for a few nights, things will soon change.
The first thing I noticed about London was how many Spanish people there were – it was really strange having spent seven months in Spain not so long ago. The second thing was how nobody gives a shit about what you dress like – no wonder it’s the fashion capital of the world, as it gives people the chance to express themselves freely without judgement. The third thing I noticed was how horrifically expensive public transport was; even with the stupid Oyster card it still burns a whole in your pocket. I didn’t manage to find a good Starbucks; When I say “good” I mean a place with style which isn’t packed full of caffeine fuelled kids spending their pocket money. The one I visited in Paris was beautiful, and the décor was in another league compared to the ones I seen in London – someone help me find a good one in London!
Did I party in London? Obviously! I don’t visit London often so I wasn’t passing up the opportunity to visit Fabric – well known for it’s huge drum and bass nights, attracting world-class DJs from all over the world. I turned up armed with a bottle of vodka and coke; my blacked out wayfarer shades; and a pair of healthy legs; what more do you need? I danced the night away in my usual style; I think I was the only person not on drugs that night. After attending many different types of electronic music events throughout my years, I’ve realised that after dancing for such a long time – I’m talking six hours or more – the music becomes kind of a like an electronic blur where fatigue starts rising it’s ugly head, you know then, it’s time to go home. It was six in the morning when this happened; my home was a wooden box in a hostel; and I had a long ten minute walk in freezing cold conditions to get there – all of these contributed to it being mentally logged as an epic night.
I spent one morning strolling around Camden Town market; I think I did three laps around the food stalls in a state of indecisiveness. I will totally admit to thoroughly abusing the free tasters, if I had a fake moustache I would have went back for more, but I finally had to settle for the lamb curry. Apparently if you go back at the end of the day they cut the prices – would you believe it, yet another Backpackers Tip! What would you do without me eh? I even managed to use some of my haggling skills which I mastered in Morocco to cut twenty eight pound from the purchase of two hippy style wool hoodies – I’m going for the laid back look now, or more accurately, the I’ve let myself go because I’m a backpacker look.
Harrods! How cool is Harrods! Harrods gave me the opportunity to see the rich and wealthy buy things they didn’t really need. I enjoyed trying on Ray Ban glasses I weren’t going to buy; sitting on couches I weren’t going to buy; and generally looking at things I weren’t going to buy. Harrods are too posh to have rubbish bins to I decided to leave my empty drink carton on a display case with an expensive piece of art – that’ll teach them! Credit where credit’s due, the Christmas lights were nice to look at outside – probably the best decorated shop in London. I remember leaving Harrods very hungry; I just weren’t paying a hundred pound for a piece of toast, even if it was sliced from a twenty seed loaf – Mr Warbuton’s got a long way to go to reach that standard!
Clutching my stomach I entered Wagamami which was conveniently located just down the street. It was here where I struck up a conversation with a young – she’ll like me for that comment – woman from Atlanta in the U.S of A. We sat for about an hour talking before I even ordered food, then nearly left without paying, we were so caught up in conversation. Winter wonderland was in full swing at Hyde Park so we went for a visit to soak up the evening buzz. It’s funny because I just can’t imagine doing that with an English person – meeting randomly in a restaurant and hanging out for the evening. She was more than double my age, and had this kinda old hippy vibe going on – she was cool. After about an hour we said our goodbyes, and I continued with my directionless journey into the night.
A stroll down the busy circus of Piccadilly, and a flyer in the hand later, I was sitting in a small room above a pub laughing at some people tell jokes, otherwise known as The Soho Comedy Club. I have started getting into comedy recently, so decided to discover some of London’s talent. It was a night for professional comedians on the circuit to test some of their new material – this made it even funnier as they came on stage with a list of all the jokes and crossed the ones out which didn’t work, in a comical way of course. It’s funny how things inspire you; I came out of the show with more of an interest in comedy, and have even started writing some of my own jokes based around funny things that seem to happen to me on a regular basis.
I’ve just realised I haven’t actually told you anything touristy about London; well I did visit all the sights; the view from Waterloo Bridge at night is absolutely stunning, and definitely one of the best views of London. Coming straight from Paris, it was great to see the contrast between the two great cities – especially architecturally. I spent a lot of time traversing the roads interconnecting Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, and Convent Garden; people watching; and browsing through specialist shops like the MnM store – which smells of chocolate! My favourite touristy sight in London was the Tower of London; it really is a spectacular building with some fascinating history which I loved reading about… in the gift shop!
Being in London had been great, not only did it give me a chance to see the capital of my country I somehow hadn’t got around to seeing properly, but it gave me a chance to meet up with my old friend Natalie from New Zealand who was staying in London – a win win scenario basically. The next stop on my journey was a three night stay in Liverpool where home will be just a stones throw away – nearly there guys!
See you all real soon, Jonathan x
Backpackers Tips and Advice
Buy an Oyster card before you start using the tube (£5) – it will save you a lot of money on public transport.
YHA Holland Park was very cheap on the weekend, don’t forget your earplugs as it attracts groups of school kids on outings. Buy a YHA membership as it’s very cheap; will save you money; and can even be used on the existing booking.
Use National Express online to buy cheap tickets to places all around the UK.
Camden Lock food markets start giving food away for very cheap nearing the end of the day.