Thursday, September 15, 2011

LONDIE, UKAY


Let me just start by saying if you're looking for a Frommer's style post on London...look again because this trip was all about friends, family and kicking it in London like a real Brit ;-)

After my failed attempt over Labor Day Weekend, I've finally made it 'across the pond'...Hello Heathrow !  I land in London Thursday night around 9p (6hr flight with endless rum n cokes and new movies in first class totally distracted me from my crazy fear of flying) . Being super excited I 'PINGed' (Blackberry Messenger speak) my friend Odell as soon as the wheels touched down to make sure he was there waiting to scoop the package...ME! And waaait he did…Yikes ! After being up since 3am EST, I was in no mood for standing in a lengthy immigration line, come on people I'm only here for 72hrs. Two hours later and in what took all of 1 minute, I got my stamp from "la migra", and headed straight for the door.... London here I am !  Along with my friend, who patiently waited we made our way to the train. Public transport is the best way to learn any city and with my concrete jungle train past and the fact that I read English this was no challenge. We took two trains and a bus to get to his flat in Stoke Newington...a cute, quiet neighborhood in North London. Jet lag, a 2 hour wait in line and no red bull to give me wings, my next destination was bed.

Odell was off to work Friday morning and I on the other hand was in no rush to hit the road because sleep had the best of me. With my UK parry off to work it was just me and the streets of London, come on I lived in NYC...I got this! Ye, right, let me just say...thank GOD for my Blackberry, it came in sooo handy. Odell sent train directions via bbm and within 30 minutes I made it from North London down to the famous Oxford Street. First stop...the cambio because up until this point all I had was an Oyster card (thanks Neha) and £9. That cambio moment was pretty sad...I'll say that the Great Britain Pound has no respect for my US Dollars because when I gave that man my hard earned cash he gave me about 50% of it back. Armed with a few pounds and I do mean few I hit the ground running. I realized early on that London has a lot of the same stores as we do...so it obviously made no sense to roll into a Top Shop and pay twice the amount for stuff I could get Stateside. I needed to hit the London staples.
 
As long as I've known myself I can remember my Grammy and Mommi talking about  Marks and Spencer’s Lingerie Department. I mean like what girl doesn't love undies, but these women swoon about those panties. I now understand for myself...the department was massive and loaded with the best knickers ever...I procured a few and kept it moving...easily I could have spent half the day in there.

Next staple---> Primark or as the Brits affectionately call it "Primarni". Over the years, I've seen Primark listed on some of the English blogs I follow...I knew enough to know that it was trendy and cheap...what I didn't expect was to enter utter chaos. Think Walmart on Black Friday. I'm a girl that doesn't do well with over stimulation so the clothes on the floor, the screaming kids and  the lack of AC sent me trucking. I did see a few cute things, but in that "I wear this once, wash it and it's a wrap kind a way" and considering the lack of money exchange efficiencies I decided to pass. So I'll just go ahead and put it out there I did not have a huge clothes haul in London. With fashion becoming more accessible, gone are the days of only finding "good" clothes overseas *thank you baby jesus for Asos*. I spent a few hours on Oxford Street, grabbed a bite to eat and headed back uptown to pack an overnight bag for my sleepover at my Uncle's home in Greenford.

I took the train out to Greenford, a quick hour ride, and was met by my Uncle Mick and cousin Aisha. We headed home grabbed Aunt Jo and Aqueel just in time to make our 830 reservations at a yummy Chinese restaurant. I've always really been into family so I was as happy as a pig in mud to be surrounded by cousins that I only get to chat with on bbm. We laughed and talked and then I was in for the best treat...my uncle gave me a tour of the neighborhood he grew up in called Harlesden (think Flatbush,BK) and even took me to two of the houses my grandpa lived in during his 30 year London stint. I know it's cheesy,but I felt soooo connected and this was definitely a highlight of my trip. When we went home my Aunt Jo made me an official cup of English tea ...milk included. I'm a lover for life....I can't even imagine how I drank tea without milk. Aunt Jo the sweetest woman ever had already made a "take back to the USA package" for me to include my daily English tea, some fancy Earl Grey tea and some reggae reggae sauce. I can't wait to host my first tea party.
Uncle Mick and I
Aqueel

The next morning I woke up to the best Jamaican breakfast and guess what...more tea. I swear the day flies in London, so after some Harlesden touring, a you know it was time to make my way back to North London. *let the partying begin*
Aisha ;-)
Odell and I started the night at a CUUUTTTEEE Cuban restaurant in Angel called Cuba Libre. How fitting for me...lover of anything rum and coke that I would end up at Cuba Libre (translation: Cuba’s infamous drink - rum and coke with lime). A few drinks and then we were off to the feature presentation…the clubbing. First stop… this little Caribbean spot in Dalston...Soca was in full swing so you know I was a geeked. Drinks were great, but the crowd was bleh. I was too excited when Odell asked if I wanted to go to Brixton to a real "yardie rave"...ummm sir have we met? I would never pass on that opportunity. All the while I’m bbming my friends back home "guess where I'm going..BRRRIIIXXXXTTTTOOONNN".  We quickly get to 247 in Brixton. This spot is the quintessential hole in wall club...it's dark and it's tight, but full of vibes. In the midst of REAAAALLLLYYYYY enjoying myself, yours truly fell victim to  “the fall heard around the world”. As in I wiped out!!! I like to think that I was tripped or maybe it was the kinda wet floor and not KayTheKlutz making an appearance. Oh but it gets better, not only did I fall in a skirt and 5 inch heels I attempted to break said fall with my hand and at this point it’s safe to say I sprained my thumb. Talk about shaaaammmeeee! Good thing rum has medicinal purposes as well ;-)

Odell

The next morning I replayed the fall over and over...I had to keep reminding myself " I don't know these people" and "hell at least I have a great story to go with this pain." It was an easy kinda Sunday...a little breakfast and a lot of Formula 1 ( this was the first time I ever watched). To me it looked like the European version of  Nascar...meanwhile those words were blasphemous to my friend who is clearly a steadfast Formula 1 fan. I made my final trek to Greenford that evening and stopped on London Bridge for few photos.(RANDOM..why do we sing the nursery rhyme "London Bridge" to kids that song is quite scary...google the lyrics) The weather was great, the city was buzzing and then it started to hit me that my trip was coming to a close ;-( Back in Greenford I enjoyed one more amazing dinner and milky tea. Crack of dawn Monday morning, my uncle took me to the airport and besides my usual anxious feelings about flying…I was sooo sad to go.
View from London Bridge
Yum!
Whether you go for family/friends, sightseeing, feeding your Royal family fix,the shopping or fish and chips, London is a MUST on the bucket list. If you’re lucky, you may pick up a few English habits, after all, if anyone asks me “tea or coffee?” I’ll gladly say “ Tea, with milk please ;-)”.


Cheerio!

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