So, I’ve been in London for over 48 hours now. Aside from being insanely jet-lagged, the adjusting is going pretty well. I have a flat (flat!) and I’m completely unpacked. I’ve gotten groceries and last night I even made dinner! (This is a notable step, since Day 1 I subsisted on cheese-smothered microwave chicken nuggets and potato chips.) I have spent a considerable amount of my first few days walking to and from my destinations and only just today ventured down into the Underground. You might think that getting groceries, making dinner, walking to work, and buying an OysterCard (like a Metro card but cooler) would be fairly standard, run of the mill daily activities. But you forget – this is me. It doesn’t matter that everyone speaks English or that I’m used to big cities; these very basic tasks have proven either incredibly challenging, outright hilarious, or both (when I’m lucky!). So before I forget any details, I’d like to share with you the adventures of my first 48 hours in London…
Walking anywhere here inevitably involves getting lost. It doesn’t matter if I need to walk through King’s Cross/St. Pancras station to get to a convenience store (akin to walking through Penn Station – I maintain this is endlessly complicated) or if I’m walking a mile and a half to the property management offices for my flat. I will get lost. Also, it’s mostly not my fault. I print out Google Maps and I’m really good at following directions. The streets here? The just END! I mean, I will not make any turn whatsoever and suddenly I will be on a different street. What the fuck, London? Why did Vernon Pl. just stop existing? Why am I suddenly on Shaftsbury Ave? Sure, sure I can ask for directions – and do I ever! – but guess what! No one knows where the streets are! Seriously! It’s amazing to me. Residents for 10+ years (quoting my failing direction-givers) don’t actually know where anything is. Including the street you might actually be on.
Example: I am on High Holburn Street, right underneath the street sign. I am unsure of which direction to go since I am completely turned around; once I know which direction to go, I know exactly how to get to my destination. I stop a nice-looking woman and ask which way to King’s Cross Road. She explains I must take High Holburn Street, which is “very far from here.” It went like this:
Me: Aren’t we on High Holburn?
Woman: No. It’s very far from here.
Me [point to the High Holburn Street Sign above my head]: Doesn’t that say we’re on High Holburn, though?
Woman: Well you need to walk very far down that way to get to King’s Cross Road. You’re going to be walking forever.
… Ok, woman, listen. I understand I’m going to be walking for a while; I’m walking on purpose! But seriously, you just pretended like we weren’t on the street we were on and so how am I supposed to trust your directions? Turns out, it was the right way, but I’m convinced it was just a fluke.
Further on that point, everyone thinks that their area in London is “centrally located.” Let me tell you something: This is like saying the West Village and the Bronx are both centrally located in New York City. Just, no. That’s not true. Therefore, if you, Londoner, tell me that “our offices are quite centrally located” I expect to be able to walk there fairly quickly. Like, say, in under an HOUR.
So, in conclusion, walking around London is confusing and hard and can end up being funny but sometimes it’s also a little nerve-racking. What’s really funny is that when I finally made it to the grocery store (I was walking), I got carded for the bottle of wine I was buying. People. THIS IS EUROPE. I AM 26 YEARS OLD. THE DRINKING AGE HERE IS 18. COME ON! The great news is that my £4 bottle of wine was quite delicious!
After my walking debacles, I decided this morning would be the ideal time to take the tube to work. It was raining slightly and also I forgot the way to walk to work. And I threw out my directions. The tube is actually pretty easy, except for when I had to hike up about 40 million stairs to get out of the station when the escalator wasn’t working. And then of course I had to walk from the station to the office…I’m sure you can imagine how that went. It’s about a 4-5 minute walk and, yes, I got lost. Seriously these streets don’t make sense!!!
Speaking of more walking, I went to get lunch today and walked over to Food Secret with my co-worker. Food Secret sounds to me like a sketchy place to get food, but it was actually delicious and that is completely irrelevant here. On the walk there, during which I did not get lost since I was with someone who knows the area but I could never find the place on my own, we ran into some women handing out free samples from baskets around their waists. We stop and linger and the ladies hand us the samples…which turn out to be Brazilian limes. I kid you not, they were giving out little limes in plastic bags with a booklet of recipes and Brazilian Lime Facts attached!
I cannot make this shit up.
Also, my point in all of this is that walking in London is hard but it’s ok because you’ll probably run into some lime samples and that will make your day all better.