1. Impulse shopping may be a thing of the past! Gasp! Yes, I came back home to the U.S. without buying a single article of clothing in London. This is a first for me. Considering that the dollar is only worth about 55 pence (cents), I had to re-think each purchase! There were a lot of cool items (like this clutch I saw and lurved!) but I didn't think it would be worth it to pay twice the amount. E.g., a skirt I like was about 30 pounds --converted to U.S. dollars, it would come to almost $60. Which is not to say that I wouldn't buy a $60 skirt, it just felt more expensive out there! I did buy some soap from Lush, one of my all-time favorite store. And just a few months ago, Lush opened up a store here in NYC in Herald Square, finally!
2. My friends are politically astute. We were in London right around the advent of the Madrid Train Terrorist bombing, and I must say, my friends Girlie and Trish are quite opinionated and informed about current events. I keep up with current and world events but am not educated enough on topics to have an intelligent opinion on them.
3. Not all European hotel rooms are the size of a matchbox. We had a fabulous room! We stayed at the Norfolk Plaza Hotel via Hotels.com and we lucked out. We got a triple room and they said we had 2 double beds in there. When we got to our room however, we found that we were given a townhouse-style suite. There was a living room area on the first floor, and then you climb up to the second floor where the beds are. So it was like we had our own flat out in London! How posh!
4. My friend Girlie always looks polished and put-together 24/7. I swear, I felt like a schlub next to her the whole time. We were generally sleep-deprived the whole time we were there, and I wore the same pair of jeans almost the whole time. In contrast, she was always dressed fashionably, looking alive despite the lack of sleep, and kept her cool the whole time. Actually, my friend Trish was also calm and collected. I was on the cranky/snappy side since I was traveling during my period and generally don't socialize well when I have less than 6 hours of sleep. (I think I was even bitchy, don't you think girls? If I was, I apologize. It's not you, it's me. =)
5. Clubbing can make you feel old. So we went to Ministry of Sound --one of London's well-known clubs. It's like a pop-culture staple. So we went on Friday night since I knew they were playing hip-hop that night (as opposed to drum-n-bass or garage music, which is the norm for most Brit clubs). So we get there, we get in with no problems (since Girlie put us on the guestlist), and we're like one of the oldest peepz there. There were a slew of university-aged kids and I think even some high school kids. We were one of the handful of folks who seemed to be in their mid/late 20's. Ye gods. But I have to comment on the clothing: I love that the 80's retro look is back and that folks in Britain dress really funky and creatively. People don't match, wear the wrong color shoes, etc, and still look trendy and hip. Girls were rocking some cool dresses, skirts with no regards to their sizes. So there were rolls coming out here and there, but they were confident in every way and actually looked good! Anyway, we had a good time there, but it was bloody crowded and hot, and we left around 2 am. We then took an un-licensed cab to Leicester Square for some more drinking. And guess were we end up: Planet Hollywood of all places. Why? Because there was no cover charge and they were open until 3 am.
6. We love to eat. I'm so happy I have friends who love to eat as much as I do. I know that most of my money went to eating and drinking. We had fish and chips, went to a nice Indian joint, ate at some pubs, and had traditional high tea at Harrods. High tea is a popular tradition in England. Popularized by one of the queens back in the day, tea is usually served beginning at 3 pm with some finger sandwiches, pastries and cakes, and scones with clotted cream (a creamier version of unsalted butter) and jam/marmalade. It was all you can eat at Harrods, and we had an excellent time. Along with us three was 2 of Girlie's high schools friends (one moved to London from the Philippines and is now a nurse there, and the other one moved to Dublin from the Philippines about 4 years ago). We also had some superb hot chocolate at Harrod's Chocolate Bar (a waiter-service drink bar serving only chocolate). Yuuuummmm.
7. Three Days in Not Enough. We flew from JFK to LHR (London Heathrow) on Wednesday night and arrived in London on March 11, at 8-something in the morning. So Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were our 3 full days there. Not enough time to shop, visit the sites, and do fun things. I had wanted to take the girls to my favorite market in Camden Town (clothes, handicrafts, etc.) but we had no time. We went to the Tate Modern on Friday morning, went to shop a bit, and then had tea with friends (see above). Then on Saturday, we took a bus tour of all the major sites which was a whole-day affair. We didn't really have time to go shopping (since the shops close early) and we didn't organize our time well on Thursday since we were so tired. I wish we had more time to do stuff. Period.
8. We were not the only ones who decided to go to London. There were North Americans everywhere we went. I think 1 out of 8 people we walked past by, stood next to, etc, were from America or somewhere in North America. I think a slew of students decided to go to London for spring break or something. And actually, I met up with a friend who was in Paris for the week. She decided to come to London for a couple of days to visit since she was in Paris. We met up on Saturday night and intended to go out and chill. Alas, the bars in London close really early, like 11 or midnight. Only clubs and after-hours places opened later than that. So we got kicked out of a bar at midnight, and ended up going back to our hotel. We didn't go out and we ended up buying some cheapo liquor at a convenience store illegally. After a certain time, you can't buy liqour anymore but the clerk made a deal with us and let us buy some booze on the downlow. So we went back to our hotel room, drank and talked, and watched TV until 1:30 am. Some night. Yeah, it was cool and all, but in retrospect, I wish we had gone somewhere else we haven't been before and had a blast.
9. It is really important to check in the airport early. Due to a train mishap, the Heathrow Express took forever and arrived at 9 am on Sunday. We had been waiting for the train since 8 am to go to the airport as early as possible. The Heathrow Express is a quick 15-minute ride that goes back and forth to the airport without any hassles. But of all the days, there happened to be a problem with the schedule so we didn't get to the airport until nearly 9:30 am. Our flight leaves at 10:55 am. When we checked in, there were no aisle seats available and we couldn't sit together. I ended up sitting next to some big-bellied Irish guy to my left, and a tall Brit boy on my right. Between the two of them, they drank booze and smelled like alcohol for most of the flight. I was so cramped and had no arm space! Argh! Man, if I ever have money in the future, I got 2 words for you: FIRST CLASS. But British Airways' entertainment is cool though --they have individual TV sets with multiple channels with multiple movies. So you can pick and choose the movies you want to see. There were like 12 to choose from! And the food was good too.
10. I don't want to live there anymore. When I was bit younger, I had wanted to live in London. Part of me still does, but now I realize that it's not meant to be. First of all, it's expensive. Secondly, it's not as convenient as NYC. Over there, the underground closes at midnight and afterwards, you got no choice but to take a cab or bus. And heck, even the bars close at 11/12 am! Thirdly, I wouldn't be able to practice there. That, and the novelty does wear off after a while. But my new plan is to send my kids there for boarding school so they can get the Brit accent down pat! Hehehe.... They'll be calling me mum!
All in all, it was a fab trip and I would definetly go again. Next time though, it has to be for a longer time, and I'd like to bring the hubs cuz I missed him.