I spent the weekend in London. It's the first time I've been to London since I've moved to the UK. It certainly was interesting from that point of view. Gone are the days of being fascinated by the now commonplace (and unfriendly to student budgets) Boots. I remember begging to be allowed to buy all of the British hair products the American and British magazines raved about, (well that and a hair straightener). Now one and a half years later, London was appeals to me for slightly different reasons.
I spent the first day (Friday) trying to figure out how to get from Stansted to Liverpool Street. As a city-girl I normally find public transport comforting and above all logical and once the ticket machine at the airport accepted my card I did think getting into London would be simple. Little did I know, that getting on the right Underground train would be as difficult as figuring out how much a bus fare costs in Glasgow. Having ridden several different types of Metro (mainly in Paris and Washington D.C. but not leaving out the simply circular Glasgow Clockwork Orange), I expected it to be fairly easy. I somehow didn't realise there would be two or three trains running on one platform, or that it would take longer than it takes to cross Paris by bus to go approximately nine stops, or that the train would constantly stop, have its lights flickering, and shudder like it could give up the ghost at any minute. Almost half an hour and four pounds (for a single!) later I emerged at St. James's Park to find the hotel where I was meeting dad. Somehow the note he left was misplaced and suddenly instead of being treated as another hotel guest, it was assumed that I must be a gate-crasher (despite the expensive luggage, the fact that I knew the room number, and that the guest I was trying to visit shared the same last name as me). Eventually it was all sorted out and all that remained was the fun part: exploring.
We set out for dinner (with some of my father's colleagues) at a Japanese Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurant called Sen Nin in Islington. The food was good, but the obvious focus of the restaurant was the Teppanyaki grill around which various spectacles would ensue. Of course none of this will be complete without interactive cooking demonstrations in which invariably the most unwilling members of your party will be made to participate. Highlights included watching my father try to toss an egg (which made it outside the grill area and almost hit our chef), along with the chef's wonderful 'try to catch pieces of scrambled egg in your mouth as I fling them with my spatula and everyone in the restaurant watches) Surprisingly (or not) I missed.
Saturday night we headed to our favourite London restaurant: Busaba (Wardour Street, Soho). This is the fifth or sixth time I've eaten here now, and always is at the top of my list to visit when in London. Despite having to queue (although around 19:30 you won't have to wait as long as if you show up at 20:00), it's always high-quality food that it is fast, delivered in well-decorated surroundings (although beware, you do sit at communal tables, which may not appeal to everyone). My only complaint is the size of the dishes. I always am left wanting more! The Ginger Beef and spring rolls are my favourite. The Ginger Beef has just enough spice to wake you up, and doesn't overdo the ginger (happens a lot more than you think!). Plus, the beef is tender and the accompanying vegetables perfectly cooked. My dad also loves the Mange tout (which includes green beans and cashew nuts as well).
Today we had lunch at Amalfi (Old Compton Street, Soho). With a cute French waiter, the news that several dishes were unavailable was more bearable (no Minestrone, no Veal, and something else that I believe was wine) although still unusual. We both had pasta (Napoletana, and Carbonara) and I had pizza garlic bread while my father had a tomato salad. The food was good, exactly what we wanted in a (not sure how to describe the decor which consisted of French Café chairs, paintings of the Amalfi Coast, and scarily painted Cherubs in the toilets) and well-lit restaurant. The Coke tasted a bit odd, and the seats were not the most comfortable, but the service was good and the menu had enough variety to please anyone. I strongly dislike Italian restaurants that have two types of pasta and one pizza on the menu with ingredients that are meant to be trendy and chic rather than authentic. I prefer restaurants bordering on the tacky that have generous portions of real Italian food and down-to-earth staff. The prices, like Busaba's were also surprisingly decent, for London anyway.
On a side note I do realise that this weekend was The Taste of London, and yes, I would have loved to go. Unfortunately, when mentioned, my father looked like he would rather go clothes shopping with me all day (a big statement if you know my dad) and stick sharp objects in his eyes. Needless to say we didn't go, but I can tell you that one of these days I will.
Another highlight of the trip was our trip to Foyle's. Anyone who loves books will live Foyle's. Honestly, I nearly died when I saw the cinema and television section. If you can't get it at Foyle's you probably can't get it full stop. It's three floors of heaven (technically four or five in fact). I will admit that I didn't like it at sixteen, but now my feelings for Foyle's are anything but dislike.
Blackwell's stirred similar feelings within me and left me with a suitable finishing quote for the weekend (and for my studies in Germany this coming year) :
"When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any leftover, I buy food."- Desiderius Erasmus