Let the Travel Blog BEGIN!...

Posted by JSYL on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 in
Hello fans.

So I've been here in London for just over two weeks and I still can't find a way to properly answer the question so many of you have been asking me in that time: "How's your trip going?" There's no way I can summarise every little eccentricity, every new person I've met, every observation made in the space of a single sentence or msn conversation, so I won't try to. Here are some nice generalisations though:

Five reasons I love London:

1. The tube: When any of the lines are down, all havoc breaks loose. But when it actually works, its so convenient in getting me from market to museum to uni dorm. A subway will arrive every few minutes, which is perfect for people who constantly sleep in and are late getting anywhere- people like me.

2. Nice-shit-nice corners: When I first got to Heathrow I thought I'd somehow stepped off a time-machine and landed in an 80s' John Cusack movie, with dull carpets, almost-neon yellow signs and the general dull aura that I didn't expect to come associated with the land of Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse and Rimmel's London look. On the taxi ride from there to my brother's apartment I thought I must have mistaken the 80s film for a 60s-70s one: namely, 'To Sir with Love'. The dirty streets, dull store signage and tacky window displays did nothing to boost my confidence. But then, miraculously, turn a corner and there is Brick Lane, vibrant, filled with punk-rockers and market stalls, colourful food and vintage clothing hung up everywhere. And another- Buckingham Palace, Harrods, expensively dresssed people and so forth, Somerset House, the British Museum, the Big Ben, and the list just keeps going. There's no such thing as a bad-end of London, just a not-so-nice street which ends almost as quickly as you can say: "This looks so depressing".

3. Topshop. There's no need to say anymore....but what the heck. A few days after I got here my friend Jody told me to meet her at Oxford Circus. I had no idea what or where that was but with my trusty tube map, I was there within about 15 minutes. Utterly lost, I followed the sign that said Oxford St to one of its many exits. And lo and behold, while climbing up the stairs, I saw it, just as it was in my dreams, and in all its glory in my 'Shop till you Drop' magazine back home: Topshop. The home of Kate Moss for the masses, designer-styles at retail prices, a veritable EMPIRE for the 20-something fashion fan. A whole floor devoted to accessories, a quarter belonging to handbags. Aisles ready and waiting for returns. Dorothy really couldn't have put it better when she said : "There's no place like home".

4. London Lemmings: Two of the tube lines were down one night, and if you needed to get anywhere in the south, you really needed at least one of them to be up and running. It's a subway, so picture the steepest hill you can, and escalators up and down it. Then recall the feeling of being amid the crowd at the Big Day Out, double the numbers, and imagine running, shoulder-to-shoulder packed up and down those stairs. Not fun. The announcer told us one of the lines was now up and running. So of course we all ran up, and back down to the other platform to catch the next tube there. He then told us that they were very sorry, but were mistaken, and we'd be better off going back to the other line instead.

Up and down those stairs again. The collective sigh/groan echoed off the curved walls, and I couldn't help but laugh. It's like we were one with the frustration of it all. My brother told me once that Sydney's population is about 20% that of London's. I felt it more than ever that night, and when I saw the gathering angry crowd surrounding the affected stations, yelling at station staff and swearing on their mobile phones, I suddenly came to understand how quickly Macquarie Fields and Cronulla action can start up. Lemmings don't have it easy, but it makes every destination you reach feel like Everest in the end.

5. Inspiration amid the dark clouds: People always bitch about how gloomy and cold London is but there's so much...of everything here. Art, architecture, fashion, even the graffiti on billboards, the side of trucks, store window displays and advertisements...there's such a rich history for design here that everything is so unique, over the top and colourful. It's like all the energy's been sucked out of the air and plugged into everything else, to make up for the bad weather. There's a kind of beauty in running into a subway station in shelter from the cold, and hearing a really awesome jazz singer busking near the platforms, admiring a girl's whacky outfit on the tube and, upon reaching one market or another, seeing multicoloured scarves folded on a market stall table and re-interpreted vintage skirts made entirely of coat sleeves. Inspiring even. Hopeful.

Five reasons I still call Australia home:

1. No creepy encounters: I was in this awesome gallery the other day, and this middle-aged man looking at the same photo as me started making general banter, you know the usual "wow these photos are really something huh" type questions, which quickly turned into "so where are you staying? where are you from?" questions. I dodged as much as I could, moving around the gallery at appropriate intervals to try to get away...but there's only so far you can go in a room, so I eventually said "Look I'm gonna go, nice to talk to you bye!"
Crazy man: "Which gallery are you going to now?" (really freaked out now)
Me: "I don't know I'm gonna just walk around" (fuck does this mean he'll follow?)
Crazy man: "I'm going to Chinatown"
Me: "Oh that's nice, I'm gonna go see ya!"

I hid in an old Hollywood movie memorabilia book store around the corner for about 15 mins before returning to finish the exhibition. When I told my fellow exchange student friend this story he nodded the whole way through before telling me that every single girl he knows here has told him a similar creepy-man-story. Bigger city, bigger proportion of weirdos I guess.

2. The feel of thongs and sand on my feet: ... 'nough said.

3. Food: I've been quite lucky in that the first couple of weeks, I was staying with my brother, who kindly took me to some awesome places to eat. 'London food shitty? Narrr can't beeee' I thought to myself. But after eating every sandwich known to man to exist, I realise now how little variety there is here. Goodbye Asian food courts, goodbye 3am kebab and hello to potato jackets cold 1 pound tesco sandwiches and pasta salads. I survived on microwave soup and a small loaf of bread for a while. I bought Vogue the other day which set me back a little so I settled for a banana for dinner. I have succumbed to the neccessity of fresh food though- I cooked for myself for the first time yesterday...no really, I did. And I'm still alive to tell the tale. By July I will be the best thing since Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay! But probably still nowhere near as good as my mum...who's cooking I miss more than a lot of things!

4. The lack of a conversion rate: People keep telling me to stop converting, because after a while it's pointless trying to save money here. But it's hard not to when the pound is worth around 2.5 times as much as the Aussie dollar. On one of my first days out I thought I'd done well to find a 2 pound coffee...that was until i realised, while drinking it, that i'd just spent about 5 bucks. Ouch. Uni subsidised drinks, how I love thee.

5. My favourite people: aww yes of course, the lover of Scrubs, Spanglish and James L. Brooks-directed Simpsons episodes MUST have her cheesy ending. When I left, it became so apparent who my true friends are. The ones who tell me when they know I'm making a bad decision, and still stand by me when I go ahead and make it anyway. The ones who dropped everything to see me before I left. The ones who know exactly who I am and still love me. The ones who know what I'm thinking, what I'm scared of and what I need, before I do.

The ones who sit in cars with me till 4am while I sob my drunken eyes out. The ones I watch girly movies, eat pizza and bitch with. The ones who call without hesitation, who are there as soon as you can say the words 'I feel shit' and the ones who will gather around me in a toilet cubicle to make me throw up when I've had too much to drink. In all seriousness, you are the ones I do not have to waste a second doubting, because I know you will be right there, every bit as loyal and amazing as when I left. I love you guys. *pause for the aww*
Email me some time you stupid bastards. =p

Until next time, take care and don't forget about me! =)




good stuff. keep it coming.

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