In November (yes, I’m still crying about how far behind I am with my posts, why do you ask) I went to the UK with puzzledpeaces for the wedding of a friend. And since we went there already we added a couple of days in London (for sightseeing and such) and a couple of days in Cambridge to visit aber_karramba.
We started Thursday morning and when I say morning, I mean so fucking early in the morning it was still dark. We caught a bus to Bratislava airport (after we found it – it took us a bit, not only because it was dark but because the bus station is being renovated and the bus doesn’t leave from its usual spot and being the creature of habit that I am, I didn’t even look left and right and just went to the normal spot, actually walking past the bus that had BRATISLAVA in huge letters on its side).
In any case we made it to Bratislava where we had to hang around the airport for a bit before our flight to London left. In case you don’t know it, Bratislava airport is about the size of a living room and has about three shops and two cafés or something. There are no flights between about 11pm and 9am and there is nothing much to do. But we made it through the hardship of having to entertain ourselves and made it on the plane without issue and off we went.
Once we arrived in London, we were out of the airport quickly and made our way to our hostel, near Borough Market. The hostel was divided in three houses all within 300m or so, and we stayed in the house closest to the subway, but reception was in the house furthest from it, so there was a bit of walking before we were settled. But once we had done that, we headed into the market for lunch and ended up having the most wonderful pie to a most decent price. And of course, other food stuff was bought because that market is amazing.
From there, we headed to Trafalgar Square where we encountered a moment of absolute magic: the blue chicken that I also saw last time was still there and provided a surreal background for a busker who was singing Hallelujah while another street performer made huge soap bubbles over the washed out street chalk drawing of a girl. It felt like we were suddenly in a whole other dimension, so we stood around there for a bit before heading into the National Gallery.
The National Gallery is big, and we saw far from all of it. Mostly we stuck to the more modern things and I especially fell in love with the portrait of Mr and Mrs Edwards by Henri Fantin-Latour (see above) [I mean, look at that come at me bro expression on her face] and Joseph Mallord William Turner‘s Ulysses deriding Polyphemus (see below) which looks like it has a cloud monster in the background. And I thought that van Gogh‘s Wheat Field and Akseli Gallen-Kallela‘s Lake Kekelli were perfect examples of why you need to see some paintings in a museum and not just as prints.
Anyway, after the National Gallery puzzledpeaces was surprised to find out that I had never been to Covent Garden market, so we headed there for a bit and I basically confirmed the reason why I hadn’t gone there before: all of the bling and none of the charm. Really not my thing. So I was pretty glad when we quickly moved out of there and through Seven Dials in the direction of the Forbidden Planet (of course).
But before we arrived there, a man put himself in my way and asked whether he could ask me a few questions. I’m usually pretty good at dodging these things, but I wondered what he would ask me about, so I said yes. And then it started.
Him: So, what products do you use on your face?
Me: I don’t actually use any.
Him: *terrified eyes* But do you wash your face?
Me: Of course I wash my face.
Him: *relaxes a little* So what soap do you use? Garnier, Lancome, [whatever pricey brand you can think of]?
Me: Nah, I just use whatever’s available.
Him: But but what do you buy?
Me: Whatever’s cheap.
Him: *looks like he just had a very personal encounter with Satan* Would you like some samples?
Me: Thanks, I’m good. *leaves*
I don’t think I’ve ever seen pure mortification until this day. It amuses me greatly.
Anyway, at Forbidden Planet I left some money but walked out with beautiful things like Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle (including a tote that you got with every purchase of the book) and Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, leaving Kick-Ass 3 and Locke and Key behind with a heavy heart. But a budget is a budget and I’ve learned to respect mine, as sad as it sometimes is.
After the Forbidden Planet, we headed to the Cambridge Theatre to see Matilda the Musical (review follows) which included slushies and wonderfully entertained school kids. And the show itself was perfectly charming.
When we got back to our hostel, both puzzledpeaces and me figured that we were getting too old for this shit – meaning dorms shared with strangers who turn out to be not quite adult yet. At least we got to hear about The US-American Girl and the Epic Search for Soup in London. Which is apparently incredibly difficult, prompting puzzledpeaces and me to point out every place which offered soup we saw for the rest of the trip – and there are a lot of those.
Anyway, we made it through the night and the next morning we headed to the reception house again where we left our bag and had breakfast – a traditional English breakfast, of course. After breakfast we walked along the South Bank up until Southbank Center where they had a small but very nice and at the time of the day still very empty Christmas Market and a Natural Food Market that just opened when we had to leave to get our bags from the hostel to go to the train station. There, we met up with finnporter and thegrumpygirl (who had arrived in London a couple of days earlier) and made our way to Essex where the wedding took place that was the actual reason for our trip.
So, we spent the weekend in a charming little bed and breakfast, had drinks in a surprisingly charming pub with excellent beer where we got knitting tips and met a whole lot of charming people and saw a friend getting married in a golf club. It was an extremely nice weekend [I won’t say more about it, privacy and all].
On Sunday afternoon we had to leave the wedding people and catch a train to Cambridge to visit aber_karramba and keewa. The picked us up from the train station, took us to check in in our hostel and then we drove straight on to aber_karramba’s where her flatmates had prepared a British dinner (Toad in the Hole and Eton Mess) to which we were invited. After dinner and a round of Taboo, our bed was calling.
On Monday, we met the two of them again and headed to city center. I have been to Cambridge many years ago (almost 16, actually) for three weeks and it was very weird to come back to it now. Some parts I remembered just as they were, some parts I couldn’t recall at all. I was continuously thrown from Touristy Discovery Mode to Reminiscing Flashbacks and back.
In any case, it’s a really nice city. We walked around Christ’s College, then the market and of course King’s Parade. Then aber_karramba led us to Wren Library in Trinity College which is nice to look at in itself and gives you a chance to look at some original manuscripts by famous people who studied in Cambridge like Isaac Newton or A. A. Milne.
Our next stop after that was coffee, then more walking around the city until we ended up at Heffer’s. Because I hadn’t bought enough books yet. And a beautiful, well-sorted bookshop will never entice me to buy books. Nuh-uh. Not me. (I could still close my carry-on suitcase, I call that a win anyway. But it did mean that I had to leave the awesome Annotated H.P. Lovecraft by Leslie Klinger. It would have been an impossible fit.)
What better way to end a book shopping spree than with some excellent tea and scones? I don’t know, that’s why we did just that at Harriets. After a bit more shopping, a lot more window shopping, and a fair amount of sight seeing, we went to The Eagle pub for dinner and beer. And after that it was time to say good-bye to aber_karramba and keewa. (Why is Cambridge so far away from Vienna anyway?)
The next morning we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum after breakfast. Apart from their permanent exhibition they had one about the Chapman Brothers and Francisco Goya which was rather interesting and one called Silent Partners about artists and their mannequins. That exhibition was partly interesting, partly extremely creepy, partly a little boring. But I did like that they included examples of bad art and pointed out why those pieces were criticized – which, on the one hand, makes the basis of judgement a lot clearer and on the other sharpens your own eye for things that can go wrong and conversely things that are well done.
After we were done with the museum – or it was done with us, having fried my brain – we got ourselves lunch and then it was time already to grab our bags and catch our train to the airport (luckily we had planned to take an earlier train than strictly necessary because the train after that was cancelled), fly back to Bratislava (where we had the airport pretty much to ourselves) and finally take the bus to Vienna (which we shared with one other dude, I think, and nobody else), where we arrived shortly before the subway stopped for the night.
When I finally arrived home, I had barely enough energy to cuddle my cats before going to bed, but that’s what a good trip will do to you.