London, England, UK
Dinner, Drinks, Debauchery
Saturday, January 10th, 2015
5:00 PM GMT
A Bus Stop South of Hyde Park
After covering several miles of sightseeing, I’m beat. I decide to hop the bus back to Alex’s. On my way to the bus station, a young man shouts a friendly hello. I smile and wave back, continuing on my way. However, my new “friend” sees my smile as an invitation to begin to walk with me, asking where I’m from and where I’m headed. Something feels off, and when I arrive at the bus stop, he continues to stand at the with me, asking more pressing questions about where I’m headed. I tell him a stop several before my true one and tell him my friend is waiting for me. He then tells me that he’s also headed to that exact stop and offers to walk with me instead of taking the bus. I firmly but politely say I’d rather take the bus. He continues to wait with me, insisting it’s faster to walk. Thankfully there are a half dozen people also waiting so I stand my ground. The bus finally arrives but I can tell he’s planning on following, so I tell him that I’m going to take the next one as he starts to move toward the bus. He looks at me frustratedly and then, finally, begins to walk off. I let out a sigh of relief and hop quickly on the next bus a few minutes later.
5:30 PM GMT
Back at Alex’s, I change from my traveler clothes into the one “going out” outfit I brought, and bemoan slightly my lack of wardrobe options as I face an evening out in an admittedly posh city. But, my fellow lady travelers, a good red lip and some eyeliner can work wonders when it comes to spicing up your limited clothing options when you’re on the road (You can check out my “What’s in my Bag” post to see what I packed for my 5 weeks abroad). So I give myself a “that’ll do” nod and Alex and I hop onto the bus and head into downtown.
7:00 PM GMT
We pop off the bus into the middle of the evening bustle. Alex strains his neck to try and sort through the crowd, looking for his friend. Standing in front of a giant clothing store does nothing to help my anxiety about wearing my beaten travel boots out at 7PM on a Saturday. Finally, a tall, broad-shouldered blonde gentleman emerges from the throng of bodies and greets Alex with an enthusiastic grin. They begin chattering at each other in German, and I realize that two semesters of nearly failing the language are hardly going to help me here. Alex then introduces him as Sebastian, and the two then generously switch the conversation over to English. This is both a relief and also a touch unsettling. My jealousy for the ease they can switch between two languages becomes readily apparent to me as well as my humility for my inability to do the same. I remark on this fact and they just laugh, and of course remark that no one expects Americans to speak anything other than English. It’s a shameful red mark on our culture if you ask me. I make a mental note to resume my language studies when I get home. The cold evening begins to cut through our jackets and we hustle to the restaurant for dinner.
7:30 PM GMT
Vinoteca, SoHo, London
We settle on a restaurant that is largely a wine bar, but offers a concise menu of Italian, Greek and French inspired entrees. The gents enthusiastically begin to thumb through the wine list, and then turn their eyes to me to select a bottle. Thank god for my fussy alcohol preferences and borderline alcoholism. German be damned, the language of wine is one I can actually speak relatively comprehensively. We settle on a crisp, dry but subtly sweet white. Then come the entrees, I go with a braised rack of lamb, which comes out incredibly tender and juicy. As dinner progresses, we chat about travel and work. Sebastian begins to brag about his perfect recreation of the American accent, which he produces for me to judge and I chuckle a bit. His face falls and Alex snickers as he explains how incredibly proud he is of it. Turns out, being an awkward conversationalist is a trait that translates no matter where I am. However, yet again I’m sharing a meal with people I met only hours ago and it feels as familiar as dinner back in Baltimore. Finally, we reach the bottom of the wine bottle and spirits are high. The meal sets me back around $40, hefty for a traveling budget, but thankfully eating noodle boxes and pub food through Ireland and Scotland has given me some wiggle room in the budget. Always allow yourself enough room to splurge once or twice in a new city, you can only eat kebabs so many days straight before your taste buds begin to revolt. Riding on full stomachs and a happy wine buzz, we decide to continue the evening at a pub next door.
9:00 PM-??? AM
All over the damn city
Ah, the story as old as time. One beer leads to two, which leads to another pub, which leads to a bar, which leads to a wild, wall-to-wall packed club with sweaty bodies rubbing against each other, laser shows burning your retinas and music vibrating your skeleton. Before you know it you’re doing Jagerbombs and screaming your rendition of “Sweet Caroline” at the top of your lungs with 1000 other strangers. And then, when the alcohol has reached max capacity and your eardrums have probably gotten about 5 years closer to deafness, like any night in college you form a human chain and shoulder-to-shoulder begin to weave your way to the closest form of transportation. Thank god for 24-hour bus service. At some hour that I’m fairly certain was closer to dawn than dark, we make it back to Alex’s flat and collapse into bed.
Check out the next post as I say goodbye to my brief time in London and hello to stunning Copenhagen!