10 other things I loved about London

24 Nov

1. Topshop , Oxford st.

After Harrods food Hall, Topshop comes in a close second for heaven. Let me warn you- this ain’t no ordinary Topshop store. The 3 storey one on Oxford st is more like a shopping mall compressed, or a mini airport. It has not only mountains of lovely clothes, shoes and makeup, but also a cafe, cupcake store and hair salon downstairs. So big and bewildering is this place, that there is even an information desk on the lower floor, where I actually had to for directions to the check out counter. As it turns out, the check out counter  was set up like a little bank- with 12 tellers at their own little stations and a little flashing electronic sign above indicating which teller is free. Marvellous.

Oh another word of advice about Topshop- set yourself a spending budget. Then prepare to blow it by double.

2. The Tube   

I love riding the Tube. Not only is it quick, and a great way to escape the cold,  ít’s super fun. It’s like playing a  game, Snakes and Ladders meets monopoly in fact, where the objective is to find the quickest route from A (Leicester Square) to B (Bond st)  along the maze of colourful squiggly lines. Incidently,  the tube map has absolutely no geographical correlation to what’s above ground. After taking a particularly long and convoluted route, best refrain from patting yourself on the back, as you may find that you have in fact emerged only two blocks down from where you started!  

 The station names are also fun and hilariously British-  “Chalk farm”, “Forest Hill” , “Golders Green”. The kind of names that make you think you will emerge from the station to find cottages and woodlands and possibly hobbits, only to be brought firmly back to reality by the sight of red double decker bus screeching across a busy, rainslicked intersection.

(Golders Green does not look like this in reality)

3. Intermittent bits of sunshine

On Friday, the sun came out. This is a rare thing for the Brits (and the Dutch I might add), and it was glorious. The birds were chirping, families were about, children were  laughing…I half expected Brits to randomly take their tops off in their delirium and start sunbaking on the streets. 

On Saturday, it rained.

4. Things that should be free and were  

On our first day, we had lunch at a sushi train ( which I have missed sorely in Amsterdam), and were pleasantly surprised to to discover two things.  Free table water..And free toilet access. My golly.

For those of you outside the Dam, there is a weird thing here (and in other parts of Europe) where restaurants refuse to serve you  free table water (only bottled). I m told it has something to do with hygiene, but really the pipes here are fine and I think restaurants here are just stingy. You will also be hard pressed to find a place which lets you use the bathroom without a 50c fee!

Speaking of toilets, the bathrooms at Harrods were amazing. Not only are they free, but on the back of the cubicle doors were lovely gold embossed signs with instructions on how to flush, turn on the tap, and exit the bathroom. I am not sure if Harrods was  trying to be helpful here, or simply doesn’t think too much of the intelligence of its customers.

5. Squirrels

These were everywhere, and so so cute. I’m told they’re pests, but they’re oh so adorable!  (beats the funnel web spiders and cockroaches we have back in Oz)

6 British hospitality

We encountered some lovely Brits. IN fact, after we got off the train on our first day, a delightful Londoner asked us in a lovely accent whether we were lost and needed directions. We did. 

 In hindsight, this might have had less to do with the  kindness of strangers, and more to do with the fact that I tend to  walk around with a permanent  expression of lost confusion on my face, which only escalates when I travel to new countries.

7. British accents

As the great Australian comedian Adam Hills once said, “An Aussie accent is what happens when british got lazy in the dry australian heat” (or something like that, but funnier): “Jeffrey look at this new country, it’s rather pleasant don’t you think? Tad warm though, scorchin’ actually… streeuth it’s bloody boooilin you got a VB mate? ”.

Also great to be able to hear familiar Brit/aussie slang words like “cheers, mate and wanker”…or say these without people looking at you funny.

8. British cable TV

It’s hilarious. We had planned to go out one night, but flicked our remote to BBC3 and were hooked. On offer that night was a fantastic reality show about a gay couple planning their wedding (One of the grooms was partial to cabaret, drag queen performances and shiny polyester suits…the other not so much), a singing TV contest where 5 tone-deaf, middle aged women get makeovers and sing on stage in top- to- toe sequins, and an ad for Neighbours.

For non Aussies, Neighbours is an Australian show which has been running for over 20 years, and a place where many famous Aussies like Kylie Minogue got their “big break”. I know hardly any Australians who actually watch it, but it has a bizzare cult following overseas which consists of the entire of the United Kingdom.

Kylie on Neighbours in the 80s, pre plastic surgery (and  pre stylist it seems)   

9. Discount Theatre tickets at West End.

Catching a show at West End is something I would highly recommend. We saw “We Will Rock You”  (the Queen Musical) at the Dominion theatre on Friday night for a mere 27 pounds. It was brilliant! Friends who know me will know that I will jump at any opportunity to start an impromptu Bohemian Rhapsody singalong (be this in a karaoke booth, the back of a car, or the back of a rickety sing tao taxi through the jungles of Thailand), so being part of one in a crowd of 1000 strong was pretty damn awesome. 🙂

(Me at West end)

10. Potter mania

Harry Potter opened this weekend in London, and it was huge. ON Saturday night, theatres were booked out everywhere…and at Wimbledon theatre  where we saw it, each of the 12 cinemas inside were screening the movie at regular 30 minute intervals.  The other cool thing about watching Harry Potter in London is little moments like these:

Harry: Where are we Hermione?  (Me: (to Steph) That looks like where we went last night!)

Hermione: Shaftsbury Avenue.. ( Me: It WAS where we were last night!)

Hermione: My parents used to bring me to a theatre here as a child ( Me: We went to that Theatre! I wonder if they saw We will Rock you?)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen Harry Potter yet, please do. Stat. Now, I’m an ardent fan of the books, and have never in my life recommended any of the movies to anyone (because really they don’t compare to the books do they? ), but even I must admit that the 7th one was, as the Brits would say,   “bloody brilliant”. I was hooked the whole way through, and I swear I  did not ONCE cringe at Hermione’s  acting.

Can’t wait till next July!

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