Elo Elo…London Calling

As many of you know, I took a week-long vacation in ..London 9 months ago. That’s right: the land of Big Ben, two-story buses, fish and chips, and a bastardized form of the English language is where I spent eight days and seven nights in the middle of January. It was an incredible experience to say the least. I’ve been asked several times when I will finally blog about it. I guess “September 18th, 2008″ would be the correct answer.

Since it is tricky to write about any vacation without risking boredom-related fatalities amongst readers (face it…no matter how much fun you have on a trip, listening to you recount it is always coma-inducing for your friends), I’ve decided to share only a few funny anecdotes about my vacay in the highly-popular* “Random Crap” format.

 

 

1. The first thing I noticed happened before I even left Fort Worth. I’ve flown several times in my life, and never once has anyone ever paid any attention to the silly-looking pre-flight safety demonstration given by the attendants. This flight was no exception. I marveled at how an entire plane chocked full of passengers could completely ignore uniformed airline employees performing what looks like “The Macarena” with no music. Knowing this, I’m surprised the flight attendants don’t perform the actual Macarena…or a version with middle fingers extended. I would.

 

My first stop was in Detroit, where, because of a five hour layover, I arranged to meet a friend who lives up there for dinner. So I was irritated that it was taking so long for us to even get on the tarmac for takeoff. After the plane left the gate, it started rolling for what seemed like an eternity.

 

“Dude,” I said to the guy next to me. “Are we driving to Detroit?”

 

He simply laughed and went back to his magazine.

 

 

 

Victoria Station, the first picture I took in London. You’ll better understand its beauty to me after reading random item number two.

 

2. The flight from Detroit to London was uneventful, unless you want to get picky and count the part where I wondered if I was about to die. The pilot was attempting to land at London’s Gatwick Airport in a driving rainstorm, and as we were approaching the landing strip the plane kept rolling violently from left to right and back again. This plane was relatively empty, and I started wondering if there was a safer seat I could move to in case of a crash. I decided I was probably safest if I never unfastened my seatbelt, and that even if I did move I would probably pick the only seat that somehow got sucked into an airplane engine.

 

Oddly, while most of the other passengers were justifiably freaking out (out of the corner of my eye I saw a young kid make the cross with his fingers and start praying), I had a big shit-eating grin on my face. I guess it was one of those “living in the moment” things where I decided that if I’m going to die, I’m going to go with a smile on my face. So I started thinking about all the fun crap I did in my life. The time I made out with three girls at the same time in 9th grade flashed through my brain a lot.

 

Anyway, the pilots never made a single announcement, and we landed safely. Apparently those kinds of landings are commonplace there.

 

3. I noticed a lot of subtle differences between London and where I’m from in Texas. Just to cite one small example, they don’t have the Sun over there. At least, I never saw it. I went to Latvia two years ago and never saw the sun there, either. I’m beginning to think all that “Earth rotates on its axis every day” stuff I learned in school was a bunch of horsecrap. It must sink into the Atlantic every night and pop up out of the Pacific every morning.

4. If I can give you one small piece of advice when traveling, let it be this: Never use a tour guide that is bored with tourist attractions and really just wants to go shopping. I met a wonderful woman named Julia in London, as planned, but dragging her out of women’s stores sometimes required a Taser and a wheelbarrow.

 

 

 

Gorgeous! But she thought her hat made her look like a “postman”. I thought it made her look like a New York cabbie, but I kept that to myself.

 

5. Speaking of clothing stores, I noticed that women’s fashions were always featured prominently on the storefront, and were always the first department you see when you walk in. Apparently, they find women’s clothes much more important for marketing than men’s, because you had to read signs on the wall to locate men’s apparel. Like the following:

 

Men’s clothes downstairs

 

Men’s Department on Level 3

 

Men’s Apparel down in basement next to septic tank

 

Men’s Fashions three miles up Oxford Street, take a left at homeless shelter

 

Men’s Department down in dungeon past fire-breathing dragon

 

 

 

Alas, I was disappointed by the selection.
 

 

6. Every single vehicle in London was either a Mini Cooper, a red bus, one of those weird taxi cabs, or an ultra-expensive luxury car. I saw BMW police cars!

 

 

 

I made fun of London’s cabs, but they are actually incredibly roomy inside.

 

7. Even after surviving my flight to London, I was still pretty sure I was going to die before I made it back to the U.S. Why? Because I never knew what the hell side I was supposed to be looking before crossing a street. To those who’ve never been to England, the Brits drive on the left, or wrong, side of the road. This led to me nearly walking into full-speed double-decker buses more than once.

 

Now, if any English person wants to contend that they are driving on the correct side, let me ask you: Why are you the only country in the world that needs these (below) painted on every single crosswalk?

 

 

 

Haha! We don’t need these in America, you silly Brits! USA! USA!

 

8. One thing amazing about London is the incredible amount of people there. It is a swirling mass of humanity. No matter what store, restaurant or mall you are walking in or out of, it feels like the concert just let out.

 

 

 

No matter where you were, you were surrounded.

 

9. To go to the bathroom in any public restaurant, you go through a series of stairwells and doors that get smaller and smaller until you wonder whether you’ve stumbled into the restroom for boys 12 and under. When you get through the last door (you’ll have to walk in sideways) and actually find yourself in a restroom, you:

 

1. Pee in something that resembles a urinal

2. Look for any kind of button or lever

3. Not find one

4. Panic momentarily, thinking you may have peed somewhere you’re not supposed to

5. Realize that it is, in fact, a urinal

6. Mutter to yourself, “if the stupid-ass Brits don’t know how to make a flushable urinal, they can stare at my pee”.

 

 

 

Great restrooms when you are specifically looking to pee while rubbing shoulders with the guy next to you.

 

10. There are Starbucks everywhere. You couldn’t throw a stone without it hitting a Starbucks, caroming off a Mini Cooper and breaking a window in another Starbucks. At least, that’s what happened with me.

 

Julia said one reason she loves London is Starbucks. I had to straighten her out by letting her know Starbucks is an American company.

 

 

I’ll take this over a Starbucks any day. I’m going to look into opening one in the U.S.

 

11. Brits don’t have cash registers, they have tills. They don’t get in line, they queue. They don’t have subways, they have an underground. They don’t use US Dollars, they use English Pounds.

 

At current exchange rates, they are using US Dollars to polish their shoes.

12. I’ve made a little fun of England and the English here, but I want to stress that I had an absolutely wonderful time, and I truly did not want to leave. The Londoners I met were all amazingly polite, helpful, and had that beautiful accent. I would really love to live there for a year, if I could pull it off. Now, if I haven’t completely bored you senseless

 

 

 

 

 

I nearly vomited when I saw an egg on my pizza. Guess what? It was the best part! Egg on pizza is delicious!

 

 

Julia’s looks were, uh, arresting.

 

 

This was an astonishing sight to me. An English Waffle House is fancy! With wine glasses! Julia wouldn’t let me go in there to see if the employees had actual teeth.

 

 

The London Tower Bridge. It was absolutely freezing cold walking over it.

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