London – Surviving the City

London is an incredible city. It’s constantly full of life, movement and noise.  Coming to Europe and not experiencing it would be tragic, to say the least. When I was planning my 2012 Eurotrip , Carli told me that she also wanted to go there, especially on July 7th, for World Pride. I was more than excited to experience this famous metropolis with its many wonders and intensely diverse people. But, my visit to London was actually marked by a very peculiar incident, which occurred the second day we were in the city.

First, let me backtrack a bit.

July 4th, 2012. 

Paige, Carli and I arrive at London Stansted Airport around noon and take the first available bus to downtown London. Once we get to Liverpool Station, Paige makes her way over to meet up with Alexia, a friend from high school that she would be staying in London with. Meanwhile, Carli and I make our way to Cami’s house, Carli’s cousin who had graciously offered to have us crash her couch for the next four days. That afternoon, since I had barely had any sleep the night before, I take a nap while Carli and her cousin catch up. In the evening, Carli, Cami, Adam (Cami’s husband) and I go out for drinks and pizza.

From left to right, Carli, me, Cami and Adam after some delicious pizza and beer. Clearly, I was not informed about the black dress code.
Happy to be in London!

July 5th, 2012.

Carli and I wake up around 10am and make plans to meet up with Paige and Alexia near London Bridge in the early afternoon for lunch and a visit to the Tate Modern Museum. We also finalize plans to meet Minna, Carli’s friend who would be staying at Cami’s place with us. I met Minna earlier in the year in Barcelona, and am excited to hang out with her again. Since she is arriving from the airport with luggage, we agree to meet her at the bus stop to help carry her things back to the house.

Now is when things start to get a bit strange. Carli, Cami and I leave the house and walk over to Denmark Hill Station, where Minna is supposed to be waiting for us. As we are about to round a corner, Cami points out that straight ahead of us is King’s College Hospital, in case anyone wants to visit. I quickly say that it’s one of the few places we’d prefer not to. Turns out, I spoke too soon.

As we walk down the street, we spot Minna. She glances over at us, and having not seen her good friend Carli in about a year, decides that the best way to greet her is with a full on leaping bear hug. Carli, clearly not ready for such enthusiasm, loses her balance and they both tip over. In slow motion, Carli’s head smacks against a concrete step. THUD. Hardly believing what I have just seen, I walk over to Carli to check if she is injured. The noise of her head hitting the ground was so absurdly loud that I lean down expecting to see the worst. I see a few drops of blood falling to the ground, check the side of her head for the source, and am surprised to find that it’s coming from the top of her ear. Luckily, we are in front of a café, so Minna and Cami run in for a bag of ice and napkins. I help Carli sit up and we both get a case of the nervous giggles. As we’re sitting there, laughing away, I keep replaying the fall in my head and the sound of Carli’s head against the concrete echoes in my ears, and I just keep thinking “$h*t! We need to get this girl to a hospital.” Since we are so close by, and everyone is unsure of Carli’s current state, it doesn’t take much to convince the others that the hospital is our next destination. We walk over and after some paperwork, the nurse bandages her up with the ability of a six-year-old. We are told that it will probably take a couple of hours until a doctor can even see Carli, and she decides that since it is her ear that seems to have broken the fall, instead of her skull, she’d rather not spend the rest of the day stuck at the hospital. Although her head is not swelling, only her ear, we keep a close eye on her for the rest of the day to make sure she really is fine.

Carli was never the same after the accident.

After some proper home bandaging, courtesy of Minna, we finally head to downtown London. Carli’s ear continues to swell a bit to Hitch status (yes, like in the movie starring Will Smith) but is no longer bleeding, and her head seems to be ok. We made sure to monitor the progress throughout the remainder of our Eurotrip, and by the end, Carli’s ear was almost back to its original cuteness. (I’m told that currently, four months after the episode, the ear looks completely normal, and wiggles as well as ever.)

Later that day, we go to the Tate Modern Museum and see an exhibition by Damien Hirst, a nut of an artist. From the butterfly room, to the bisected, formaldehyde-soaked cows, it is all quite a lot to take in. So much so that afterwards we need to sit talk-show style to discuss some of what we have just seen and our game plan for the rest of the day.

To see more from this exhibition, check here and here , the source of the above photo.
From left to right: Me, Cami, Carli and the ear, and Minna.

The game plan ends up being some much-needed sightseeing and venturing over to Chinatown for some dinner.

London phone booth – A tourist must.
Near the London Eye. I heard the view from up there is incredible, but between the terrible weather and the tight budget, it did not make it to our list of things to see and do. Perhaps, next time?
Summer Olympics 2012 Countdown! Only 22 days left. Yeah, baby!
OMG. I’M IN LONDON.

We also stopped by Gordon’s Wine Bar. According to its site, it’s the oldest of its kind in London, and believe me, it’s an incredible place. The inside is a cellar, with a roof so low that almost everyone has to lean their head down to avoid bumping it, and the outside is a long terrace, full of tables and shade from the trees in the park next door. It’s a great place for a drink at the end of the day, or a quick bite to eat. We were a bit unlucky with the timing however, because when we got there the place was completely packed.

Enjoying ourselves at Gordon’s Wine Bar, maybe a tad too much?
Inside Gordon’s. Source.
The terrace, at a much less busy time. Source.

July 6th, 2012.

The day starts off lazily, but early in the afternoon we head towards the British Museum, which by the way is huge, walk around London for a bit, have a delicious Thai dinner and, finally, meet up with Paige and Alexia at a bar.

Very British. You’ve got the double decker red bus, driving on the wrong side of the street, and cyclers being chased down by the motorized vehicles.
The only view I got of the famous London Tower Bridge. I actually didn’t even realize I had been on it until I looked through my pictures later that evening. Notice the Olympic rings on the top right corner. (Please excuse the reflection of my camera.)
Inside the British Museum. The roof of the entrance hall is amazing.
“Throne of Weapons” by Cristovao Canhavato, a Mozambican artist, in the Africa Gallery of the British Museum. One of the many pieces worth seeing there.
A small, yet beautiful park in Camden Town.
The friendliest squirrel I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, also at the park in Camden Town.
Before going to meet Paige and Alexia at the bar, we had some time to kill. So we found a nice, little wall to hang out on and pregame for a couple of hours.
At London’s underground transit system, commonly known as “the tube.”

July 7th, 2012.

To start, what is supposed to be the world’s biggest pride parade, turns out to be the most disappointing. Due to some issues with funding, there is a last-minute decision to cut back on World Pride celebrations. Events start and end earlier than usual, the cars and floats get cut from the parade and several other festivities are cancelled. To top it off, the weather isn’t the best, raining on and off throughout the day. One of the squares that are set up for the event has a huge stage, and we eagerly await the performances, once again to be disappointed by their high school talent show quality, or lack thereof. The most entertainment we get is from people watching and later going to a lesbian bar, Candy Bar, in Soho. Never before (or after for that matter) have I seen such an array of lesbians in such a small place, definitely an interesting experience.

Before going to World Pride, we manage to sneak in some more sightseeing. Being a tourist in front of Big Ben.
Despite the budget cut, people were still excited about Pride and the turnout was pretty big. But, we expected great things from this stage. Instead, we got a handful of awkward performances and one great equality speech.
Israeli drag queens. They were pretty amazing.

Later that day, we go back to Cami and Adam’s apartment and get our things ready to leave for Dublin the next day. In order for Carli and I to catch our 8 a.m. flight, we have to leave the apartment at 4, so we take a nap and head out. Minna stays in London for another day and then goes back to California. Leaving London in the middle of the night is quite strange, there’s a stillness and silence we haven’t experienced until then.

We rendezvous with Alexia and Paige at the airport. Paige and I once again put on our Ryanair outfits, and we all go through security. Paige’s absurd amount of layers of clothes actually get her strip searched. Except for her, we all leave London quite entertained.

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