Thursday, October 2, 2014


Laura: I have four main criteria for any city that I would potentially consider living in: 1. Drinking culture: needs to have variety, affordability, and occasional quality wouldn't hurt. 2. Public transit: I will not stay anywhere long that would require me to own a car. 3. Cafe culture: I don't generally go sight-seeing. I'll be spending all my time in coffee shops, no matter where in the world I am, so they better be good. 4: Bookstores: English langauge if you can get it, but most importantly a place where I can just smell piles of aging used books, and sift through disorganized stacks. To absolutely no one's surprise, London really seemed to nail it on all four.

Cable Cafe and Bar. London, you pass.

Jerry: I didn't realise how strongly I'd missed being in a 'real' city until we got off the train at King's Cross. More specifically, when we went down to the underground at King's Cross. The trams in Sheffield are cute and terribly civilised and all, with their live conductors making eye contact and taking payment in  person after you've already boarded, but really, it just feels so much more right to finally be loading up a pre-paid swipeable card that registers through the outer layer of your wallet and shoving with 9 million other anonymous people into a steel tube. Comeplete with tinned voice announcing the next stop. I know it's counter-intutive, but I felt like claustrophobia was finally lifting off my chest and I could breathe again. In a packed subway car. Agoraphobia, I guess? I have suburban  agrophobia. Not enough people. Something creepy might happen. London underground at 4pm on a weekday for me anytime. Oh god. So much better.

Ah, the sweet smell of freedom and armpit.

Laura: For the first couple of days we stayed at this really beautiful place we found on couchsurfing. It was Bexley, in zone 5, sort of out in the suburbs, about as far as you could get while still being technically in a London borough. But even then, there was definitely a feeling of comfort that maybe came just from the fact we were a few blocks from the train. Those first couple nights we barely even left the house. We were in this major metropolis, which I had never been in before, and we spent the whole weekend inside drinking, writing, and watching documentaries about ancient Rome. But my love for cities isn't really about nightlife or culture or  anything. It's mainly what Jerry said: agorophobia. I can breath much easier in cities. I've read that's kind of an American thing. How all our horror stories take  place in the wilderness or the suburbs. Places where no one will hear your scream.

Why would we go out when we can drink this in? UK is awarded 10 points for booze.

Jerry: It was just as well - as two people who've worked in bars extensively, we were glad to be off the main drag on Saturday night. We hiked around Footscray Meadows, a beautiful nature reserve, on Sunday, then headed in on Monday. Our second couchsurfing destination was in Lambeth, zone 2, right off Oval station, with an awesome  woman named Sarah and her super chill cat. She gave us a great walking route of the major zone 1 sights and we wandered past all the obligatory stops: Westminster and parliment, Soho and West end, and made it to the British Museum.

Laura: The British Museum was pretty amazing. We're both obviously huge history buffs. I wanted to be an archeologist all the way into high shcool, so I'd been wanting  to visit the British Museum since I was a little kid. I had to see the Rosetta Stone, but it's basically the Mona Lisa of the British Museum: always surrounded by a huge crowd, and considerably less inpressive than tons of other things they had there that no one was giving a passing glance. The British Museum is essentially to archeology what the Louvre is to art. We had to go two days in a row, and even then we only saw what we would consider the bare minimum.

Can we move here? Like, to the museum itself.

Jerry: As Laura aptly put it: the British are REALLY good at showing up places and taking things. If a civilisation was ever awesome and ever made anything, some fragments ended up there. Our words can't do the collection justice: go there yourselves, and set aside at least a week to really see it. Other than that, in our  wanderings (about 10 miles each day without noticing until we realised we were exhausted at night) we poked our head in at the recounstructed Globe and saw some street performers in Southwark, wandered through West End wishing we had the funds to see anything (we'll have to come back) discovered Chinatown (and took a picture of rapeseed oil for Nicole) and finally indulged Laura's curiosity about steak and kidney pie. Dude, I had no idea the British took their pie so seriously.

Venison, bacon, and red wine? Steak and stilton? Goat cheese and sweet potato?

Laura: I can now say that I've had steak and kidney pie in London. It was pretty solid. In retrospect, I can see why I should have eaten it with a pint. It's fantastic drunk food. If you're in London, get a pieminster pie. They're serious. Also, there's an entire area in London filled with used bookstores (not disimilar from Calle Donceles in Mexico City, but with more books in English). We found one place that had a used bookstore right next door to a specialty whiksy shop. If I do ever move to London, I will give someone all my money to install me in a  broom closet so long as it's walking distance to that location.

Or here. We could also live right here.

Jerry: Did you know that bitters are shockingly hard to find in the UK? The specialty whisky shop had a decent selection, but only because it was specialty, and nowhere else we'd bought booze did. Cocktails are not a thing. We shall make no Sazeracs here to go with our chicken and waffles. However, the chicken itself did seem to pass the test with yet another host (who confirmed the pattern that chicken coated in crushed crisps is the very funny idea to Brits) and continues to be our passport to the world.

Laura: In short: London seems cool. We may return.

Jerry: Post script for Nicole:


  1. I can't imagine being happy on a crowded subway car! But then, I grew up in the middle of the US where we're pretty sure public transportation is a communist plot. Other than that, London sounds wonderful!

  2. You would love Rome subways!!!!

  3. You'd have hated living where I grew up - nearest house was half a mile away, let alone any form of public transport :)

    Have to admit though - my worst nightmare would be driving in London, but it's been a while since I've been on the tube much.

    Glad you're having a good time :) xx

  4. I love museums... they are the best :D