So far, this has been my second trip to Europe this year. My earlier trip was in February to visit my other long distance half in Brussels, Belgium. By the way, the lovely man’s name is Gilbert. Yes, Gilbert. It fits him well. This late June/early July trip had two reasons: to once again visit for Gilbert’s birthday on July 5th and to teach two courses at General Assembly in London. General Assembly is a sort of tech incubator space that started in NYC and has so far spread to San Francisco, London and Berlin (opening in September 2012). The two courses I taught at GA London were a Basic Branding course and a UX (user experience) Basics Workshop.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to head to London again for the first time since August 2002, so almost 10 years later. The last time, a few friends and I stayed for about a day and a a half in Whitechapel before heading off to Lisbon and to do a road trip through Spain. This time around I had Gilbert with me to show me around his old haunts since he lived there for 13 years after finishing university.
So yeah, the trip. I first flew into Brussels via a layover in London’s Heathrow airport. Don’t get me started on the irony of having to return less than 24 hours later, really. When searching for flights, I considered flying directly into LHR but the time wasted of getting the Eurostart to and from Brussels on each end of the trip would have cut into our time together.
I touched down in Brussels late afternoon, June 27 from JFK, had dinner, slept and then we were off on the Eurostar train the next morning to London. The tickets cost about £190 total, roundtrip but that’s because we got them a little late. With some more planning and flexibility, we could get them for about £200 total. The exchange rate at the time was 1.5 dollars to a pound. So, £190 ≈ $285. The ride itself is extremely quick from Brussels’ Gare du Midi station to London’s St. Pancras train station at about 2 hours.
Below are a few highlights from the first Day or so of the trip, at JFK, in Brussels and in London the first night.
Photographing travelers and the sunset, while waiting for the Airtrain at JFK.
Dinner upon arriving in Brussels: Hanger steak with shallots braised in wine for hours at Le Saint-Hubert in Schaerbeek
The Queen doesn’t play. She lets you know she has way more money than you…DIAMONDS.
After teaching the Branding course at General Assembly, Gilbert took me walking around The Barbican Centre, which is a theatre and arts complex equivalent to New York City’s Lincoln Centre.
It was about 7pm and the light was gorgeous everywhere.
Gilbert and me being silly, of course.
More after the jump…
Check out this crazy interior architecture and lighting at The Barbican Centre, London
And yes, the Gilbert Bridge. He swears he doesn’t remember all these Gilbert-related things being there.
After walking about there, we took the bus down to the primarily Indian & Pakistani neighbourhood of Whitechapel for some dinner. On the way to the restaurant, we passed this van advertising the Hajj for 2012 using a QR code. The Hajj is the pilgrimage that Muslims make to Mecca and Medina at any one point in their lives. I normally hate QR codes, but first time in a very long time, this was a proper use of the technology and it rather alarming to see it used in this particular religious context. I love it, because it made technology feel all the more accessible instead of only being within the grasp of upper middle class technology gatekeepers the way I normally see it in New York.
We had dinner at one of Gilbert’s favourite spots in Whitechapel, Tayyabs. It’s been in business forever and started out as a plastic table restaurant serving some of the best Punjabi food to locals. It’s gone a bit more upscale with triple the space it had a few years ago but everything we had there was still delicious. I would seriously eat every single dhal meal there four times over. They were so rich and buttery without necessarily being heavy. If memory serves me, we had…
Basic appetizers with breads, raita, etc.
Garlic naan and a lamb chop appetizer (4 lamb chops I devoured by myself over the course of the meal).
Urid dhal (and a karela type of dhal out of the picture)
A tinda masala. Tinda is baby pumpkin. Gilbert also had a mango lassi with his meal.
Afterward, we jumped on the London Overground back to Greenwich where our hotel was. I have honestly never heard of the London Overground. One only ever hears of the Underground in America and not much else except Eurostar and the Chunnel. The London Overground is similar to NYC’s old Elevated Lines (the Els) and to Chicago’s current Els. Except New Yorkers don’t call them “Els” anymore
Alright, stay tuned for Days 2 and 3 in London, spanning shopping in Greenwich Market and bouncing around Peckham eating greasy full-on English breakfasts.