Well the last few days have certainly been eventful- It turns out the area we were staying in, Brick Lane, has a lot of cool restaurants and a colorful nightlife. Unfortunately, that isn’t great news when the broken and taped window in our AirBnB didn’t do much to stop noise from people and cars out on the street. As dead tired as we were from the flight, neither of us were able to get a decent night of sleep and come morning cancelled the rest of our stay and booked a hotel… which we had about an hour to move to due to some confusion regarding AirBnB’s cancellation policy. After a brief bout of repacking chaos and a few attempts at hailing an Uber, we made it to the hotel and got checked in. The new place is pretty fantastic- its a CitizenM hotel (which neither of us had ever heard of before) right next to the Tower of London (which, despite the plans outlined in my previous post, we haven’t visited yet). Even though the room is no wider than the bed (literally, the bed has walls on three sides) it’s really nice and a huge step up from the AirBnB- but we’re still hoping to find a flat soon.
The Search Continues
I’m pleased to report that letting agents are actually returning my calls now- which probably has something to do with the fact that I finally have a UK number. Unfortunately, what they’re usually calling to say is either “Sorry, it’s no longer available” or “You could move in on 1 November,” neither of which is a particularly desirable answer. We have managed to schedule a few viewings, so *fingers crossed* that we find something soon. Engineers to the end, we’ve created a spreadsheet to track our apartment search data. One benefit of the process is that it’s brought us to a ton of different areas across London- we’ve been south of the Thames, all around Sara’s school in East London, and back and forth across Central London. All thanks, of course, to the Tube, which it turns out is way better than any subway system I’ve ridden in the US. I think I’ve already ridden the Underground more than I rode the T back in Boston, and I’ve only been here for five days. The trains are fast and there’s a good deal of station overlap between lines, so it’s easy to navigate and there are often multiple easy ways to get from Point A to Point B.
Speaking of Point B- there have been plenty. According to our watches, we’ve be averaging 15k-18k steps and 7-10 miles per day. You’d think that after that many steps we would have figured out which side of the walkway to be on, or which way to look while crossing the road but alas, no- it’s pretty obvious who the Silly Americans are. The confused and hushed conversations about how tipping works that have become the cornerstone of every meal we’ve shared would also be a dead giveaway to the casual eavesdropper. Perhaps the biggest giveaway, though, would be the location history data that Google Maps logs. We’ve done our best to hit all the tourist landmarks- Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, The British Library, King’s Cross Station (which would be normal, if we hadn’t visited for a photo at Platform 9 3/4), the list goes on.
The visit to Buckingham Palace was actually useful on two fronts- we got to see the Changing of the Guard, and also got a lead on some new apartments. It turns out you can be the Queen’s neighbor for only £8M. It was a difficult decision but we decided we had to pass on the opportunity as I am allergic to corgis. The Changing of the Guard was still well worth the trip- lots of marching and music was involved. There were also some very nice police officers (and their horses!) around to manage the crowds and look out for pickpockets, and we noticed that they had vests emblazoned with “Police Community Support Officer” and that they weren’t carrying firearms. Which makes sense, because there’s no reason an officer who is helping to direct a crowd of people needs to carry a weapon (imagine that- an instance in which not every officer needs to be armed). Of course, there were also some armed officers within the palace gates along with the Queen’s Guard.
The British Museum
Holy shit. We spent hours here and saw maybe 1/6 of the first floor. So. Much. Stuff.
We’ll have to see the rest spread over a few more visits, but it was pretty thrilling to see the Rosetta Stone, a bunch of mummies, and all sorts of incredible artifacts that were “relocated” from their places of origin over the years.
The British Library
This was another one in in which we were just blown away by the eclectic collection of history contained in a single room. Namely, some handwritten Beatles songs (as in, handwritten by the Beatles), some original Mozart compositions, a bible from the fifth century, and the freaking Magna Carta.
Kings Cross Station
Until Next Time…
I was about to wrap up but was reminded of a nice embarrassing interaction I had earlier today. I went out to a chippery (fish & chips restaurant) during the lunch break at my Jeweller’s school (more about that in a future post-this one’s already rather long), ate my fried haddock and chips, went to pay, and was greeted with everybody’s favorite phrase “Cash Only.” Well, shit. Sara had all of our legal tender, and the ATM around the corner wouldn’t take my card. They were kind enough to believe me when I said I would come back to pay them later, and I thought about leaving some American money that I still had on me as collateral but decided against it- I may as well have been leaving Monopoly Money (do they play Monopoly here? It’s such an American game…). Anyway Sara met up with me after class to bring some cash and for the first time it was abundantly clear that I should leave a tip.