There is something about entering a new country, no matter whether I’ve been there before or not…for
me it’s not truly real until after I’ve cleared customs, and headed outside to breathe my first breath of foreign air.
Again, we’ve managed to do almost no planning for this trip..we booked our apartment on airbnb right before we got on the plane in Dallas nine hours before we land in London. As we step off the tube into what will be our neighborhood for the next week, I finally get that breath of air. (I’m not counting the underground…because I haven’t been outside!) and then, closely flowing that first breath, the rain. Thankfully we’ve planned for rain…it is London, and it’s winter! Raincoats on, and as we walk to the apartment we pop into a store to buy cheap umbrellas. We have an airbnb apartment in the Kilborn area. Which coincidentally is where the creator of one of my favorite characters: Winnie the Pooh, A.A.Miline, lived for a while. Our neighborhood is filled with small restaurants, theaters and shops, it feels perfectly safe, but it has an undertone that it hasn’t always been that way. After dropping our bags we head back out, stopping to grab lunch at a little diner. For five pounds we get huge plates of rice and lamb, with a giant salad to split…I try my best but can’t come close to eating it all…and the lamb is delicious. It’s early so we’re the only ones in there, something that we never see again…every other time we walk by this shop is full, to the brim. (Lucked out on that one!)
We take the tube to Covent Garden where we have some time before we have to meet our walking tour. We wonder around the market, listening to some musicians, and exploring the areas around. Then the jackpot! Some of the original gas lights, still lit, in a churchyard!! Unfortunately we didn’t see the lamp-lighters, but I was so happy to have seen some of the lamps!!
We head over to meet up with our free walking tour. Not going to lie: I wasn’t overly impressed. They sounded like they really didn’t want to do the tour to begin with, and kept telling us we could wait until tomorrow when there wasn’t going to be as much rain. I had done this tour years ago, and they’ve drastically changed it…we stopped at maybe a third of the places, and our guide left out a lot of information that I’d gotten last time.I spent much of the tour filling in information from what I vaguely rendered from six years ago. They seem to only push their pub crawls and paid tours now, where as before it was a wonderfully long and informative tour.
Once we’d finished I pulled out my phone and started the Rick Steves tour. (He’s one of my hero’s, and his advice has never steered me wrong. My friends joking ask what Rick says, because I talk about him so much.) After finishing most of his tour we were exhausted (6hours of walking tours will do that!) and starving! We decided to stop at one of the pubs he mentioned, Where famous people like Dickens regularly frequented. This old building is a warren of rooms, three floors, and multiple bars, with low ceilings. Thank god I’m short! I manage to walk around unscathed however many others pay the price of being tall.
Fun fact: in Britain it is considered odd to sit at a bar. Instead you walk up, order, and then take your drinks/food back to your table. This also means that all those tables in the bar? You won’t get service until you walk up to the bar and order…slightly different than what we’re used to here in the states! The food here was so-so, but the atmosphere and the beer more than made up for it! If I had to draw a picture of what I thought an English pub would be, this would be it. After a few beers we tottered home, exhausted and thoroughly done in by our day (and the beer..that may have had something to do with it!)