30 11 2010

Emma and I were in London for the week and we had both my 20th birthday and Thanksgiving to look forward to. Unfortunately for the majority of the week I had work (except for my birthday on Wednesday that I took off for the day to celebrate!). Regardless, we had a lot of cool things planned for the week. As my birthday approached, I started thinking about everything that has happened in the past decade. Ten years ago my biggest concerns were the new Spice Girls CD and how to throw a change-up and now I’m thinking about law school and falling in love. I wonder what the next decade will hold, but for now being with my best friend in Europe will have to do.

1. Queen’s Arms– I took Emma to this cozy pub her first night in London. It’s literally just around the corner from my flat and my friends and I go there on the reg for its delicious pub food and Strongbow cider. By far my favorite dish is the bangers and mash, with the fish and chips coming in a close second. It’s always so packed because of its quaintness and proximity to Hyde Park, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The other day I was looking for restaurants on Urbanspoon and what do you know, Queen’s Arms was listed as “best cheap eats”. So true.

the roomies and me at Queen's Arms


2.  O’Neill’s & Chinatown- London’s Chinatown is only a few streets right in the middle of Soho and a place called Covent Garden. However, when you’re in Chinatown you know you’re in Chinatown because of all of the Asians running around, the Chinese characters, and the restaurants emitting savory scents every which way. Even though it only consists of a few streets, one of our favorite bars was located smack dab the middle, ironically an Irish pub called O’Neill’s. I took Emma here for a few beers after Queen’s Arms even though it wasn’t its usual rowdy self since it was a Monday night. There are four floors to O’Neill’s and on the weekends a live cover band plays on the top, definitely the craziest floor of them all. My memories abound from my time here: a gigantic Wake Forest union, bloody fist fight (not between me of course), creepy old men groping me as I walk by, dance sessions with my girls. While O’Neill’s wasn’t the most unique or authentic pub in town, it was a guaranteed good (or at the very least interesting) time, so we frequented it throughout the semester. On our way home, Emma and I tried some Chinese from one of the restaurants…bad idea.

3. London Eye- The eye is one of London’s most famous landmarks, an almost 500 feet tall Ferris wheel that (according to Wikipedia) is the UK’s most popular tourist attraction. Did you know that the eye was supposed to be a temporary attraction (built in 1999), but because of how popular and lucrative it is has been made a permanent structure. Atlanta is thinking of building one like it… intriguing. I wanted to save the £17 “flight” for a special occasion and so decided to take Emma for a nighttime ride. The London skyline is one of the most magnificent sights to see, especially at night. Funny enough we rode with a group of senior British citizens who pointed us out all of the major landmarks of the city. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral… the works. It was also really cool to hear the elderly British perspective of how the city has changed, I just love old people. I know it was really touristy, but the London Eye still is one of my favorite things I did there. There’s just so much to see, and you can see it all from above.

on the bank outside of the eye

Parliament at night!

inside the London eye

4.  Harry Potter 7- The weekend Emma and I were in Amsterdam was the Harry Potter premiere weekend so we made Tuesday night our own

ain't she gowwgeous?? if you're wondering what the red poppy signifies, British people wear them around veterans day to remember fallen soldiers

little Harry Potter night. While England made a big deal out of the premiere, it actually wasn’t AS publicized as you would think, London being the birthplace of the series. It was basically the same Harry Potter craze found in the states. My friend Sydney has some awesome connections and actually got to go to the premiere and boy oh boy was she lucky. The day after I got a play by play, and of course she got up close and personal with the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson (who is absolutely stunning), and JK Rowling among others. All of Leicester Square was transformed into Hogwarts and looking back I probably should’ve made more of an effort to join the mob scene at the premiere because it sounded epic. Emma, my friend Mattie, and I went to the Westfield London (the coolest mall EVER with every store and restaurant you could possibly imagine) to go see Harry Potter “Xtreme” as the theater put it… apparently it had some special sound and visual effects to enhance the experience? Obviously I loved the movie and cannot wait for the last one! I must say that Ron was looking buff… I can’t wait for him and Hermione to get it on.

5. Camden Market- Yet another market in London! Except for this one is open every day of the week, so I had to take Emma so she could get an idea of the market scene in London. Camden Town is in the northern part of London and has a reputation for having a sort of grungy, seedy crowd that hangs out there at night. Caroline and I when she visited met up with her friend in Camden Town at an all you can eat sushi restaurant, it was fabulous. However during the day it is full of eccentric clothes, exotic foods, and interesting people. The market covers a lot of area, both indoor and outdoor, and we shopped for hours finding trinkets and gifts for family back home. I picked out some cool vintage sweaters and a neat black and white painting of London. I also bought PJ a hand painted England shirt as a Christmas present. We could’ve literally stayed there all day going in and out of the stores, but after our Chinese lunch we were ready to do some real damage shopping.

6. TopShop- TopShop is hands down THE best store in London. I had been in there probably a dozen times, but hadn’t actually bought anything (it’s a little pricey). I decided though that for my birthday I was going to treat myself to some true British fashion. We went to the flagship store on Oxford Street after Camden Market, which is (according to Wikipedia) is “the world’s largest flagship store”. Kate Moss has her own TopShop line and Emma and I spent hours looking through all of the glitzy garments and quintessentially British fashion. I left the store with a Vintage sequence top and outrageous platform boots.

7. Les Miserables- I really wanted to go see a West End show on my birthday, and since Les Mis has always been one of my favorites I forced Emma (thanks again, babayy) to go with me to the matinee show in Soho. Our shopping gallivants took longer than expected and so we ended up literally sprinting through central London and getting to the Queen’s Theatre about fifteen minutes late. Turns out we had the best seats in the house; smack dab in the middle second row balcony. I hadn’t seen Les Miserables since the 8th grade when North Springs put on the show, my sister being cast as a prostitute and the one and only Andrew Durand cast as Jean Val jean. I swear when I heard him sing I knew he was bound for greatness—turns out he’s now in Spring Awakening on Broadway. The London production was fabulous, I especially loved Javert, played by Norman Lewis (apparently he’s famous? Sarah says so) and Eponine, I think I’d want to be her if I was in Les Mis. I must say however that no one could live up to Andrew Durand, him singing “Bring Him Home” is just simply sublime. Turns out that my alma mater is putting on Les Mis this spring… I wouldn’t miss it for the world! My dad says that out of all the musicals ever created Les Mis would be a 10 and none other would even come close to a 5. Now that’s a stretch, but… can’t say I disagree. It’s such a classic.

the cast at curtain call!

a little blurry but got the sign and our shopping bags!

8. Punjab & Indian Food- One of the best things about London is its abundance of exotic food and, because of the whole Indian imperialist thing, Indian food is especially profuse. Ever since I had my first taste of curry with my family I have been absolutely addicted to the flavors of Indian cuisine. Not only are Indian restaurants easy to find, but market food alongside streets and frozen foods found in the grocery aisle also make Indian food that much more accessible to the British consumer. For my birthday, we decided to go to Punjab, an Indian restaurant in Covent Garden recommended by my boss (who also happens to be British-Indian). It was so delicious. We ordered an array of chicken, lamb, and vegetable curries and of course topped it off with delicious warm naan. Chicken tikka masala is always a crowd pleaser so ordered two of those, but I like to be a little more adventurous and opted for the acchari murgha along with the butter chicken. It was mouthwatering. Punjab, the name of the restaurant, is named after the Northern Indian province Punjab, where one of my best friends Rupal just happens to be born. We had a grand time eating ethnic cuisine and of course I fancied myself to a few Indian Cobra beers which were smooth and light. It was a great way to start off my birthday festivities.

Mattie, Susan, and I enjoying our dinner!

9. Mahiki- Mahiki is the one truly swanky up-scale bar that we frequented whilst in London. The drinks cost well over $20 each, you had to have your name on the list or “know someone” to get in, and most club-goers were children of business moguls, bratty uni students, or rich creepy old guys. I like Mahiki because it has a cool Hawaiian vibe, very attractive men, and good dancing music in the basement. However, the one time I went before my birthday I ended up a high-end strip club with the Royal Guard (aka the men who guard Buckhingham Palace in those ridiculous furry hats and red suits)…it was an interesting night to say the least. Probably the downfall (or perhaps the best part?) of Mahiki is what they call their “treasure chest”—a chest full of some sort of mix drink, costing over $200 and meant for over 8 people to guzzle. Now there was no way in hell that I or any of my friends would buy one of those, but the millionaires that go to Mahiki gladly dish out chests for pretty girls to drink. And so essentially the drinks were free and endless. So per usual my birthday night was fuzzy at best. It also just happened to by the 4th anniversary of Mahiki and so there was free cotton candy, many famous socialites, and every wannabe was standing outside in the cold trying to get in to the “it” place for the night. Haha I sound like such a Gossip Girl. Anyways, I got my birthday kiss. Emma got a taste of London nightlife. And unfortunately I was off to work the next morning.

drankin the "treasure chest"

birthday night...oh god

10. Thanksgiving- There is no Thanksgiving in London. I had to go on with my day like any other, got up for work (extremely hungover), sat at a desk for eight hours, took the tube back to South Kensington, and then dinner time. Now in the Jones/Basnett household, Thanksgiving is a big deal. The entire family gets together at our house with a huge feast— two turkeys (baked and fried), ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, corn pudding, and my personal favorite broccoli casserole. This was the first time I was going to miss Thanksgiving which made me sad and a little homesick, and so the whole clan Skyped me from my kitchen computer. It was so nice to see and talk to everyone, giving me a little sense of home. I also got to meet our new doggy Yager! The whole London crew wanted to do a little something for Thanksgiving and decided to go to the Whole Foods Thanksgiving buffet. I spent £12 on a tub full of mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing and I must say it sufficed for a non-home cooked meal. You could tell that everyone in the cafeteria was American, attempting to at least in a small way recreate the feeling of Thanksgiving. I was glad that I could be with good friends who were going through the same thing I was, a feeling of absence but also so much thankfulness at where we were and the places we’d been. We all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. It was nice. I think that Thanksgiving might just be my favorite holiday of the year. I do not intend on missing one ever again. Next year my 21st birthday is on Thanksgiving… oh boy.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: