Thursday, June 17, 2010

Flying and London, Day 1

The trip begins! Long live the trip. I write from a train to Chester from London’s Euston Station, Sophie’s and my inaugural train journey. Not that we haven’t been on trains together before. We’re not backwards, or anything. From Chester we go on to Holyhead, where we will take a ferry to Dublin. From Dublin we’re off to County Cork, the foodie capital of Ireland.

Before we look forward, though, perhaps we ought to look back.

I hate the international terminal of the Anchorage Airport. I think it’s the north terminal. Is it the north terminal? I can never remember. Although I am thankful for the over-the-pole route to Frankfurt, Condor really needs to step up in a few different ways. Our boarding passes, for example, looked like elementary school permission slips with seating assignments. No barcode, no cardstock, no “security features” of any kind. The bag tags dangled off the back of my boarding pass like ripe fruit that fate really, really wanted to pick. As in take away from me. So that we wouldn’t have our bags. Ahem.

Worse than our ghetto boarding passes was the terminal itself. There was no food.

No food!

Those of you who know me are aware of what a serious problem that is. Once I start pouting about food, it’s all over. The only store in the entire terminal was an Asian-run Duty Free specializing in cured salmon products.

You might be wondering something at this point. “Does Joe,” you consider, “know that cured salmon is food?”

I do. Don’t worry. I just think it’s gross. I usually really like food that has been left to sit for a really long time. I am totally in love with cheese, beer, sausage, wine, pickles, miso, and even strange Asian foodstuffs like shrimp paste and fish sauce. The one food this world that I truly dislike, aside from honeycomb tripe, is smoked fish. Germans, on the other hand, clearly love it.

The flight itself was uneventful, which is really a great quality for a flight to have. Sophie slept, I slept, we snacked a bit on airplane food and woke up in Frankfurt which, as usual, was a really weird feeling. We hopped on the bus to the airport (Condor has also decided that jet ways are decidedly not “fantastisch”) and proceeded to wait in line for an hour and a half to get the boarding passes to the next flight. A word of warning to future Condor travelers: Condor does not have the capacity to print real boarding passes in Anchorage, which means you have to either go to the Lufthansa counter or your connecting gate at the Frankfurt airport in order to pick up your connection documents. I highly suggest booking at least a two-hour layover. Preferably three. Ours was five, which was too long. Four would also be too long, unless you would choose to eat at one of the restaurants in the terminal. Then you might want several days of layover. German efficiency must be currently occupied by the Greek debt crisis. The Frankfurt airport is slow.
Inside the Frankfurt Airport, I found this, this best sausage advertisement ever conceived.

Pricey, Sophie’s English uncle, picked us up from Heathrow. “Hello!” we said.

“Hello!” he said back.

Pricey is married to Jenny, who is Sophie’s-mom’s-youngest-sister. They have a small English child named Griffin and live in a house Southfields. Rather, they live near the Southfields stop on the District line. I have no idea what their neighborhood is actually called. Beautiful flowers. You’d like it.

Our first night there we were really just completely shot and ate the delicious dinner that Jenny prepared and went right up to bed. The next morning we woke up quite early and proceeded to wait for the rest of London to do the same so we could get on with our day. “Goodbye!” we said as Pricey left for work.

“Goodbye!” he said back.

Once Jenny was up she helped me book the SailRail tickets that Sophie and I are currently redeeming for our voyage to Dublin. Sophie and I decided to start our day at London Bridge (it connects things, don’t it?) and Jenny took us to her corner shop to pick me up an Oyster card. If anyone on this good green earth why the Tube travel cards are called Oyster cards, please let me know. I am baffled. So was Jenny. So was Pricey. Griffin said, “Choo-choo!”

“What?” we said back.

Sophie knows London quite a bit better than me, so it was she who guided me around for the better part of the day. That is to say that the part of the day when she was guiding me around was better than the part of the day when I was guiding her around. She occasionally has a tendency to make better choices. Borough Market, which is her favorite, and the largest market in London, was closed but there were a few fantastic food shops open for business just outside. We had:

Espresso from the Monmouth Coffee Company,

An English produced Manchego-style cheese (a hard cheese made with raw sheep’s milk) accompanied by a sliver of quince paste, and

A sandwich, salad, and monstrous meringue from a cake shop whose name I have forgotten. Each was eaten and enjoyed in turn.  Here is a picture of a cathedral near Borough market.

After our early lunch we wandered over to the Tate Modern. It was around this time that I consumed my sixth espresso shot. There was one piece, on one of the floors, that I particularly liked. You see it here.

Honestly, though, perhaps my favorite part of the Tate Modern is just the massive room off to the side of all the galleries. Its only special quality is its hugeness. Seeing it made me realize how much I like big spaces. Tiny St. Paul’s? Lame. Huge St. Paul’s? Awesome.

Fun fact about the Millennium Bridge: it was closed shortly after opening in 2000 because of “wobbling.” In the United States we don’t have “wobbling” issues. We have “stability” and “tolerance” issues, yes, but we would never call it “wobbling.” It’s like saying the Titanic suffered from insufficient “floatiness” and inappropriate “wetness.” Hilarious.

Most of the day we just wandered around London.

Above see Fleet Street, the site of Sweeney Todd's fictional barber shop.  After several surprises and disappointments (awesome chocolate shop, Vinopolis closed for corporate event) we found ourselves at a restaurant on Horseferry Road in Westchester called something like, “The Good Little Tiny Small Box.” We were exhausted and it was raining outside. We forgot to take pictures.

That night I think we fell asleep at about 9:00 and we slept well and dreamt well as well.  More to come.


  1. Hi Joe and Sophie! I found this while looking for a recipe on Sophie's blog.

    Oyster cards are called that because the people who were doing the branding wanted a word that was not directly connected to London or transportation. I believe some people from the Saatchi gallery were involved, which makes that make sense. Or something. It's also supposedly related to the idea of "the world is my oyster." Or so I was told when I asked a real live Brit.

    It's too bad you didn't get to do Borough Market, I did most of my shopping there (I lived by Waterloo Station) and it was amazing.

    Have fun where ever you end up next, I'll keep reading : )

  2. Thanks, Esti! It's nice to hear from you.

  3. Those crazy Brits. When they're not snogging in their wellies they're closing bridges for wobbling.