What a way to kick off our adventures. Three different hostels. Seven days of jet lag recovery, one crazy week of drinking and adjustment. Arriving in central London, on a bus that seemed to drive circular laps around Heathrow airport we eventually alighted into a city of gray skies and rude locals. I say this because even though we looked lost and are were carrying the weight of a small donkey on our backs, almost everyone we asked for directions “decided” to be unhelpful. Except a lovely young German lass managing the McDonalds in Piccadilly Circus. We couldn’t understand her all that well but she soon pointed us in the direction of a fantastic area called Bayswater. It’s a clean area with great pubs, cafes, hostels and close to everything nice and friendly.
For the first three nights we stayed in a large hostel know as the Liennster Inn. Now I’m not up for promoting hostels and places to stay, but we had trouble finding a good one, so you’ll have to forgive me. It’s one of five really good hostels in a chain called the Astor, incidentally it just happens to be one that STA Travel recommends, which we didn’t know… honestly we found out about it from a little old lady sweeping her steps. You know a hostel is going to be of high quality when the sign on the front door warns against the “consumption of drugs within” being prohibited. Obviously alcohol is not considered a drug here, the hostel boasts a small bar and pool room which even on a Tuesday night is open til 3am and jam packed with travelers from all over the world. It’s for this reason I can say we have not yet experienced the true England. In fact it seems we began the journey with a stop over in many countries compacted into one very small smoky bar. With the R’n'B music blaring, albeit repetitive but none the less enjoyable, bodies pulsated, accents filled the air and before we knew it we woke up in our warm three bed hostel room the next day, with very sore, jet-lagged and hung-over heads.
We showered and arose in time for a quality breakfast of a jam-covered bread-roll, a bowl of cereal and a cup of instant coffee. This is when it hit me; what a crazy change of lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves, we chose this! We are drifters, sitting in a breakfast room, eating with people who know us only from last night. A group of Dutch girls who we had befriended last night say good morning to us and giggle their way past. JAG pipes out with the comment “that this is like a huge school camp with no teachers or rules” and he’s right. Determined to see something of this Great Britain we get on a double-decker red bus and head to the Touristy area for site seeing.
One thing that strikes you in London straight away is the layout. Sure the buildings are classical, beautiful even intricate, but strangely positioned extremely close to one another, presumably to save space. Although if that were true, what’s with the gigantic open space parks? Hyde park for example is a beautiful forest-like park center covering 630 acres and was incidentally used as a royal hunting ground by Henry the VIII. .
Big Ben. Its a clock, just a bloody big clock, even a cabby said he doesn’t understand why his country’s capital is symbolised by a clock. But standing under it and taking a few happy snaps we began to realize exactly the extent of our location compared to home. This is the place you see on the movies and postcards, sure the sky isn’t as blue and the river is brown just like the Yarra, but we we’re in London baby!
But then unexpectedly, at 4:30pm the sun fell behind this massive clock. Unprepared for this early lack of light, we did what any red blooded Aussies would do, we headed for the closest tacky Aussie theme pub for a refreshing VB. We had not accomplished anything; a day had past and all we had seen was a bloody big clock. The rest of the week past in a very similar manner. We made the stupid choice of trying somewhere else to stay, and it turned out very expensive and wasted basically a day. You see moving house once a year is enough, changing your home every two days it seems does nothing but waste time, create arguments and make your back ache with backpacking pain.
Safety of belonging is a weird situation. None of the rooms in hostels are ever safe. There are warning signs everywhere warning that: ‘Thieves are currently operating in this area!”. You have to carry your valuables with you, keep them close, and leave behind things that no one would want to steal. That’s what everyone tells you anyway. We found a very different story. You need to use common sense of course, but don’t treat everyone in the hostel or on the street as a thief. I began that way and was put back in my place very quickly. Upon changing rooms I realised a short time after I had left my phone in our previous room. Mildly freaking out I called my number expecting the worse. To my delight however it was answered by a young Italian guy with poor English. He was the cleaner of our rooms that we had met earlier and had been trying to find me to return the phone. I met up with him and later that night bought him a drink and chatted in broken intoxicated caveman style English.
There is so much work here, and soon we will need to start earning some pounds to help pay for our long journey. Lee has taken a not so standard approach, applying for a modeling agency in hope of selling his image for the sake of what some might call art and hopefully decent money. JAG and I however are going to enquire about lending our bodies in a different way to a medical research company. I have heard on the wilted grapevine that if you don’t mind parting with your little toe and having it reattached you can earn up to £10,000. Likewise if you’re partial to allowing doctors to stop your heart you can easily earn the deposit for a good house or a luxury car. For the lightweight medical trial goers like JAG and I, we can earn £1000 pound a week by being guinea pigs for new treatments, drugs and vitamins which will easily put us behind the wheel of a quality secondhand team Backpackers van and see us on our way to Ireland for St Pat’s day.
Of major note was this week though, was our first chance to see the nightlife of this massive city. Firstly we found to our amazement that “pulling” here is not something that a lonely loser does on a Friday night, but rather a respected act here amongst the London geezers and ladies. It is in fact the very same act we call “picking up” in Australia. So we put our Aussie accents to the test, and to the happiness of our week long, un-pulled bodies we soon found ourselves chatting to, and later snogging some very fantastic Scottish girls. Finally an eventful night!
DON’T GET US WRONG THOUGH; we are not all about snogging Scottish girls. A small part of us is into culture and things that aren’t Scottish girls. But more of that museum and history stuff next week. For now, I will let you get back to what ever you are doing. Stay tuned; we’ll be back next week with another exciting installment. No Scottish girls this time, although we can’t promise that!