Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 25: Kismet's Calling

Sometimes the best walks are the spontaneous ones.
I absolutely did not know what to do yesterday. I got up rather early for a Saturday (about 9 am), had the usual breakfast, took a shower, did the laundry, chatted on skype, did some blogging and so on. After checking the timeout London newsletter I considered seeing an expedition about experimental food for 5 pounds, but as it was afternoon already and it was about to end at 5 I abandoned the idea. Well, why not just go to Hyde Park, see what people at the Speaker's Corner had to say leave a little through my book.

That was the plan. I never got to Hyde Park. As they always try to only do construction works on the tube at the weekend, you need to be aware of that when being in London. While I am, the Northern Line always seemed to be very reliable so far and everything was roughly planned out (ok, rather in the "we'll see what happens" manner), so it was quite suprising when right before arriving Bank Station, an announcement was made that the station could not be serviced at his point. Fudge. So I got off at London Bridge Station for the hundredth time, seeing what I could do. Take the cruiser to Greenwich? Naaah, not in the mood. So I pretty much just kept on walking for a while, passing over Tower Bridge, walking in the sun along the waterside, eating an overpriced but luscious pistachio macaron from Paul's along with a mocha. As there was a Wagamama right around the corner I decided to have my late lunch/early breakfast there. No too good of an idea. The place was rather empty (maybe 5 more people inside) and the forcefully friendly waiter gave me one or too weird looks I could not really figure out. Dunno, hard to explain. I decided for the Wagamama Ramen along with duck dumplings as a side. Ramen: not really delicious (I did not feel like taking a picture, sorry). Watery miso soup, usual noodles with very little chicken, some half-assed fried tofu, one little slice of narutomaki with one sad little shrimp, nori and some undefinable fresh green stuff. Seemed like they just threw in the little rests they had. The duck dumplings really were tasty, especially that cherry-hoisin sauce that came long with it. I will definitely try to reproduce it at some point when I get back to Germany. Nevermind. I paid and walked further for a while until I reached Monument Station.

Monument Station is one of those stations you will come across more often than others as it is a junction for quite a few lines (along with Bank since they are interlinked) located directly in Central London. So I already changed lines a few times in the underground, but never actually got off there.

Although the station is called MONUMENT  - who would have thought... that there actually IS a MONUMENT right at the exit? Maybe I'm stupid. Maybe I just never gave it a thought. I mean, there is a station called Angel, but would you actually expect a seraphic figure there? Or Elephant and Castle...

The actual monument ( is quite impressive with a height of about 61,6 metres. That was the moment where I decided why not taking a walk through the City of London from the monument to St. Pauls Cathedral - so I did. You would be amazed of how deserted the area is at Saturday evening. Really peaceful and calm - you could almost pass the streets withought checking the sides (ALMOST). So I took my time exploring the area, not taking the direct way but rather passing small alleys looking what might be to be found there (frankly, I could not name most of the sights I've seen. Maybe I should go back with a guide or something next time). It's fascinating how there are still old, historical buildings  side by side with recent (or at least post-war) ones. One of the unforeseen sights I saw was St. Mary Abchurch - hardly noticable between all those tall buildings so close there is no way to actual have a good few of it. The reproduction of boys' heads you can find there will haunt your dreams.

Sleep tight - we're waiting for you...

Further along I came across a variety of sights nameless for me, until I finally reached St. Paul's. I don't know why, but it always had a certain allure to me. Such a characteristic view for London, being the city's Notre Dame in my humble opinion. And while it is nice being right at its feet, walking through its small garden with roses and other plants as well as a spring and sculptures, and being able to see all those ornamental details at close range - St. Paul's real fascination really evolves when viewed from quite a distance.

Oh the horror! Not again...

And while it cannot keep up with its romanticization in Mary Poppins, the tune still lingered in my head.

So, passing the former wobbly bridge, enjoying the honestly engaging view of London and the Thames at Dusk (and being terribly annoyed by these stupid joggers that where on some kind if treasure hunt through the are  - I encountered the first ones already at Monument- sort of disturbing the atmosphere. I could swear one of them called me names at a certain point on the bridge. They constantly tried to walk by the pedestrians on the bridge withough losing speed.) I slowly walked back to London Bridge Station, passing more attractions such as Shakespeare's Globe.

So, although starting with little motivation to really make something out of the day, I think I had one of the nicest walks I've had so far - thanks to unforeseen coincidences.

Day 16-24: You really get Portobello Mushrooms at Portobello Market!

Just something to get started: This is what I see when I look out of the window at work.
I took this photo in an all sneaky manner, so that (hopefully) nobody noticed. I'm cool with taking pictures of my food in public now, but at work it's kinda awkward and and tourist-y. I cannot really complain about work. People are talking to me more and more and there a some that I like and vice versa, so I'm quite fond of going to work everyday, actually.

Last Saturday I went to Portobello Market. It was right before my mother's birthday so the plan was to get her something from there. Located in Notting Hill, Portobello Market is a generic vegetable street market during weekdays but expands to an antique and vintage market on Saturday. The best way to get there is from Notting Hill Station and really just by following the crowd - hard to miss then and it's honestly not far. I read somewhere that it was supposed to be open until 7 pm, so I did everything but hurry and arrived at about 4. Too bad that it went actually until 5.30 with the good stalls already starting to pack so I was rather stressed after realising that - thus so little pictures as my main goal really was finding a present.
The majority of antique dealers actually had their constant shops inside and when looking at the facades of the buildings it is actually hard to imagine how deep they actually go. One antique market hall next to another, so to say. The atmosphere reminded me very much of Camden Market, but less crackhouse chique and more posh. Oh, and really really expensive if you really want to go for the antiques. I expected something resembling a fleamarket to be honest but what you find are actual antiques and porcelain merchants so be aware of that. May it be jewellery, silverware, china, furniture, vases and so on - it's at Portobello's and it's pretty - it really it. Along with vintage clothes and accessories as well as new creations that fit into that kind of style. I actually was really really stressed and slightly panicking as finding something nice, thoughtful and affordable turned out to be more difficult than expected (I always put a lot of thought into giving presents as I really want the other person to like it. Still feel uncomfortable reveiving presents, though). I started to get pissed as all those other people seemed to be so terribly slow and rude, always purposely standing in or crossing my way! That was of course all in my head and I was very aware of that - it's just how it seems to be when you are in a hurry, right? ;)

After finding something, I was finally able to relax for a second and get myself something to munch on. I settled on a delicious vegan falafel wrap with aubergine/eggplant for 4 pounds (3.50+aubergine), sat down on a traffic refuge - there weren't that many cards passing, anyway - listened to troubadour singing Elvis songs and trying to avoid the sauce dripping from my dinner. I went on buying myself about a kilo of tasty and fresh grapes for 1 pound or 1.20 - actually not too fresh, slightly brownish at some areas but still very very yummy - for later, passing a shop selling super expensive, delicious smelling hand-made soap and other things. Lushy it was called and the soap looked like broken parmesan with something like a honey-coloured, comb-strucured  glaze on top - and cost a fortune.

I spent the whole Sunday with Katja. She had an appointment in Shortlands - south-east London - and I came along. Believe me, getting from Streatham to Shortlands really is an adventure, but one worth the effort. It was Sunday and I wrote down a route the tfl - transport for London website - suggested me. It later turned out that there would have been a probably longer but assured way - but nevermind. I only went by bus with one change. Taking the bus is a rather tricky matter here in London - they might not show up, be late or just ignore you (what happened to me today and that fucker of a driver looked me write in the eyes... There are some stations the buses only stop when you wave at them and so I did. Greasy, bloated, dumb-looking little bastard). In my case, the first bus I had to take not only had a different destination than what the tfl said  - that later thankfully changed directly into the one I needed to get off - it did not even stop there. Actually the destination the bus was supposed to stop turned out to be right around the corner, but if you are unfamiliar with the route, you wouldn't know. I was supposed to change at Crystal Palace and the bus right after the one I just had to leave was named that way, so I hopped on it and asked for a zone 4 ticket as my final destination was there and my oyster cards only reached zone 3. I tried to get that one on the first bus as well but the driver refused to sell it to me and I still don't know if they really just don't or if he was not in the mood as I saw him selling SOMETHING to somebody else later, but nevermind. Anyway, the busdriver of the one I just got on not only asked me where I actually wanted to go, but took me with him for one station for free so to say and told me exactly how to get there and which bus to take. Friendliest. Busdriver. Ever.

That reminds me of an incident the Czech girl that lived here on my first week told me about. A bus stopped right next to her with the driving lady shouting "hey". Not realising that she meant her, the girl went on, with another "hey" following. It turned out that she dropped her pullover a few metres before and the driver just wanted to tell her. So some busdrivers really are nice here.

After Katja's appointment we went on for lunch in Brixton. Again I ate at Bamboula - the place I've been before twice - but this time I was rather disappointed. We were really hungry so I was not in the mood to extensively search for the entry of the market so we went there almost directly. Maybe some other day I will find the place P recommended me when they actually jerk the chicken fresh outside.

This time I had the simmered goat which honestly turned out to be a disappointment. While really tender, the meat was spare with many chunks of bones and not really distinctive flavour-wise so I would honestly put it in the category of mystery meat again. Katja opted for the jerk lamb and while finding it delicious, she said that it was nothing she could eat everyday, what is okay with me. As I suggested the place I was worried that she would not like it at all. Frankly, last time I ate there I was not even sure if they actually served plantain or just  bananas and they first bill the waitress gave us was only handwritten so I asked whether I could get an actual one (I get a certain amount of subsistence at my internship when handing over receipts) and the price on there was lower than the first one - although service was included as well. Pretty shady if you would ask me and I think that it is about time to find a different place for Caribbean cuisine. Nevermind.

We went on to see the new Resident Evil in a cinema close to picadilly circus that turned out to be the shittiest cinema I have ever been in, While looking rather fancy from the outside, the actual theatre had not even stairs but only a slight lowering of the floor so you pretty much had a nice view of other peoples back of the head. It might sound weird, but I like the fact that I saw a film in London - which was actually the first one I saw in 3D - and the cinema turned out to be the way it was.

After a short side trip to Chinatown afterwards (where I bought unsweetened bottled green tea - very refreshing) we called it a night.

The following week was not too eventful. I went to a pub three times with some colleagues which may be a bit too often but worth it. :) I don't know why but I don't feel like writing too much about work- or colleague-related topics on here.

If I find the time, tomorrow I will write about my spontaneous but AWESOME walk through Central London I took today, finally being up to date again!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 13-15 Germans - so annoying. (13.09.10 - 15.09.10 and thoughts blended in that are not bound to any date)

Where should I begin. I am already sitting here for about 15 minutes not knowing how to start. What a waste of precious time I actually get to rest.

While there is always some kind of input everyday - let it only be these little impressions you get while being on the tube -I often just get home from work, have a little chat with my host for maybe 10 or 15 minutes or so, do this and that, skype home and fall asleep while watching an episode of The Sopranos. Friday is Pub day with the colleagues, and sometimes I actually manage to eat dinner. I posted a picture of every dinner I've had so far except the two times I ate fish and chips, but that's really not worth posting and I'll try to avoid that in the future as it is soggy, rather greasy and not really tasty (it's at least that way where get here). But I still need time and energy to find a good place for a take away in this area and as you get that right at he station here it's a save choice when close to starvation. So you can actually see how little I usually eat here so far (just saying, not complaining). I would LOVE to cook, but then again I find it rather difficult for one person alone and the kitchen is not too inviting. I could use it if I wanted to, but... no. And I could get TONS of microwaveable stuff, what I actually try to avoid as well. And the energy again. Can a person be too exhausted for cooking? Yes. Definitely.
My diet mainly consists of one slice of toast in the morning (which I slowly can't stand anymore - every bloody day the same sh*t. White bread, peanut butter, orange and strawberry jam as well as chocolate-hazelnut spread.), a pack of sandwiches for lunch along with a portion of fruits - mostly fruit salads (no sugar added) or grapes - some crisps and/or some kind of little sweet treat. Mostly something different everyday so I get to try new things. I theoretically COULD store something in the kitchen but the cupboards are filled with Bisto (instant sauce/spice you can get here for a variety of dishes), canned food and old shit. I COULD use the fridge but then again it's stuffed and filthy. Again, I am not complaining as I already came to terms with that, just saying how it is. I am a (paying) guest in this house, renting a room and being allowed to use the bathroom (where she is leaving her pink plastic shavers including hair everywhere). The rest is extra. If I start cleaning (really noticable - I do clean little parts every day) she'll think that I think she is messy. What she is. But I am going to stay here for 2 1/2 months still and we get along pretty good so far. But don't let me do her wrong. She DOES hoover regularly and there sometimes seems to be some chlorinated cleaner in the toilet. But still.

And why AM I taking and posting pictures of food? Who cares? I do.

Beside of the practical aspect of posting food - it actually encourages me to try eating something else each time - there is so much more about. I won't sit down now and copiously ponder about what food means to me - which would be interesting another time actually (oh I miss cooking...) - I'll just put it like this for now: Do you remember that one time in summer when you were a child you ate at you grandparents'?  See.
I had venus clams once in my life when I was ten in a restaurant in Italy and I still remember how they tasted, who was with me, how the location was and how it made me feel.
We link scents, textures and tastes (basically everything we prerceive with our senses) with memories and vice versa (nothing new, I know) so I hopefully will remember eating that delicious bowl of hoisin duck soup (lots of ginger again - yum) along wish frozen yoghurt and strawberries as dessert at itsu I had last Thursday (16.09) , the vegan falafel wrap I had at Portobello Market on Saturday (18.09) and the simmered goat I had on Sunday (19.09) when I was with Katja in Brixton again. (All this will be included in the next post.)

Now I still don't seem to have written a lot about the actual week. Well. I'll come to it.

Wednesday 15th was the complete waste of time I expected it to be. Actually - it was worse.
A few days prior I got that mail from the internship agency inviting me to a meeting with other German interns in London together with the "Germanic Society of London" or some bullshit along those lines. At first, I did not want to go at all (I'm not here for meeting even more Germans...) but then I thought I could just give it a try as there was nothing I could have lost and maybe there would have been some nice people after all I could do something with at the weekends as I don't know too many people yet yada-yada-yada. Waste of time.

South Kensington - posh.
When I saw the the bar we were supposed to meet at was located in South Kenstington I just thought "Hmmm, rather posh. But they know we are interns - we cannot afford that much.". Uh-huh. Small water: 3 Pound. Gin-Tonic: 7.30 Pounds. I even missed the place at first as that tiny little logo thay have is perfectly covered by the marquise as you get close enough to actually read it. It was dark, small and smelled like dirty dishwasher everytime they opened the door as they put us down the stairs right next to the kitchen ( their "meeting room" - according to them). When I arrived, I sceptically looked at a tall blonde girl waving at me with some kind of paper having a logo on it or something like that from the "basement". Down there were the agency's boss giving a shit about any intern, talking with members of that society who equally gave a shit, their interns and a guy having an internship in the same building. After the obligatory who I am, how my internship is, where I stay and so on, two other interns came along. Both blonde, one starting, the other finishing her internship (same company I think it was - something with fashion events). One from Austria, the other from Bavaria. Pu-LEEZ-ah.

I immediately shut myself down. All of them were giggly, moaning self-obsessed Wendys. It's actually rather difficult to explain what a Wendy is. Wendy is actually a German, horse-centred girl's magazine/comic with its main protagonist - Wendy, duh - epitomising that "Heile Welt" (ideal world) "Ponyhof" (pony stables) persona. (take a look: ).

All they did was whining about how hot and crowded it is in the tube, how many people there are in London (uh-huh, you don't say...), how slutty girls dress when they go out and that they don't bother dressing up anymore as there 'is always someone dressed worse around'. "Deutsches Kälteempfinden" bla bla. They all agreed that they could not live here. Who would have seen THAT one coming...

I could. And that is pretty much all I need to say about it.

I my me mine all night. Superficial, dumb, obnoxious Wendys, hysterically laughing when realising that they all agree to everything they say. If they can't handle being here, maybe they should have settled on Dartford instead.
That guy was talking with an englishman who happened to work at the agency about German beer the whole time- not one of my favourite topics either.

I politely finished my drink and left together with too other girls from the Cologne area that turned up after a while and seemed to enjoy themselves as little as I did.

Maybe a revised version of this entry may come, who knows. I may manage to finally catch up. Who knows.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 12: Camden Market revisited and the nightly Thames on Fi-AH!

Ok, so here I write again, almost one week delayed... what can I say - being busy all day and exhausted at night. That's about it. I want to have this blog and I like posting on it, but I really need to work on my time management probably. The moment it turns into a burden I should rather stop, go on hiatus or shorten the posts. But I don't want any of this to happen, actually.

Last Sunday was amazing. It started rather slow with me waiting for Katja and Sarah in Camden as there had been issues with their train, but that gave me the chance to circle the area around the market. I actually thought that I am going to be late as I missed the bus and were caught up in a traffic jam later, so I texted apologetic messages without realising that there is no chance of getting a signal on the tube, but nevermind. It was better this way. I prefer waiting for someone than having someone waiting for me - so I can at least pretend that I am pissed in the end. ;)

What I did not know before is that Camden really is a real nice place to live, I would say and rather on the posh side even. Just one street above the market and you would not imagine it's there: nice, clean and quiet area, terraced houses (which is mostly the only kind you'll see - as far as I can judge so far as I have not been to too many areas north of the Thames except the central ones) with lovely front gardens.

And then again, right beneath the market - shabbiness. Not so pretty.

When Katja and Sarah finally arrived, it naturally was time to enter the fray again. Walking around the market, shopping (them, not me) and eating some chinese/japanese/whatever mix it all 4 GBP a dish.

After Camden, we had to say goodbye to Sarah und went to the oh so awaited carnival. Westminster it was - so I thought. So we went there first (Katja claiming right from the beginning that it must be Waterloo Station), saw nothing but the usual crowd, and decided to take the bus to Waterloo afterall. So far so good. Alas, the bus did not head to Waterloo, but these are the things you only notice when you are driving for a while already. When it then finally dawned on us - off we went, straight to Elephant & Castle and right to Waterloo via Tube, then.

Waterloo Station is rather big - an actual train station with the tube underneath. When we finally reached the Thames we knew we were at the right place: Little stalls selling food, clothes and schnick schnack, and trees beautifully illuminated with blue and white lights. We were just on time for watching the ending of a performance involving dancing and water(ing), but the highlight really was the parade.


It was pretty much a coincidence that we saw where
it started: We were just walking, wondering what else there might be, saw some weird artistic thingy and whoop, music and people in costumes. Unfortunately, others new what was about to happen, so we could not really see alot (some of the picures were taken with my hand held as far up as I could). While continually walking further, we happened to see the same part of the parade over and over, outrunning it again and again, until we finally found a somewhat enjoyable spot. The rather oldish guy right next to us was not as enjoyable as he tried to push us away so he could film the whole thing with something that looked like a mobile installed on something that seemed to be a bar with a kind of light - never seen it before; probably some failed electronic gimmick he still clings on. Nevermind. Persistent, and a little featherbrained he kept waving at the participants trying to motivate them to do likewise, but only achieving to equally weird them out as he did us. I just imagined this poor man's collection of tapes with a whole lot of weirded out people on them... oh my.

I actually intended to not really show any people on my blog, but I'll make an exception for these, as they must be well aware that their pictures are going to be taken when actively participating in a parade (I'm still trying to refuse showing children, though).  I remember one little girl in particular that was part of a group holding up colourfully decorated sticks, waving them rhythmically from side to side who was dancing all the time (contrary to the others). And I only do so probably because Katja saw and mentioned her as well.

Right when the last drumline had finished, we heard the first skyrockets cracking. With uncanny enthusiasm, a great amount of parade spectators ran - almost hysterically - towards the waterside just like they had never seen fireworks before. Admittedly, it was quite a stunning sight.

So the evening really ended with a bang when we tried to get to Waterloo Station again before the place was too crowded.