Category Archives: United Kingdom

united-kingdom

From the TOLB: Happy 150th Birthday London Underground: 30 reasons we love the tube

So, I was reading a piece by the The Time Out London blog in celebration of the London Underground’s 150 years of existence. Just thought to offer it for my readers to look at. I would agree with many of the points as to what makes the system so great such as convenience (#1) and the alternative the costs of car ownership (#3) or cab service (#26). I also love taking naps on the tube (tube is how Londoner’s refer to their subway system). I do also like their take on “extended bedroom,” (#19) where we can tidy up a bit more on our way to some important gig or catch up on some sleep (#14) than if we had to drive their ourselves.

 

One thing I would have to disagree with, however, is #27:

 

27. British queuing
There’s no greater example of British properness than witnessing a queue at a tube station. At the front of the queue during rush hour at Canary Wharf? No need to worry about being pushed out of the way, and if you are, there will be a volley of people speaking up for you.

 

I rarely see any acts of “British properness” when queueing in tube stations (queueing is how the British refer to “persons forming a line”). People are usually hell-bent on trying to board the next train, even if they only joined one of the small crowds swarming around the potential next stop of the upcoming train doors.

 

Read more here:

 

http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2013/01/09/happy-150th-birthday-london-underground-30-reasons-we-love-the-tube/

 

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Food Series Post: London

Doner kebab

One of the first things I noticed in the part of London where I frequent, is the ubiquity of the doner kebab shop. Not sure what that is? Well, I wasn’t either until I saw the servers cutting the meat from the vertical spit. It’s basically any seasoned meat that’s shaped into an upside down cone and slowly spins while cooking on a vertical spit. Pieces of the meat is then carved off in thin slices and served in various dishes. This beef or lamb dish finds its origins in Turkish gastronomy. You may hear similar words for the type of meat, such as doner, gyros, shawarma which all relate to the rotation or “turning” of the meat in Turkish, Greek, and Arabic respectively. Slight differences include the seasonings used such as Tzatziki sauce in gyros or the type of bread or accompanying sides (e.g. pita, flat-bread, tomatoes, onions).

Above the delicious taste, there’s the added benefit of reasonably low prices!

“Gradventures” in London: Departure

On the day that I was ticketed to leave for London, I had planned numerous last-minute errands such as closing a bank account, returning a few unused items to Wal-Mart, going to the barber shop, and getting a refund on a Big Mac I had ordered a few weeks before that was missing its meat patties.

Of all these, I was only able to obtain the refund on the burger, which I wish I had done before because the manager gave my two vouchers for free meals. I had totally overestimated the amount of time that existed between 8am (the time I naturally wake up) and 2 pm (the time I had decided I would head to the airport for my 5pm flight).

So, what held me back from completing, better yet, starting, the tasks I had once thought so able to easily completed? Well, around 11:00, in a feverish effort to create more confusion and anxiety than I had already been able to muster, I decided to re-pack my bags. The alleged motive was, of course, to properly classify the items I would be most willing to part with should need to lessen my luggage load at the counter. Instead, I just created so much stress that I was unable to eat breakfast or lunch AND basically left my apartment in a messy whirl of packaging and once-cherished knickknacks.

I had also decided that taking the clothes I had worn to work the day before was essential and that they needed to be clean as well. So, I loaded up my washer and then my dryer, knowing full well their egregious track record on timeliness! I also spent a half an hour participating in a wholly inaccurate alteration of my usually accurate way of obtaining the weight of my luggage. What I usually do is weigh myself with the small body weight scale that lives beneath my bathroom sink and then weigh myself while holding my luggage in my arms and then dividing the difference between the two. I knew this wouldn’t work this time because, in addition to my total exhaustion from stress and lack of food from the evening before, the bags were simply too oddly shaped and cumbersome for me to hold while balanced on the scale. I decided some home that a scale designed precisely to absorb and measure the impact of two human feet on its surface could somehow measure a suitcase that could only balance by laying it long-ways (and subsequently, touching the floor).

Well, it’s good I made preparations contrary to the false hope I created by my dreadful unreliable assessment. If you recall the stress filled rearrangement I mentioned earlier, I’d like to say now that the stress was perhaps worth it. With my vacuum-sealed effects sorted into tier-two essential and I-will-have-a-panic-attack-without-these categories. Why? Well, at the ticket counter, after heaving my larger bag* onto the scale and making it balance long enough not to fall over, I was horrified to see it read 98 pounds! The smaller bag provided no assuagement either, with a reading of 70 pounds!

I had my ride to the airport waiting outside in case of this very possibility and was luckily able to offload some of the items back into the car. I was also able to put some of the items in my Rick Steve’s convertible carry-on backpack that you might remember me describing for my European backpacking trip.

After leaving Orlando, I had one layover in Philadelphia with scheduled arrival in London at 5am EST/ 10am GMT.

Here’s a bunch of airport photos for my readers that love airplanes and airports!

*(when I say larger, I mean large in an absolute sense as in, I could fit in this bag)

Food Spotlight: European Grocery Shopping

In England I experienced my first grocery store experience. It didn’t seem like much difference or highlight in my journey until I began to look more closely at the shelves. For instance, I love orange juice with high pulp. In Britain, however, it’s not called pulp, but bitsOne thing that you should notice right away is the amount of country labels plastered over all the shelves! I don’t mean to sound negative (because I don’t really have a solid side on any of these nationalism debates), but I do think it was a bit excessive in some areas. There were bag of chips (or crisps as the Brits call them), water, or milk that kept emphasising their “Britishness.” Being a political science major, I am quite interested in the relation of expressions of nationalism to globalisation, american hegemony, and economics. That is: are the bottles of water labeled as “purely British” as a marketing gimmick to sell the brand OR was it due to deeper socio-cultural notions of superiority or incompatibility? Great paper I could see myself writing in a few months. I’ll let you guys know how that goes!

It was interesting to see familiar brands, but with slightly different labelling along with discovering new products with weird and outlandish flavours. In addition to different names for similar food attributes (eg. bits/pulp), there were things like roast chicken and garlic flavoured chips and orange-cream-filled chocolate bars that immediately caught my eye. The way the food was stored was also a bit of a surprise. Things like eggs weren’t always stored on refrigerated shelves, but were instead being kept at room temperature. Also, growing up by the sea, I’ve seen seafood on ice, but never so far away from the sea and in such quantities (I lived near a market street that was lined with all types of meat and seafood sitting in open-air displays).

For the most part, I’m still alive and the food is delicious, so maybe all the extra-sterile advertisement in the U.S. isn’t as all that it’s hyped up to be?

Video Post: Journey to the Heart of London (Part 3)

I hadn’t exactly planned out the day’s sites by the hour and had not thought Buckingham Palace would have been open for the few hours that I was open. So, I missed the changing of the guard (which I had expected to miss) and the tour hours of the palace =(.

But I think that I was able to see what I think is the most impressive square I have ever laid eyes upon: Trafalgar Square in Westminster, London. The layout of the square was simply inspiring and it certainly fulfills its task of reminding visitors of the glorious victory over the Napoleonic forces at the Battle of Trafalgar. At the centre of the square is a massive column bearing a statue of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, leader of the British forces who died during the Battle.

My Links

On my Facebook fan page, you can find tons of extra photos. Also don’t forget to check the link for the short video clip I made this day. (I have a low-quality version on Facebook for mobile or low-bandwidth readers and a higher quality version at YouTube).

London: Facebook Album 2

Facebook Video

YouTube Video