Monday, 28 November 2011

London [2/2]

Previously on Bicester Blogger...

Jason finds himself caught on camera outside a sex shop in Soho, cooks a 12oz fillet steak on a volcanic slab and buys some tourist tat on Oxford Street.

And now...the conclusion!

So, up with the lark on a pleasant Saturday morning, no time for arseing about today so breakfast at the hotel, a rather steep £15.50 for the breakfast buffet. This of course necessitated eating as much as possible without setting off an excessive cycle of bowel movements (don't want to get caught short at the Tower). So on my way to the execution block at aforesaid Tower it can be said that the condemened man ate a hearty breakfast. Being a buffet this meant a large pile of dead pig surrounded by sundry other high cholesterol items, topped off with a small bowl of fruit and yoghurt to keep the do-gooders happy. And copious amounts of coffee.

So with 9am on the clock we were out of the door and walking up to St John's tube station, a few simple and short hops across town and we arrive at the Tower Of London.

Now I was most pleased with this attraction - there really was a lot to see and do there, and food for thought. I enjoyed the medieval part best - looking around the buildings built by Henry III and Edward I. Highlight for me was getting to sit on the very toilet where Henry used to drop his load into the river below, I felt in awe at the moment. Got a very cold arse though, even with jeans on, I can't imagine that was pleasant in a harsh medieval winter.

Most of the other stuff good too, though can't say I was excited at everything, seen one old crown you've seen them all. Quite enjoyed looking at the old coins from the Royal Mint though, and reading a lot of the accompanying paraphanalia to the exhibits, I never ceased to be amazed at the incredible barbarity and cruelty of our ancestors, quites put it all into context really how lucky we are these days, when the worst thing most of us ever have to feel upset about is if someone says something nasty about us on facebook.

So Tower behind us we walked across the bridge with the intention of visiting London dungeon, sadly here we come unstuck as we encountered a huge queue. Leaving Claire to mind our place I did a swift recce and calculated it would be a good couple of hours before we got in, so we decided not to waste so much time on one thing and abandoned that plan, hopped on to the tube and headed for Harrods.

Can you guess where I wanted to go in Harrods? indeed directly to the Food Hall. Now for a foodie such as myself this was a dream come true, especially when I went to the cooked meats counter.

Now as you know I have never been one motivated by material possessions, I cannot understand for the life of me how people aspire to a lifestyle where they can freely purchase a pair of shoes, bag, or a suit that costs £1,500. My criteria for buying such items is as follows, a) shoes should be comfortable and durable and b) a bag (or rucksack in my case) should also be comfortable, strong, spacious and allow me to fit everything I need, shopping, etc on my back. £50 is more than sufficient for both items, as for suits, I avoid at all costs.

So why did I mention £1,500 as the sum. Well as you know one of my favourite interests is "Ham" and on the counter were the most amazing hams. And the centrepiece of them all was a whole Iberico Ham, pictured here at a cost of £1,500. Apparently this is the most expensive ham in the world.

Now just for once, I wished I was the sort of person for whom money was no object and I could just freely buy this without batting an eyelid. Oh well, one can always dream.

As some sort of consolation I bought a hot ham sandwich carved in front of me from the food hall for the slightly more affordable sum of £4.95, Claire had a baguette and we also had two bottles of that really yummy posh cola (forget the brand name) some Tyrells crisps and sat outside the store eating our lunch in the last of the late autumn warmth.

Just time for a quick stop at the Natural History museum and then back across town for the London Eye, which we boarded a little after sunset, giving glorious views of the fading red sky beyond Big Ben, by the time we had been round it was completely dark. I wondered with Claire whether or not anyone had ever had sex on the London Eye, I suppose theoretically it's possible, though you would have to be quite creative to avoid detection. Anyway, even though the Eye towers over Big Ben, it's still not high enough to qualify you for the Mile High Club even if you did manage it. NB: apparently being tossed off under a blanket at Faro airport while your plane is delayed on the runway doesn't count either, so it seems that I must wait a while longer for membership.

Anyway, joking aside, an enjoyable spin around the London skyline and another one of those subsoncious ticks in the list of 100 things to make sure I do before I die ticked off. Driving round the Nurburgring is still waiting to be ticked off (going around it hundreds of times on GT5 also doesn't count).

A walk around Big Ben, and Whitehall followed. Couldn't get into Downing Street, some policeman with a machine gun advised against it so we walked back to Regent Street as I wanted to visit Hamleys, from which I had some misty eyed reminiscences about childhood visits. Sadly, it wasn't to be a happy visit this time. Despite having gone 6pm, the store was so hideously packed and also over-heated that after 10 hours on the go, once a few yards inside all I wanted to do was get out. So we got off Regent Street and wandered back towards Soho.

It was then that we found something I really didn't expect, on a quiet corner, a real old fashioned back street boozer, decked out in the exact decor that almost all pubs had back in the 80s, cheap formica tables, stools, and benches in the dark red velvetty material and a very floral carpet. There didn't seem to be much in the way of tourists in it, amazingly locals, it even seemed to have a real old fashioned landlord running the show. Deciding he looked like the type of man who looked after his ales I decided to forgo the predictable Strongbow, and order a pint of Directors - it was absolute nectar. A second swiftly followed. We had been on the go all day so it was very nice to sit and relax in this way, and unlike the previous evening Claire didn't have to take half an hour out to explain how to use our TV's remote control (long story).

Back into Chinatown, looked again at the mouth-watering buffet on display but sadly the place was packed to the rafters. Found another place we liked but an hour wait for a table so ended up in an Aberdeen Angus steakhouse. Not as good as the previous night's meal but still perfectly adequate.

And then back to the hotel for another bottle of wine, in front of Match Of The Day, the stuff romantic dreams are made of.

Breakfast Sunday at a greasy spoon (cheap & cheerful) another opportunity to marvel at the outrageous property prices, we all know London't expensive but I didn't realise it was that expensive! Looking at a picture of one of those 5 story terraced houses in Kensington, seeing £6M and thinking "that's a lot" and then realising that's just for a flat on one floor! Who's buying it all? Well apparently a lot of it's being bought from overseas by cash rich countries, a high percentage of our assets are being bought up from abroad, either by rich individuals or investment funds.

Got me thinking - what with Europe in debt, and the rich countries gobbling up all the rich pickings that whereas traditionally throughout history wars have been fought to gain lands and assets, the modern world, whilst relatively peaceful faces a new and almost invisible enemy, that of economic conquest. But that's a story for another day.

Sunday night, home, tired and happy, family back together with my kids for the first time in over two days and then back with my big happy karaoke family on Sunday night in the White Hart.

November's nearly behind us - next stop Christmas.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x x

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