Sunday, December 30, 2007

Highgate Times

Highgate Cemetery is one of the "must-see" sights in London according to pretty much every guide book and every friend who's been there. It also happens to be within walking distance of our flat, and we ended up staying in town this weekend and tours of the Victorian West Cemetery only run on weekends so visiting was a no-brainer.

It was a nice half-hour walk up Holloway Road and through a park to get there, and there were two cemeteries to explore with some famous people to visit. Sure, Karl Marx' grave is there but more interested to me personally was the marker for Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy series - Adams was a resident of Islington until he moved to California late in his life. Both of those are in the East Cemetery, which you can go in at any time and wander around. The West Cemetery is locked up tight unless you're on a guided tour because vandalism, occultism and crime were big problems here until the 70s, and the group that runs the place is working very hard to restore it.

So we latched onto the first tour of the day, which was nice since there were only five of us and our guide was exceptionally knowledgeable about the cemetery and its residents. I was taking pictures the entire time and the best are on my Flickr stream if you want to take a look - our guide was really cool and let me stick the camera in some mausoleums that had been opened for restoration work, so there's some pictures of decaying coffins and other creepiness in there I feel lucky to have taken.

Afterwards we fortified ourselves at a nearby pub with mulled wine and tasty food and set off for the West End, where we caught a show of Spamalot! Somehow it wasn't as good as the first time I saw it, but watching it with Liz more than made up for that. There was no Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce or Hank Azaria, but whatchagonnado.

Still not sure what we're going to be up to for the new year. Maybe just going to a local pub and having a few drinks? We'll figure it out.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Local Art

Liz and I began our Boxing Day ramble at our local Tube station, Holloway Road. We were surprised to find that graffiti artists had tagged pretty much the entire station between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day - and I got some pictures of what it looked like. I figured the context would remain a mystery but recognized a photo on Londonist as being a shot of the same art. So a few clicks later and I'm on Nicobobinus' Flickr stream, where he is displaying his shots of both Holloway Road and Caledonian Road (and commentors noted that Angel and Arsenal stations were tagged as well.)

More importantly, he linked to a Guardian story that provides context to the tags - seems its a memorial for two artists named Ozone and Wants who were stuck by a train and killed in early 2007. The article is a good look at the London graffiti scene, and makes for a good afternoon read.

I've always enjoyed well-done and artistic graffiti - it's a unique form of expression in urban areas, and is beautiful when done by a real artist - so it was cool that a series of coincidences and click-throughs gave me the whole story on the art in my local station.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My First Boxing Day!

We Americans severed our connection with the home country early by dumping our tea in Boston Harbor, so we don't celebrate Boxing Day - the day where the rich used to box up their unwanted shit to give to the poor and companies would give their employees gifts. These days, it's a day everyone gets off work and stores hold big sales. We celebrated our first Boxing Day by taking a walk across London - literally, across most of the City. We started at Green Park on the north end of St. James', stopped by Buckingham Palace to see if Lizzie was around (she was but she wasn't receiving Americans), then walked along the Thames until we ended up between St. Paul's and the Tower. If we would have kept going we could have seen the Tower and pretty much covered most of what there is to see in the inner city in one afternoon - without going in anything of course - but we ended up having to catch a bus back so we stopped a little shy.

It was a great day to see London. A great day. Most people were still inside or with family, and the only place that was really crowded was around Westminster and Parliament. Otherwise there were only a handful of people on the street at any time - quite an achievement as anyone who has walked in London can attest - and it made for a good, leisurely stroll through the city. The wind wasn't bad and we found a couple of open pubs for pints and bathrooms making it all around a great day.

I realize I haven't really talked much about my experiences here yet, which is mostly because I'm still settling in (we just got Internet today.) Once things start to sink in a little more, I'll be able to do more synthesis. Right now I just feel like I'm collecting data and haven't really had time to analyze it yet.

Liz has to be online tomorrow but we may go somewhere this weekend - I'd like to see Nottingham but we'll see what shakes out.

London: Capital of the World

Hey, I live in the capital of the world!

Via Londonist, the Independent named London the Capital of the World.

Suck on that, New York!

Friday, December 21, 2007

What a Difference Two Weeks Make

Two weeks before London:
    I'm not moving across the world so I can drink coffee at Starbucks!
Two weeks after being in London:
    Jesus Christ, where's the goddamned Starbucks?!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The First Batch

The first batch of London pictures are up on my Flickr stream, from moving in and our walk through Camden Town. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On Water

Dear My New Fellow Countrymen,

I love you dearly but there's something very important we must talk about.

This is the 21st century, and in the last 100 years or so we've accomplished great things as a species: we can fly, and trips that used to take months now take hours. We walked on the moon. We invented the Internet.

And more importantly, we created a device that allows both hot and cold water to come from the same faucet in a real mixture to prevent your hands from either burning or freezing.

Take note, friends. This truly is the way of the future!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Deliver Me To Swedish Furniture!

New flat. No plates, no glasses, no towels and we needed a new bed. So what are two Euro-savvy Americans to do?

That's right, go to Ikea.

After a great protip in a comment on the newly-found blog "A Singaporean in London" suggested not the Wembley Ikea, but the Tottenham Hale Ikea - which worked out great. It was a tube skip and a quick bus ride away, and the cab back to our flat was less than 20 pounds. The total cost ended up being reasonable, and our bed will be delivered in a couple of days. Not too shabby, that.

We also got a chance to bum around the new neighborhood a little bit more, and found a "good" local pub called Big Red, which was decorated like a TGI Fridays and had a distinctively American twist to the menu. Not a bad fallback when we're looking for a taste of home but I think I need something more English for my regular watering hole. The pints were cheap and it was great to be there when Arsenal was playing even though they lost. Next time, lads.

Now we're back in the hotel, eating store-bought Indian food and relaxing. And on that note, I'm going to go watch the tele.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Londoner Am I!

My, it's good to be back!

I got in yesterday and spent the better part of today getting my things in order. I have, in no particular order, been to the bank, been to the grocery store, been to the chemist (drugstore for you scrub yanks out there,) ridden the tube several times, walked around Islington, walked around Holloway Road, been to a pub, watched people betting on horseraces, eaten double Gloucester cheese, met our new neighbors, met our new neighbors again in a grocery store, and let (rented for you scrub yanks out there) our flat.

London seems pretty much as I left it, and I didn't expect anything less. It's off to the pub for a pint or two and then back here to pretend I'm not really getting sick.

Also I have a 9 am meeting on Monday. Glad I checked my work email!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Big Day

Depending on how well you count, today or tomorrow early is the Big Day. I leave this evening, I arrive tomorrow morning (afternoon local time.) London is upon me!

The last few days have been tying up loose ends (car is sold) and saying goodbye. I've been troopering through the later, although I have a feeling the emotion of this all is going to come out sometime if it hasn't already expressed myself in frustration in other ways. The last day at work was kind of tough - I really hate long goodbyes and it was basically nothing but a long goodbye. On the other hand, it's really awesome to see how many people I've met and how many friends I've made here.

I've got a couple of tiny things to wrap up today including a visit to a dentist, and then I'm out of here. My next post will very likely be from London.

Cheers, mates!