L'Aventure Excellent d'AB
Day 1 - London, England Todays lesson: shortcuts are not a good idea in an unfamilliar place, even less so with around 20kilos on your back. I arrived by coach, an hour earlier than expected, at 0600. The bus was driven by a couple of potentially dodgy geezers who threatened to leave without anyone who wasnt back in 20 mins when we stopped half way. Slept relatively well and even managed to talk to the old couple beside me, about trains and, of course, the weather. On arrival I set off for what should have been a 5 minute walk from Victoria coach station to the bus stop next to Victoria train station. My shortcut, following the map on the bus stop, ended up as a sightseeing tour through Kensington (some guy walking his dog past the Ferraris and BMWs saw me and my backpack and immediately crossed the street in fear) and past Hyde Park corner, I eventually made it to Camden at 0800, but not before my shoulders had a disagreement with the backpack. I hate waking people up, so when I checked in and found a bed in a room occupied only by a German/Japanese couple who were sleeping, I felt really awkward. A shower seemed like the best excuse to get out of the room for a bit. Conversation was weird and , started with "do you know damien hirst?", the Japanese girl is an art student trying to see Hirst's work while on holiday in London with her German boyfriend. They left in search of Goldsmiths' college (I passed it later on my crazy bus journey, still to come) right before the room filled up with Australians (i think, cant tell the difference between them and New Zealandish yet). Another couple and a girl on her own, giving the others a shock when they returned to find their previously empty room full of foreigners. I discovered that London can be seen very cheaply (I only took £40 out of the cash machine and its still going), I saw the sights by bus, roughly following this route: http://www.londonforfree.net/bustour/bustour.htm. There's lots of cool stuff to be seen for free without visiting Madame Tussaud's or anywhere Americans like to go. I visited the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery(which includes a photo of Damien Hirst and the pictures off of the best of blur album, if you like that kind of thing), got pictures of the Albert Hall and Albert Memorial and went to the National Science Centre before the lack of sleep caught up and demanded i go back take a nap. Unfortunately the warm, gently vibrating bus was enough to send me to sleep and, rather than jumping off as soon as i could and getting another one back i decided to stay, "it will turn round soon" i thought. Next time I do the sensible thing rather than get stuck somewhere in South East London (the hostel is in NW1, the bus chucked me off in SE16 I think) and take about two and a half hours and four buses to get where i wanna go. The only redeeming feature was the fantastic view when crossing the Thames of the big clock on one side and the big wheel on the other, lit up in the dark. I considered getting off just to take a picture before my stomach intervened. Upon returning I prepared some cheese and pickle sandwiches (I saw something called "Picallilli" which sounded so ridiculous i had to have it, I told you, I dont get out much) and managed to talk to some strangers. As soon as the Simpsons finished in the TV room, however, everyone disappeared again. My reason for staying in Camden was for purely rock'n'roll purposes, so I set off in search of a disreputable establishment to sample the local fare. After blagging a discount at the door with my apparently useless youth travel card, I entered the Dublin Castle to participate in "Club Fandango", organised by the Fierce Panda people I think. Maybe it was my tired and dehydrated state or maybe the lack of anyone to talk to, but it seemed a bit disappointing. The first band were Scottish and included a guitarist wearing a "Nice and Sleazy" tshirt, meaning I'd travelled all this way to see a band i could have seen in Glasgow, but probably wouldnt because they sound too Ska and even had a song that sounded like Come on Eileen. Things went from bad to very, very good though when the next band came on stage dressed in matching vintage British Rail Blazers (vintage here means only slightly newer than the rocksteady blazers we wear at work) and sounding like every good band used to before the invention of franz ferdinand (ie just like mogwai). At about 2300 exhaustion and dehydration demanded i leave and buy some water on the way to bed. The sleeping in a room full of strangers thing is still weird for me, but apparently not as much as for the Japanese girl in the bunk below, who asked "are you heavy?", the best I could say was "I'll try not to fall off".