Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities, Part 2: Sense and Sensibility

     Fun fact: I'm actually reading a book entitled Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. It is very amusing, and also from the same publisher of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I have yet to fish from the library) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Personally, I love these books, but you can never go wrong with the classic Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy love stories.
     The next morning, we promptly ignored the nagging feeling of jet lag and headed out to Borough Market. My dad and other farmer's-market lovers would have cried from happiness. Borough Market is similar to the Farmer's Market, only about 6.5 times bigger. There were so many different booths selling foods, it was like an organic outdoor mall. Free samples were always in surplus, and it was no burden to me to indulge myself. The biggest trends in selling of food were of meat, cheese and pastries, although food ranged from fish to vegetables to chocolate to turkish delight. I made sure to grab some strawberry flavored turkish delight for my vegetarian friend back home, who had recently discovered that Welches' snacks contained gelatin. I also got some other unusual flavors, but I forgot all of them. Irony also set in when I also didn't take a picture of the different types of turkish delight when I took a picture of everything else. The funniest thing to me was the longest queue for coffee I had ever seen.

     This is especially funny to me as a Mormon, because I don't drink coffee. I couldn't see what all the hype was about. Instead my Mom and I quickly honed in on the nearest organic chocolate shop. As much effort as it took, we bought some souvenirs without sampling too much of the chocolate ourselves in order to save room for breakfast. After wandering around for a good half hour with our mouths watering, we walked into the shop next to the coffee shop to eat our actual breakfast. Deciding what to eat was a problem, but eventually we ruled out the ostrich-sized chocolate eggs, and got a spinach and parmesan muffin, a sausage roll, and a hot cross bun. Sadly, the hot cross buns were a little more expensive than the "one-a-penny, two-a-penny" song I played on the violin as a child. The spinach and parmesan muffin was my favorite. I really loved the savory take on a muffin, to me it was more refreshing than having a super-sweet blueberry muffin for breakfast.
     After casually eating breakfast, we hopped on the Tube and headed over to the next market, but this time it came with its own song. I'll give you a hint, it was featured in the Angela Landsbury movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It goes like, "Portobello Road, Portobello Road, Street where the riches of ages are sold. Anything and everything a chap can unload is sold off the barrel at Portobello Road." The actual Portobello Road is much more crowded than the movie depicts it. I felt bad for the people who actually live there (I know, I couldn't believe it). Think of waking up every Thursday and Saturday morning to have a crowd of people just shuffling down your street. It's kind of like home.
     Although I didn't eat much food, there was a lot of walking and shopping to be done. ("Shoes only £5?") I bought a few trinkets, a pair of shoes, and a ring. The shopping was partially farmer's market-type stands and partially little shops. Like the song says, everything was sold from shoes to crepes to jewelry to fruit to old coins to boxing gloves. Every chap from London must have really unloaded everything he had on Portobello Road.
     When we felt like we had seen everything, we crawled our way out of the crowds and tried to find our way towards the nearest Underground. Instead, we ended up taking a double decker bus. They're a lot less tourist-y than the kind in New York City, and a lot faster than the buses in Manhattan. They are also very tall, I almost got vertigo looking out the window.
     Once we got off the bus, my mom and I walked towards the Thames for the annual Cambridge vs. Oxford boat race. When I first planned my trip and saw this event, I knew that we absolutely had to see it! For a pretty famous british landmark, the Thames was pretty tricky to find. We wound our way through a mall, around corners, past tween girls waiting for a concert, and public toilets (which are shockingly sanitary) to get to our spot by London Bridge. I also saw one of the funniest things that day: an egg creme McFlurry from McDonald's. I don't know why I found this so funny, I could only think to say, "Only in London." I only regret not tasting it.

     We arrived just in time to see two long canoes moving faster than I'd ever seen up the Thames, followed by a crew of boats with film crews, police, and medics. I waited until the last film crew member was out of site and the only evidence of the race was the crowd and the lone duck. With a blunt, "Now what?" Mom and I turned our backs, when we noticed something on the television screen inside of the fancy riverside apartment being sold. A pedestrian said, "Is that a man in the water?" and the remaining bystanders crowded around the glass--not in the process of admiring the foyer. There was no conversation to make up for the lack of sound from the news that was seemingly investigating the scene. When it was clear that asking each other in hushed voices, "what just happened?" was not going to bring up new information, we headed back to our hotel. Once given a chance to relax, the hyperextension in my legs was becoming more and more apparent. The long stairs leading to the underground were starting to become my worst enemy.
      Finally we were able to catch a break at our hotel, before we set out again to see Noises Off! at the West End Theatre. I couldn't help mentally preparing myself for the comparison to Broadway. Our arrival at the theatre was a couple hours early, so we meandered around the area until we found a little restaurant on Catherine street (that's me!) called the Marquees. For our meal, Mom and I shared the classic british fish and chips with a berry crumble with custard for dessert. If I had grown up in London instead of New York, this would be the ideal night out for me: eating fish and chips with custard for dessert and going to see a play in the West End Theatre. I could get used to that.
     Needless to say, Noises Off! was hysterical. My mom saw a production of it on Broadway a few years ago, and I vaguely remember seeing a few seconds of the movie version. But the quintessential British version was amazing. I liked the first act better than the second, because you could see all the satire that was going on and see how it was effecting the performance of the play within a play. All the actors were phenomenal and the production was so great. Mom and I were probably laughing the hardest out of the audience, but there's no denying that all of the theatre had a good time.
     We walked out of the theatre, still giddy from laughter, but to my surprise most of the shops were already closed, and only a few lights were lit. I know that New York is known as the city that never sleeps, but why were all the restaurants closed at 10:30 at night? The world seemed a lot darker, and I felt a little homesick. Where were the Time Square lights when I needed them? When we got off the Tube, a Pret-a-Manger was successfully found, where I got a hot chocolate and lemon cheesecake parfait. I had yet to adjust to tea, but the parfait was a good late-night snack.
     Back in our hotel room, worn out from more than a day's worth of walking, I barely wanted to cross the floor to my bed. However, I did and let myself rest in preparation for tomorrow's excitement.

Here's to wearing yourself out and laughing yourself silly,
Yours, Kate