It's been a while since my last blog entry. In the last two weeks, I've done the following:
- spent way too much money with my American friends at Chili's in Canary Wharf, spurred on by a bout of homesickness, after which we all decided it was worth it if only for the skillet queso and molten chocolate cake.
- tried my hand at making arroz caldo for the first time (which was easy and delicious btw).
- finished 3 presentations, including one home-made wikipedia and one home-made video that my professor has since called "impressive" and "ingenious." I am a bad ass, I know.
- gotten drunk after class with friends and aformentioned professor. (He is gay, fabulous and has a striking resemblance to Hugh Jackman!)
- had an average of 4 cups of tea per day to keep me going...
- developed an addiction to Nero white mochas
- learned how to properly fingerpick "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" on guitar... this is what I did whenever my brain started to hurt.
- kept craving cheeseburgers, which I have since learned to eat with salsa - it's the most fantastic thing ever.
- applied for an internship at the Institute of Contemporary Arts London (I haven't heard back from them yet)
- hung out with Aleem - I know, crazy, right? I didn't even know he was coming until the morning he arrived.
- went to Edinburgh to visit Kim
- saw Coldplay in concert
- almost got stranded in Glasgow (of which I know I will go into excruciating detail later in this entry)
As you can see, I've been busy. Which explains why it's taken me so damn long to update my blog. Oops. But at least I'm doing it now... and I have some photographic proof to back up some of my adventures.
I got an e-mail from Ashley on Saturday morning telling me that Aleem was on his way to London. My first reaction was, "is this a joke?" Not in a bad way, but more like "why the hell didn't he tell me beforehand?" So I called his hotel and left a message for him to call me. It was kind of exciting, It was like the movies - calling the front desk of the Hilton Metropole to leave a mysterious message for a friend who I feel like I haven't seen in ages.
At 5:30ish, I received a call on my mobile from a number I don't recognize. I picked it up and heard in the most familiar voice, "hey Dar!" It gave me goosebumps to know that such an important piece of my California-ness was actually in the same city and time zone as me. He was still going to have dinner with his parents and I had to finish my video presentation.
So we didn't meet up until 9:30 or 10ish, when I came knocking on his hotelroom door on the 11th floor. When he opened it, I started to hear Nico's "These Days" playing in my head - it was like the past and the present were mushed together all of a sudden. It was great.
Given that we only had one night to hang out, I gave him a choice. "Dessert and coffee in a touristy spot" or "Alcoholic beverages with a fantastic view, but off the beaten path." He chose the latter, and I took him to the Founder's Arms near Blackfriars, where we drank Pimm's and lemonade, and caught up as much as we could.
But because the tube stops running just after midnight, we had to head back a bit earlier than we wanted to. We parted ways around 12:30, but only after an emergency stop at Oxford Circus to find a toilet (because SOMEONE - not me - didn't anticipate the lack of potty rooms in the tube stations). Hahaha, sorry Aleem. Welcome to London!
The next day, I flew up to Edinburgh. I must've been absolutely insane to take a vacation during finals weeks, but I couldn't resist. Kim bribed me with Coldplay tickets - how could I say no?
I found out that airport security here is ridiculously strict. They stopped me at random and searched my bag... and used some weird device to scan my phone, camera and iPod for explosives. WTF?
The good news is, I'm not a terrorist. And I found this awesome juice stand inside Stansted Airport that reminded me of home:
No, there's no lovejuice in California... at least none that's made out of real fruit. (I hope some of you will remember this inside joke.)
I arrived in Edinburgh at 3:30 - where Kim came to greet me by way of Lothian bus transfer. It turns out that she really DOES live in a fantastic city.
They have a really big castle.
They have some spooktastically old cemeteries. (That big headstone belongs to William BONAR, born in 1773).
And the ugliest "traditional meets modern" Parliament building in the whole wide world. I hear that this is quite the scandal among the locals.
We spent most of the time just walking around the city. I think we may have easily walked about 10 miles over the course of 4 days... In the frigid cold, this is not a pleasant task. Two pairs of socks, legwarmers and leather boots and I STILL couldn't feel my toes. (James and Shawn - consider this a cautionary warning and I recommend that you bring all the thermals you own.)
But look! In a few weeks... we'll be walking down this street with torches in our hands (hopefully in a state of mulled wine inebriation) getting ready to burn down the city... I mean... an effigy... of some sort...
On Tuesday night, Kim and I (along with three of her other friends) took a train to Glasgow to see the Coldplay show. They were as awesome as expected. Though I suspect that Chris Martin was on some type of happy high during the concert.
Maybe it was the profuse sweating, the random proclamations of "that guy on the guitar is my best friend," the frequent tendencies to hug his bandmates, or the moments of forgetfulness where he depended on the audience to finish the lyrics for him and the subsequent giggles, that gave him away. Or how he would fall to the floor in ecstasy during rock-out songs like "Viva la Vida". Or how his eyes would bug out of his head every time he would play an epic piano song. Can you picture it? "Open up your eeeeeeeeyes...." Then again, he didn't name the last album X&Y for nothing. It was way too obvious for anyone not to notice. But the audience just ate it up.
Here comes the fun part... The last train back to Edinburgh was scheduled to leave from Glasgow Central Station at 11:28 p.m. By the time the concert ended and we finally made it outside the venue, it was 11:09 p.m. But that's only because we waited inside for two of Kim's friends who had seats far away from us. Turns out, they decided to leave early to ensure they'd make the train. We didn't get this text message... because Vodaphone service sucks.
Probably around 11:12 (I can't remember for sure because of our sudden panic), we got word that they had already gone and we found ourselves running in the crowd through an obnoxiously long tunnel headed for the overground station... where a local train would take us to the central station two stops away. Miraculously, we made it to Central Station with about 5 minutes to spare. We were home free... so we thought.
We were just coming up the escalator towards the platforms, when suddenly, Kim's phone regains service again and we find out that the other two are at Queens Street station - because the stupid transportation people decided to move the departure point to there. We had no idea where Queens Street was.
So again, we were running... We stopped to ask some cops where the station was, and they pointed us in some confusing direction... (right here, then left, then right, then left at the borders, or something like that...) Running... running uphill... text message that we have just a couple minutes left... panicking... running... can't breath... shit, where the fuck's the station?
We got to where the cop told us to go, but we couldn't find the station. So we stopped again and asked some girl if she knew where it was. She ever-so-slowly tried to give us two different routes, and at the same time, we inched further and further away from her as if it would make any difference. Then we went up the hill, through an alley and there it was - Queens Street Station. Hallelujah. By this point, my asthma had kicked in from the cold and all the running...
We finally made it inside, tried to go through the turnstile, but the man standing there told us we were on the wrong side. So we were running again... It was all a haze, but somehow we were able to jump onto the train, right before the doors quickly shut behind us. I couldn't breathe. Hooray for inhalers.
But we actually made it. I guess to compensate for moving the departure point to Queens Street, they added a couple minutes to the schedule. Who knows what kind of shenanigans we would've gotten ourselves into had we missed it. And to think... I thought that kind of thing only happened in movies. But at least I'll always remember my first trip to Glasgow.
Viva la Vida!