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December 3, 2008

London calling!

This was the airport over Thanksgiving weekend:

london-lax.jpg

That's the International terminal of LAX with nobody and I mean NOBODY in line, no one jostling through baggage screening, no one at all. I had to take a picture because HOLY RECESSION BATMAN!

Then I took a picture of my baggage because I am most amazed at myself for being able to actually go anywhere for more than six hours without needing a sherpa. Usually I pack a huge suitcase and need to pay for a camel and a guide. That's my teensy carryon, my coat, and my shoulder bag with my little grey pillow inside its little grey case. I like those neck pillow thingies, I know inflatable ones are easier to carry but I like my smooshy one.

london-luggage.jpg

So I conquered a tiny piece of Europe in a wee few days with my magical carry-on. And I used most of the luggage space for my handknit wool scarf that I have never once worn because newsflash -- I live in Los Angeles -- but I was willing to forgo three extra cute tops for one hulking scarf of my own making. More on that later.

In my carryon shoulder bag I usually pack a book, my notebook for scribbling, ipod and headphones, camera, and a smaller traveling purse tucked inside the middle part that holds all my normal purse stuff and money and passport. In another compartment I have my stupid 3-ounce liquids in the stupid magic ziploc of defense, and I leave some room in the bag so later I can buy some bottled water and I usually bring at least one little snack, this time it was an energy bar. You've already seen the pillow bag which in addition to my mini-pillow also holds an eyeshade, earplugs and little ziploc with these soft slippers that fold up very small. I found them at Target for $2 on clearance and I always taken them on the plane so I don't have to sully my socks. When I get home I can just throw them in the wash. I hate walking into the airplane bathroom in my socks. EEEEWWWW.

I am not a low-maintenance gal, I suspect.

But truly I love airplanes, which makes me probably certifiably insane. I love them. I love traveling, I love going to the airport. I've always been this way and maybe it's because I grew up in a town so small we were outnumbered by chickens and I never thought I would end up being a girl who has seen anything and so every time I get on an airplane I still feel like it's a little magic. My parents think I am silly and remind me they took me to California and Mexico when I was a teenager and that I am not from a barn but you know, I guess I always felt smalltown. Truth is I am smalltown, even in Los Angeles, because it's just a part of me. Maybe that's why traveling never gets old.

And so I arrived at Heathrow and went to use the facilities which is why my very first official picture in London was this:

london-chewable.jpg

Pictures in airport bathrooms. God I am classy. Also, in America we call these "mints" but in British they say "chewable toothbrush" apparently.

Here is my hotel room:

london-hotel.jpg

Small but cute and clean, and I got a GREAT deal by using this website, LateRooms.com. I had never used the service before but now I can recommend it, at least for me it worked out perfectly.

This is the loo but it looks just like a bathroom to me....
london-loo.jpg

Note to self. Turtleneck not flattering. But warm!

It was VERY COLD in this London place, which I thought I would like what with my already perfectly insulated body but even with a T-shirt, turtleneck sweater, gloves, coat and fabooscarf it was COLD! I was so happy to wear my enormous scarf that I didn't even care my nose was freezing off my face:

london-me.jpg
Me on the Millennium Bridge with St. Paul's in the background. Please ignore that I have not had a haircut or highlights in ten years. I blame it on traffic. Or something.

Saw the Globe as Shakespeare intended it... what light by yonder scaffolding breaks...

london-globe.jpg

Had breakfast at Leon's where I got the most delicious yogurt I have ever eaten and it was covered in warm blackberry compote:

london-leon.jpg

I wanted to bathe in it. I resisted.

Then I went to the very highlight for me, as I am an Art Geek Extraordinaire:

london-tate.jpg

They had an amazing Rothko exhibit:
london-rothko.jpg

By the way, most of the museums in London are free and you just pay for entrance to the special exhibitions. I support that philosophy! Also you aren't really supposed to take pictures even without flash (which I suspected) but I had it firmly confirmed to me by a woman who sounded a lot like Scary Spice.

After the museum, I found an old church whose name I have already forgotten because I was jetlagged:

london-church.jpg

Then I walked around some more where I took pictures of only important things:

london-gum.jpg

And finished up my trip with an awesome steak with garlic butter sauce and a bowl of fries, maybe my favorite meal combination. I had this meal at the Ebury Street Wine Bar & Restaurant which I did not make reservations at but they let me sit at the bar and chitchat with the bartender and the food was outstanding.

london-steak.jpg

It was all in all a great, short, perfect trip. This is the third trip I have taken overseas by myself -- you know all about Rome which I blathered on incessantly for days and days and of course my whole travel obsession. That was the first trip alone and it was great. In April I went to France which I kind of kept all to myself, because some things in life are just for you, you know? And that trip was good and sometimes strange but I'm glad I did it. So far, this trip to London was by far both the shortest and the best solo traveling I have done.

It's been so long that I have traveled to any place that speaks my own language that I forgot how much easier it makes everything. I always work on my language skills a little before I travel someplace and I think I can order a beer now in about six languages, but there is a huge cushion of ease when you can turn to someone at the Underground station and ask, "Is this an off-peak day or a peak day?" and it's so nice to be able to chat with the waiter or ask anyone nearby for directions. It's less lonely, too, because you do have social interaction and not just "please" and "thank you" conversations. So if someone from here were to ask me where they should go on their first trip alone abroad, I might still say Paris (because it is so unbelievably beautiful) but depending on your level of comfort with traveling and being alone, a common language makes everything seem easier somehow. When you're alone and far from home it could make a difference. It all depends on the traveler, I think. I tend to never pick the easy solution but this time it really made a very short trip so much smoother.

I loved London, it was great and cold and I got to wear my scarf and drink wine and eat chips, which are not chips at all but look just like french fries. And now I have a fond reminder of my trip, which is the bruise on my leg which kind of resembles a Rothko actually. (I don't have to get amputated by the way -- I'm fine, as I suspected.) My only regret is that I didn't stay long enough to develop a fake British accent like Madonna.

Oh well, there's always next time!

Posted by laurie at December 3, 2008 11:18 AM