no deserts please. and again, no canoes.

When Jean-Marc left, he graciously allowed us to continue inhabiting his flat. So that is where we have been for the past few days.

On Thursday we took a short jaunt to Camden to check out the markets.

So. Many. Doc Martens.

There are not many articles of clothing that catch my interest, even fewer brands that I am partial to, but Doc Martens capture my fancy like no other. Anyways…I abstained from trading my kidneys and all illegal activities for the purpose obtaining a pair and we exited Camden to return once again to our market on Berwick. We purchased vegetables for dinner since we found ourselves in commandeership of a kitchen.

Our serendipitous friend Scott joined us for our meal and we returned to Half Moon (the lounge Jean-Marc where had taken us) for music. Unfortunately we missed out on the music, but we had a nice evening anyways. We posted an event plea on couchsurfing for a boat/penthouse/double-decker bus party to attend the following evening. The sole response to our quite witty posting was an invite to a beard-shaving party, which we attempted, but ultimately failed, to attend.

We did go out for fish & chips that night, again in the company of Scott. I found the meal enjoyable, if overpriced (we were recommended what we assume is the restaurant we tried by our Swiss fellow CSers). It happened to be the twenty-first birthday of said restaurant, and as such there were party hats at every table. Unfortunately the other Londoners/tourists who all seemed older than us refrained from joining in the Loch Fyne festivities. Scott, Christy, myself, a waitress with a cool Polish-Spanish accent, along with one other guest were the only ones wearing the party hats. And that is the story of my first encounter with fish & chips.

Christy and I were going to return home and watch a movie, but we ended up skyping with my ex/her current roommates. Which was far preferable in my opinion, though this now constituted our second day of failed-attempt movie watching.

And that brings me to today! I have caught up! Today was a chill day. we turned on Mumford and Sons and left the door open, we’ve left so far only to purchase food. We watched a movie, finally, and we are having PIZZA for dinner!!

“How luxurious!!”

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oh, naan!

By now we have crossed most of the major activities off of our list. Wednesday we slept in, then set out to find Neal’s Yard. We traveled to the general area, and then walked along Neal Street, makes sense, right? No luck. So we decided to find our market with our favorite vendor. On the way there we just happened to stumble across…Neal’s Yard. It was entirely worth our venture. Neal’s Yard is this little alleyway of colorfulness composed of quaint shops and restaurants. We sat and basked in the cuteness of it for a few moments, strung together magnetic word sentences on some sort of electrical box or something, perused the menu of a vegetarian cafe (not impressive), and went on our way.

We continued our journey to the market, the location of which we were also not entirely sure of. We were successful in this venture as well, however our vendor friend was not present.

So we made our way to Liverpool station to meet up with Neil and Darren. One of the items on our list was to have Indian food. Neil had informed us that one can barter for a good meal on Brick Lane. Therefore, obviously we made plans to have dinner with them, and what a dinner we had! I feel like you had to be present to really appreciate how everything went down, but I’ll describe a bit. Darren’s food, which was meant to include vegetables and potentially meat as well, came out resembling baby food. I think there was a solitary chunk of potato…and then our naan arrived. To say that someone threw it in the street and drove over it a few times before dipping it in dishwater and presenting it to us would be entirely accurate. We laughed to the point of tears about the condition of our food, though my dish was quite delicious. I made an origami crane out of my post-dinner chocolate wrapper (surprise) and Neil made a hat/boat out of his. Our plan was to leave these as a tip (they don’t tip here, so this was actually quite generous), but we also used them as entertainment such as: does the hat/boat float? Does the crane? Does this scrap of inedible naan? So, overall quite an entertaining dining experience.

boots

Tuesday featured the Tate Britain museum, Westminster Abbey, and a raclette dinner.

The Tate Britain was nice, a lot of gorgeous paintings. In general though, I haven’t much to remark about museums.

We stopped and I got a Cornish pasty for lunch. It was £1 and surprisingly quite good. We’ve had quite a few £1 meals, mainly sandwiches. It is interesting learning to be satisfied with enough, and not just the feeling of fullness. I have eaten precisely two meals here where I ate until I wanted no more. This trip is unintentionally provoking bonus good habits such as eating [more] healthily and only using computer devices when necessary. How novel!

We hit up Westminster Abbey for the Evensong service, which wasn’t exactly what I expected. I was under the impression it would basically be this spectacular choral performance…but really it was like a shortened, formal (formal for my experience with churches, that is) service. I’m glad we went though. How many people do you know that have been to a service at Westminster Abbey?

Our host was having a dinner party that evening with our fellow surfers, a Georgian (country, not state) surfer, and a few friends. We had raclette, which, if you were around for my France blog (emails?) you may recall. I’m not going to explain it in detail, but think of Switzerland and something similar to but better than fondue. It was a delicious meal for a wonderful evening. We stayed up until four am, even though Jean-Marc had to work and leave the country the following day. Luckily, as a jobless, commitmentless traveler staying with a great CS host I can sleep in as long as I like.

*Thank you, Sebastian, for being our wonderful photographer!

challenge accepted!

Monday started with a ride on a double-decker bus. We managed top level, front row seats, and the trip was quite enjoyable. “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” by The Smiths has been stuck in my head since arriving in London (due to the ubiquity of double-decker buses here, and the line about them in the song), and so I played that during our ride.

The first stop was the Victoria and Albert museum, which has been my favorite of the museums we have visited. There were really lovely sculptures, which have long been my favorite type of visual art.

After that we headed towards the London Eye to complete our assignment from Kristin: eat ice cream waffles beneath the London Eye. When we got to the area we decided we should probably eat some ‘real’ food as well. Christy and I have been religious budget eaters for the entirety of this trip, so this was kind if a big decision. We chose to eat street vendor food, since that is mainly what the area offered. Well, that and McDonald’s. We acquired what we assumed was a hotdog, but may well have been a sausage, though we later received information that suggested it also could have been ostrich meat. The flavor gave no clues. Anyways…post bizarre-meat-product, we purchased our ice cream waffles and found a shady spot beneath the London Eye. All I can say is: thank you, Kristin Vickery for giving us such a delicious task.

We were joined that evening at our residence by two guys from Switzerland . Jean-Marc took the lot of us to a lounge where we enjoyed an abundance of really great music.

what a crazy random happenstance

On Sunday, Neil took us to the market. We walked around and perused all fashions of clothing, mouthwatering aromas, tiny flea market style shops, live music, and a street FILLED with flowers. (Seriously mom, I could have filled our entire house with purpley-blue flowers without using the same flower twice.) We grabbed a few sandwiches and headed towards the British Museum.

Oh, I should mention that that morning we accepted another last minute couch offer from one Jean-Marc.

When we returned home, we gathered our things and headed straight back out for our next host. We arrived two hours later, thank you very much London Underground.

How do I describe Jean-Marc? The expert CS host, I think. He had a plan and we followed it well! We were surfing with Scott from Australia. A few minutes after meeting Scott looks at me and asks “Kendall, what is your last name?” I was kind of baffled by why he was curious, but by the greatest coincidence, I had messaged Scott the day before I left the United States. I had stumbled upon his profile through the emergency couch request group and been completely impressed by how awesome he seemed. So against my typical reservations, I messaged him to see if he wanted to hang out with Christy and myself. He had replied and said his time in London was quite hectic, and he was only supposed to be staying for another day or two. So I more or less forgot about it. And then he was there, staying at the same residence as us. I am still amazed. And I am quite glad that we did actually get to meet him. Our evening with Jean-Marc and Scott was phenomenal. Add two more to the list of completely amazing people that I have met on my short trip so far.

I would like to give an in-depth character study of each of these people who have painted this trip with their colors, but I am incapable of properly highlighting the fullness of them. So suffice to say, they have made this trip what it is.

1,000,000 sunflower seeds

Later on Friday we set out to regroup with the luggage we detest and transfer over to our next host. We took an entirely too long tube ride and arrived with all of our belongings and ourselves intact. Neil turned out to be Irish as well, as did his flatmate Darren. We were surfing at their place along with two Austrian girls. Neil helped us carry our luggage upstairs and asked if we would like to join them for home-cooked fajitas (absolutely! Remember, this is the same day as The Worst Meal Ever). Neil prepared all of the deliciousness while the rest of us got acquainted. That night I had the best fajitas of my life along with these novel nachos that tasted like pizza nachos. Couchsurfing and London were getting better with each passing day.

The next day we set off for the Tate Modern museum. There were a few interesting pieces, but overall I am not a fan of so-called modern art.

one-thousand words right there, folks.

We finished the day with 500 Days of Summer, a favorite of our host, Neil. It’s interesting how ‘having a good time’ is such a central part of traveling, yet just relaxing is rarely part of it in the rush to squeeze as much experience as possible into your trip. Anyways, it was really nice to just watch a movie and relax.

a roof, a bed, a floor?

At this point I should give an account of our accommodation situation. Christy and I had emailed about thirty couchsurfers before we departed the United States. All female CSers at first, then a select few males after we realized nobody was responding. I think before we arrived we got one ‘maybe’ and a ‘no’. So we posted an emergency couchsurfing request in the London group the night before we left.

I received a reply sometime on the day of our flight from Haci, whom you’ve already met. He offered to host us for two nights and I said ‘yes, thank you!’

Then I got an invitation from Neil, who said that he already had surfers, but his floor was available if we had no other options (we didn’t). So at this point we were set to stay with him for one and possibly two evenings.

And then Martina replied and offered her couch for the end of our trip. And that was all of our couchsurfing plans.

James offered to let us stay with him for a few more nights later in the week, but we weren’t positive if that would be possible.

So we had a little over a week’s worth of accommodation accounted for, and a little under a week’s worth to figure out. Christy posted another emergency request, and that brings us up to the present of my narrative.