Monday, August 3, 2009

Back from London

London - The green and modern European capital!

Now I'm back on the proud lands of Sweden. After having spent several hours on Stanstead Airport I have slept for what feels like an eternity, and now I'm ready to share my London experiences with you.

It's expensive. Sure, we knew it was supposed to be; but heck, our money was run out after only a day! So there was no Madame Tussauds or British Museum. Instead, we enjoyed the real London - mingling with happy-go-lucky hostel owners, crazy indie Australian guys and homeless people. We'll take the tourist part some other time.

We lived at the cheapest hostel we could find, called The Birds Nest, located at 32 Deptford Church Street above a local pub. The hostel owner was of course the same guy who owned the pub - very cosy! We were surprised to find that the room we booked had a loft bed, very romantic. But the hostel owner was at least funny - "So you booked the penthouse suite, eh? He he he."
And the view? Lovely sea view (or at least a filthy water hole with a boat called AileenClare), a couple of abandoned buses and working children having frequent cigarette breaks.

Exterior - The Birds Nest.

Interior - The Birds Nest.

While drinking the first London beer (some weird Banana Ale), we encountered to Amish looking guys from Australia. After having assumed that we were from Germany (everybody in London asked us that), they were happy to hear that we were in fact from Sweden.

"We just came from there!"
"How nice! Where in Sweden where you?"
"At the Zurich lake."
"Z-u-r-i-c-h - big fuckin' lake!"
"That's not in Sweden..."
"Oh, Sweden? We meant Switzerland!"
"Ah, same thing..."

Then we got to hear what Australians think of London. Expensive, nobody in London can find anything in their own city and the coffee is aweful. Well, we soon would have our own experiences on each of those points.
Oh, and they gave us new nicknames (obviously everybody in Australia has nicknames) - Oz and Lottie.

Our view - Sweet!

The Australian hippies were going to play that night at some "fancy, dandy nightclub called The East Village" in Shoreditch, and we thought that would be fun. How hard can it be to find that place? Shoreditch - East Village - ask our way there. Well, we were so naïve. Just that Shoreditch part of London was as big as the entire Europe, and after having wandered about for an hour (all Londoners pointed in different directions), we had to give up.
Londoners can't find anything in London - check.

Even though it took about 30 minutes with the bus to get to central London, the hostel was just a short walk from Greenwich. Friday morning we ate our breakfast in Greenwich Park and then made some window shopping in the village. We had our first cup of black coffee, witch was so watery that you could see the bottom of the coffee cup.
Londoners can't make coffee - check.

Banana Ale - Oz doin' the Fonz.

Banana Ale - Lottie.

Breakfast in front of the hostel.

The rest of our London visit consisted mostly of walking around in the rain, drinking Starbucks coffee (at least resembled real coffee) and checking in the architecture (weird and beautiful - lots of statues of men that history has forgotten and miserable children, mixed with gigantic glass buildings and cosy pubs). We went to Notting Hill, and arrived at Portobello Road in time to see it close for the day. But it was a really cosy neighbourhood with colorful buildnings that gave the air of the early 1900's, retro shops and lots of pubs (of course). We found a second hand book store that was still open, in which we spent about an hour. I bought a brick-sized book called "Cassell Companion to Cinema" for £2 - quite a bargain!

Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

What we found a bit surreal was how nice the Londoners were. After the first day Oz started to suspect and conspiracy - after another day we realized that they just were that way. Probably a healthy reaction of thankfulness to not living in Deptford. (Okay, in Greenwich Oz was called a "wanker" by a drug addict that wanted change, but we took that more as a compliment. You have to be called a "wanker" by an Englishman some time in your life!)

Breakfast in Greenwich Park. Oz and Lottie make themselves irresistible in front of the camera.

But it was quite interesting to see how colored one is of the country one lives in. In Sweden you look twice over the shoulder if a gang of immigrants are walking behind you, hoping not to be robbed and/or murdered. In London, if you quite hesitantly walk up to a dangerous looking immigrant and ask for bus directions, he happily helps you with the timetable, all in a wonderfully broad London accent.

Don't get me wrong - all Swedish immigrants are not criminal. But all Swedes think they are.
The thing is that the Swedish government isn't too smart when it comes to receiving immigrants. In the 1970's we needed work force, so we let in about one billion people. We couldn't take care of everyone, so they lived poorly and moved around in gangs to feel comfortable in the un-welcoming country of the Swedes - and of course needed to steal and get tough to survive.
And the same thing in present time. "Wanted by Al-Quaida? Come to Sweden! We will take you over the border, but then you're on your own."

It seems like other countries, like Britain and Finland, have taken care of a few people over a long time and be able to take care of them. At least a bit better than in Sweden. So many of the "immigrants" we encountered in London were probably of the second or third generation of immigrants.

Anyway - I loved London. If I get a sugardaddy someday, I'll buy an apartment in Notting Hill. And I will return for a Snake Bite, I was unluckyt with ignorant bartenders who didn'tt have any idea what I was talking about.

And Matthew Coniam - I totally forgot that you lived in London! It would have been so nice to see you. Damn it, damn it, damn it!

More London pics:

Bateman's Row in Shoreditch. Anyone who wants to enter for some pleasant throat-cutting?

Greenwich. I bet it has a lot of skeletons in the closet.

Cliché London pic #1 - The Red Phone Booth.

Cliché London pic #2 and #3 - Taking turns in posing in front of Big Ben.

Freaky statues and sculptures of evil and/or suffering children.

(Greenwich) Up the Creek club in the day...

...and Up the Creek club at night.

The last tavern before leaving London.
Guess who took which pictures?


MissMatilda said...

I enjoyed reading this very much!

Juliette. said...

Agreed with MissMatilda. :)

Haha, I think you're right about the wanker insult...all part of the experience. Looks like you had a really fun trip.

Lolita said...

Great! Makes me happy.

I had really fun! We were poor, but we had fun! (Yes, an Englishman can't really say "wanker" and sound threatening, can he? Ha ha.)

Kate Gabrielle said...

Sounds like you had a really interesting trip!! I'm glad you're back :)

Matthew Coniam said...

I know some of those locations so well! I lived just off Greenwich Park when I was at university, in Deptford for a year or two after that; I know exactly where that phone box is, and the suffering children church!
Sorry to hear your money ran out - but you could still have gone to the British Museum: it's free.
And 'wanker' is virtually a term of endearment here.
I'm surprised you didn't visit Jack the Ripper country, with Laird Cregar so fresh in your mind. maybe next time?

Radiation Cinema! said...

Lolita: Great Post and great pictures. What exactly is a Wanker? Am I sorry I asked? I do have my suspicions, but I'd like them confirmed. I have had an Englishman call me that once, but it seemed like it was done with affection. Still, I'm curious. Matthew?

By the way, Lolita, I am currently kicking myself for not including you in my recent list of blogs I love. I knew this was going to happen. Yours is certainly one I love for its coolness! -- Mykal

Matthew Coniam said...

To wank is to do with oneself what God intended us to do with others.

Radiation Cinema! said...

Matthew: I thought so(and well put, I might add)! The very word suggested as much. Thanks for the much needed clarification. -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Kate Gabrielle:
Thank you! Feels good to be back, even though I love the adventure of travelling!

Matthew Coniam:
Ha ha, that's wonderful! I might have put down my feet at the exact same spots as you have, then!
Yeah, what's the point with the suffering children?
Damn it, thought it was only in Sweden museums were for free! Well, next time (I have to go back, and then I'll have a Snake Bite with you!), the blisters under my feet haven't cured yet, so a day at the museum would only have made them worse anyway, I guess. (Besides, I was in London when I was 13, saw a bit of TBM then, like the Rosetta Stone etc.)
Want to follow along on Jack the Ripper lane with me next visit, then? :)

Radiation Cinema:
I'm glad Mr. Coniam answered that question for me! I might be profane, but I have my restrictions ;)
What nice person called you a wanker in the purpose of chatting you up? I admire that person, ha ha.
Oh, thank you! You know, blasphemy like forgetting my blog can me easily treated - just flatter me some more and I'll get over it!

Dsata said...


I like a lot your picture in The Red Phone Booth.