London, Baby!

Writing this in Word since, get this, my room doesn’t have internet. Well, it does, but only via a “voucher” which they ran out of the first day. There were supposed get more today, but haven’t. I don’t even know if I’ll bother. It’s 12 pounds for 2 weeks. I can get free WiFi at Pret and McDonald’s, and I don’t need to be on the internet every day. It’s even a nice little break from being wired all the time.

Sunday, Day 1
The longest day in creation. My flight wasn’t till 9:30 PM so MB and I had the whole day to hang out. I packed in the morning, then for lunch we went to this nice place on Avenue A. I had a yummy omelet with goat cheese, spinach, and tomato.

The weather was so nice (ie, not raining for a change) we decided to take a walk out to the Apple store in Chelsea for a cover for my laptop. The weather held up till we got to the water, then unfortunately it started to rain, so we hopped the M23 back to the east side.

I was dreading having to leave. I mean, I was excited about my trip but hated saying goodbye to MB. This will be the longest we’ve been apart. When he goes to his conferences, the longest he’ll go is a week. The longest trips I’ve taken since we’ve met have been just a few days. But after we finally did say goodbye and I got in a cab, I felt okay. I could focus on my trip more, though these past couple of days, of course, I’ve missed him.

I got to the airport by 7:15 PM. The wait actually didn’t feel too long. I ate some junk and read Eclipse (yes, I’m totally sucked in), and wandered around the airport. We were supposed to board at 8:30 but didn’t get on till almost 9:30. Then we sat on the runway till 11. I was so relieved when we finally took off.

I had no one next to me, but across the aisle was this odd couple. A British woman maybe my age, and a man – maybe from Trinidad? – in what looked to be his 50s. The whole time he kept sucking his teeth, and I think he told the woman to shut up multiple times. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but I didn’t think so. It was very weird, though he was perfectly pleasant to the crew.

Weirdness #2: the woman behind me kept sneezing, and each time afterwards she’d say, “Bless me!” If she sneezed twice in a row, she said bless me twice.

Turns out one of my classmates was on the plane. We were waiting on line for the bathroom, and I thought, This guy looks familiar. I thought, Did we go on a date? Thank God no. He was in one of my classes fall semester.

I didn’t really sleep the whole flight. I dozed off in the middle of Bolt, but didn’t have a proper sleep. I didn’t figure out how to adjust my seat till we were almost there, so I was sort of uncomfortable for most of the flight.

Heathrow finally! We were supposed to get in at 9:30 AM but were about 45 minutes late. My classmate and I connected, and took the Tube together to the dorm. Sounds easier than it was. Both sleep deprived, we had a hard time figuring out a) where a cash machine was, and b) how to buy an Oyster card. We did figure it out finally, and got on the train.

The subways are pretty nice in London, but it still took a year. Then we had to transfer, which involved dragging our suitcases up and down lots of stairs. I was soooo tired, and more than anything wanted to take a shower.

We’re staying in a dorm, and lemme tell ya, it’s crummy. I’ve stayed in some old dorm rooms in my time, but this takes the cake. My feet will go nowhere near the floor, let alone the shower.

I used the men’s bathroom by mistake, thinking it was unisex. It wasn’t till last night, in my daze from returning from a half-asleep pee, that I found the women’s room when I walked past my door. The men’s bathroom was really bad. One shower didn’t work, and the other didn’t drain properly. The women’s bathroom is slightly better, though one shower had only cold water.

Oh my God, I couldn’t live here for more than two weeks. But I guess that’s what you get for 35 pounds a night.

After my shower, I ran out and got groceries from a nearby Tesco’s. I was all set to go out immediatley afterwards, but was suddenly utterly exhausted. I napped for about 90 minutes, and woke up feeling pretty refreshed.

I took the subway to Leicester Square, then realized I could have walked there. I hadn’t eaten much the whole day – a muffin on the plane, and a yogurt – so first stop: Pret for a sandwich. I like Pret back home, and I remember my brother saying it was one of the few places in London that was reasonably priced. An excuse to stick with the familiar.

After I ate, I saw Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, and walked all the way down Picadilly to Buckhingham Palace.

Picadilly Circus

Picadilly Circus

It wasn’t that far of a walk but just felt that way since I was so tired. I also used a restroom in a fancy hotel, trying to be inconspicuous, but then ended up pulling the emergency cord (thought it was for the toilet), and even after I assured the guy who knocked that I was okay, opened the door to find him standing there.

There was nothing going on at Buckingham Palace. I saw one of the guards walk back and forth, that’s it. Afterwards I walked all the way back to school. All in all, a three hour tour.

I had also picked up an ethernet cable, but was told there were no more vouchers. By this time, I hadn’t contacted anyone to say I had landed and was okay, and started to feel panicky. The guy at the front desk was nice and said that all McDonald’s had free wireless. I remembered seeing one nearby and so, laptop in town, went to find it.

I couldn’t. I wandered around aimlessly, my panic growing, till finally I found a Pret that was still open. Apparently they all have free WiFi too, and there is one practically on every corner.

Sent emails to MB, my parents, and bro. Checked other email, Twitter, Facebook, and people’s blogs. Ate another sandwich and chips, for dinner.

It stays light out here till about 10. I was back in my room and ready for sleep by 9:45, and didn’t think I’d be able to sleep, but it was no problem. I woke up a few times, but had no trouble falling back asleep.

Monday, Day 2
Awake at 5 because of the light of my room. Quickly passed out again till 7.

Had a more pleasant women’s shower stall experience, then went to breakfast, which is included in the 35 pounds. It had been promised as a traditional English spread, but it wasn’t that great. The eggs were fine, but the sausage was strange and the ham fatty. Tomorrow I’ll probably just go for a boiled egg, toast, and lots of coffee.

The morning was lots of administrative stuff, plus a tour of the campus. Before lunch we had a couple of lectures. The first was from David Nichols from the CIBER Research book, who talked about consumers in cyberspace, for instance how shopping in cyberspace changes shopping habits. One thing I didn’t agree with is his opinion that people who use the internet a lot don’t gain any skills.  He’s with the school of thought that searching and reading on the internet dumbs people down, while I think it gives people different skills, like being able to scan quickly for important info and to read with an extra critical eye since the internet is so prone to errors.

For lunch a couple of classmates and I grabbed sandwiches from a café on campus, and ate on benches in the sun. The sun is surprisingly strong here. It’ll be supremely sunny, then suddenly overcast and drizzly. Earlier tonight there was even thunder, but now it’s clear.

Note to self: take pictures of London at night in the rain.

The talk in the afternoon was just a detailed overview of the program. We were done at 3.

I wanted to go see this free exhibit on medical history at the Wellcome Center, but it was closed. So I headed out to Regent Park. Really nice! It’s no Central Park, but Queen Mary’s garden is gorgeous. Roses roses roses, and a nice pond with lots of cool ducks and two black swans.

By the time I finished walking through it and returned to campus, it was time for the 5:30 reception.

At first it was a little uncomfortable, but by the end a bunch of us were just sitting around talking and laughing, which was fun.

Afterwards a small group of us went out to eat. Most of us wanted Indian. Most of us. But somehow minority ruled over manjority. Hmm. We ended up eating Italian, which was pretty good. Cheap definitely. I got a half portion of spaghetti bolagnese for 4.50 pounds, about $7 or $8. (I’m trying to do $40 a day, a la Rachel Ray, which I guess right now is about 25 pounds. Breakfast came with the room, while my lunch was 3.55. Total: 8.05 pounds. Waaay under.) Afterwards a few of us went out for a drink. (Oh yeah, my wine. I think it was 5 pounds. So 13.05 pounds for the whole day, still under.)

I hope I’m not too hungover tomorrow. We start at 9:30, a little later, so I can sleep till 7:30 or 8 if I want, though on Wednesday, we’re going to Oxford, and need to be there by 9, which means leaving at 7, which means getting up at possibly 5:30, which also means leaving before the dining hall opens for breakfast. Tomorrow I will have to get some instant coffee, a kettle or pot, and a cup. There’s a Muji store nearby – an excuse to spend too much money.

Of course I miss MB like crazy, especially when I’m walking around on my own looking at stuff. I know we’d have so much fun doing that kind of thing together. It’s only during the lectures that I’m pretty occupied with what’s going in the moment.

All Day 1 and Day 2 pictures.


  1. When I was in New York recently, I tried to remember what it was like in London taking the subway – i.e., how clean it was despite being old. How do you rate it against New York? How much older is the Tube system?

    I’m looking forward to see how you fair $40/25 pounds per day – it’s tough! But I loved getting “foreign” treats from Tesco and M&S. I don’t know if there are many locations, but I enjoyed the cafe “eat.” as well. (

    • wyn, so far the 25 pounds a day is doable. breakfast is included with the room, and i’m trying not to spend more than 10 pounds for lunch and dinner. that leaves about 5 for drinks and snacks. i may end up going over on the weekend though.

  2. That’s awesome that you got to sit alone during your flight :)
    35 pounds a night is kinda a lot, I think that entitles you to showers that work and floors that aren’t scary!

    • well, “alone” is more like it. the guy at the other end of my row – we were in the middle – decided to stretch out so i was blocking his feet with my pillow the whole time.

      i guess 35 pounds is around $60 a night. i’m used to spoiling myself and paying about $100, but that’s with a traveling buddy of course. still, everyone is disappointed and expected at least the bathroom to be somewhat better.