London is an amazing city to visit. Every single time I'm there, I can't help but feel all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the sensory overload I get from the place. BRIGHT LIGHTS! BIG CITY!
...I'M SUCH A COUNTRY BUMPKIN!!
I've been fortunate to have been there quite a few times over the years - my sister went to University there, so did one of my best friends, and my brother and another best friend are currently living there. So there was always a reason to visit. I've pretty much done most of the "touristy" things already, so I'm sorry if this post ain't as juicy with the touristy things to see and do. :p
I literally went to London to hang out with my little brother and his wife, whom I haven't seen in TWO YEARS!! As luck would have it, one of my besties, Oi (y'know, the one whose wedding I went to in Bali last year?) is also living there.
Since I was early to Schipol Airport, I had another little wander around - they've got part of the artworks from the Rijksmuseum AT THE AIRPORT!! It's in this interesting-looking box that sits on top of the rest of the airport. You can kinda sorta see the artworks through little window slats from downstairs.
I flew the budget airline, Easyjet. Er... this is the first time I've flown on an airline that has... NO ASSIGNED SEATS?! When I looked at my ticket, I was like... "eh? Where am I sitting?" As you can imagine, it's a mad rush for people to be first in line when they open the queues to get to the airplane. I dunno man, these budget airlines make travelling extremely affordable, but they've really taken the wonder and glamour out of air travel. This was just like a glorified bus ride. POO!
I rather enjoyed the ride on the Gatwick Express into London though. It's a half-hour ride into the city, but it really felt like 15 minutes just coz... well, this country-bumpkin was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the "sights" outside. (There really isn't much to see. It just felt different. Haha.)
The rest of the weekend passed rather uneventfully... it was extremely nice and chilled out to hang out with my brother and his missus. They took me out to one fancy restaurant after another, and even went to the trouble of cancelling and re-booking places when they realized I'd turned mostly vegan ("mostly vegan" coz I have the occasional croissant. Heh.)
I would've taken pictures of the places (and the food!) but er... I didn't want the posh places to turn their noses up at this bumpkin. HAHA! My bro & missus kept insisting that the restaurants we were at weren't the posh places at all... but I guess it's coz in Europe, everyone DRESSES UP to go anywhere, and places are all decked out (we spotted Bill Nighy in one of the Italian restaurants we were at!) Here's a picture of him, all scrubbed up and in his glasses. He looked like this in the restaurant, not like the ageing popstar he played in "Love, Actually".
(Picture credit here)
No wonder Lululemon didn't do well when they tried to enter the EU market. HAHAHA! No one dresses up in their sweats here like they do in the US or in Australia! (Juicy Couture jumpsuits are only used as PJs in Europe, I'm sure.)
As my bro's still recovering from quite a bad illness (wiped him out for 3 weeks), the most he could manage was to go out for a meal but then he'd be tired again afterwards, so we spent most time hanging out at home, playing video games. Just like when we were kids.
On this trip, I played Guitar Hero for the first time on the PS3.
WOAHHHHHHHH!!! Now I see what the fuss is about this game. It's extremely fun, although I really suck at it.
My bro & missus have THREE guitars AND A DRUM KIT!!! So we could play like a proper band. Him on the drums, his missus on lead guitar, and because my hand-eye-rhythm coordination was so crap, I got stuck on the bass guitar (but still failed the band repeatedly, even on the "beginner" setting).
The funny thing about this game is... you get so sucked into it, thinking that you're really playing the songs as they're coming out from the TV volume, but when you really take yourself out of it and look at what's going on in the living room, all you really hear is the clacking of plastic bits as people are "strumming" their guitars. All in our PJs. It is the most insane phenomenon.
The one major outing we had was to Harrods. I always end up there every time I'm in London. And I never end up seeing the whole store. It's just so big, with so many different rooms you just get lost.
I LOVE THIS TACKY WAX FIGURE OF MUHD AL FAYED!!
The sign at the bottom says:
Everything about the place is so over-the-top. It's like a museum and a store at the same time. The escalators have an Egyptian theme to them, with lots of little over-hanging balconies. My bro says on some days, they have an opera singer on one of the balconies singing opera songs as people traipse up and down on the escalators. (WTH?!?)
This is the first time in the store that I've been to the pet dept. The entrance to the pet dept:
I'm NOT for puppy mills at all, and don't agree with selling pups in stores... and guess what Harrods sells? But of course, all manner of designer dogs. (A chihuahua costs £2,000!)
This was my favourite section though... the blinged-out dog collars. Gold collar with gold diamantes for Hank?
Then of course there's the infamous Food Hall in Harrods. I've always loved these fruit & vegetable chandeliers. Funny thing is, I'm looking more at the decor of the place than at the stuff they sell! (My bro had never noticed the chandeliers till I pointed them out)
Macarons from Laduree, bro's missus' favourite!
And amidst all of this OTT opulence, right outside the store, there were people picketing for shoppers to boycott Harrods because they sell fur.
I wandered around the streets for a bit on my own, and while walking home, I came across this sign that made me laugh and think "Hey! That's where Borat is from!" (Poor Kazhakstan, I think that's the only thing they're known for now, and even that is fictional!)
On Sunday morning, I took the Tube to YP to practice with the highly-recommended Cary. I met Globie there... so nice when blog-life and real-life meet! While practising, I was so thankful that there is a lineage to this practice, that the teachers authorised or certified by KPJAYI all teach from the same page, with a similar outlook and philosophy. So I could just rock up to a shala in London, unroll my mat, and VOILA! Everything is as it should be.
Cary knew my teacher in Sydney and Singapore, and it's nice what a small world the Ashtanga community is. She let me practice my usual up to Laghu. I got a nice assist in Supta K... after I bound my arms behind me and scooped my feet together, just as I was getting my right foot to cross on top of the left (before ducking my head under), she helped me get both legs behind my neck, then lifted them up after 5 breaths - absolutely ZERO-FUSS, and done just like my Sydney teacher used to do it. I LIKEY!
The one "new" thing for me was in Mari D - after I bound my arms together, she came over and rolled me backwards and down so that both sit-bones were flat on the floor. On the right side, this meant that my left knee (bound in half-lotus) was sticking up in mid-air (psoas too tight for it to lengthen down to the floor?) I realize now that I'm only sitting in the pose on one side (on one sit-bone). But this has always been the way I've been adjusted by all other teachers before - almost like you're leaning forwards, which causes you to sit on the side that is bound into the lotus. See, like Sharath here:
(Photo credit here)
See how his right sit-bone is slightly off the floor? Mine's like that too... and Cary rolled me down onto it. I'm not sure if there's a "right" or "wrong" way to be in the pose... it just felt different sitting in it this way, with both sit-bones on the floor. Very interesting and different shift. I guess this is how one can keep refining the asanas.
The one thing that really got to me was earlier in the morning, the Tube was EMPTY. It was ghost-town, like in the movie "28 days later".
However, after Globie and I had had post-yoga coffee (coffee for me, tea for him. How English!) ;p it was like the whole world had come to life and the trains were stuffed to the brim.
I still can't get over how London is so over-populated. Globie says it's like this everyday. And the trains come every 3 - 4 minutes, so it's not like there aren't enough trains. There are just too many people! And it's EVEN MORE packed than this on weekdays. No wonder people here are so aggro and stressed out. As my brother was driving us around to the different fancy restaurants, there were so many aggro drivers on the road... even my brother himself was really aggro. If I had to be packed like this on the train EVERY SINGLE DAY, I too would become a walking stress-ball. Ah, big city living.
Here's me and Globie, packed on the Tube:
And then I found the most delightful... er... restaurant? A vegan one in a double-decker bus.
There are so many pretty patisseries in London. Even the local deli round the corner has a beautiful pastry display:
I had my fix of hot cross buns (er... 5 buns in 4 days!)
I spent Sunday night at Oi's place, just catching up on life since her wedding. It was really nice to connect with friends and family again - especially since my life in the past few months has been pretty topsy-turvy. It's been a little bit solitary in Amsterdam - which is nice coz it lets me get into my head a little bit, but after this weekend I realize how it was great that I could finally talk about all the other things I've been thinking about with friends and family.
The one thing that got me riled up was the information counter ladies at Gatwick Airport. Because I had checked in online, my boarding pass didn't have the flight gate info. It wasn't up on the board either, so I made my way to the counter that said very clearly: FLIGHT INFORMATION. And I went to the lady at the counter who had the: EASYJET sign behind her.
So when I asked her very nicely "Excuse me, pls would you tell me which gate my flight is at?" She asks "Which airline are you?" And I reply "Easyjet". She gives me this dirty look and says "I'm not with EASYJET" ("EASYJET" said very condescendingly... like in a "you bloody riffraff" tone) ...so I was like "Oh, excuse me, I'm sorry but the sign behind you says clearly "Easyjet". She was nice enough to take my ticket and look up the gate number for me in any case.
She wasn't the problem. The problem was the British Airways counter lady right next to her. She looks at the security guard standing next to me and says very loudly to him "Why don't people just look at the BOARD for their gate information? It's all there!"
I was like... WTF?!? You passive-aggressive witch! So even though she wasn't speaking to me, I shot back at her "Excuse me, I'm sorry but the info wasn't on the board, which is why I came here to ask!" And you know what this FLIGHT INFORMATION COUNTER LADY says? "If it's not on the board that means your flight isn't ready for boarding".
I'm sorry, but that's just CRAP SERVICE. You are clearly working at an information desk and you will expect to get LOADS of morons asking more silly and inane questions than the one I've just asked. It is part of your job to provide FLIGHT INFORMATION. I bet she's part of the BA union who keeps striking. Pffft! If it's so unpleasant for you to be nice to clueless tourists, THEN QUIT!!!!
*End of Rant*
That was what I really wanted to say to her, by the way. But since I didn't, it's here on the internet, for all the world to see. Oh, I even took a picture of the counter. HAHAHA. This is as close as I can get to "name and shame". The BA Lady is the brunette one in profile with the white long-sleeve shirt. :p The lady who wasn't with Easyjet managed to get me my gate number very easily and without fuss. She's the blondie in blue jacket. (see the orange sign under the sign for Menzies? The orange sign says Easyjet. So... what's a clueless tourist supposed to think if you're standing in front of it, right?)
On my way to the gate, I came across this ironic poster - highlighting Gatwick Airport's service standards. I tried to look for the row on "Customer Service", but it doesn't exist. There's only a row on "Flight Information". For "accuracy and ease of finding flight information" they were ranked 4.3 out of 5 for the month of February. I would have agreed with that if I hadn't come across the BA Counter Lady. She alone pulled my ranking of the place down to 1 out of 5. FAIL.
Beware if you have crap service, I have a camera in my pocket! HAHAHA!
Hope you had a good break too, and wishing you a good start to this 4-day work week. :)