Sunday, July 29, 2007

Halal in London

After many hours of driving, we finally found ourselves in central London close to Paddington. We stayed at the Hilton Metropole which we loved for many reasons - the primary one being that we were close to lots of cheap yet delicious shawarma restaurants (one called Halal being our favorite - we went there three times). We were also finally in a hotel that was clean and spacious (unlike the hotel we stayed in when we were in York). This, of course, made Abby very happy:

We also loved that we were a mere 5 blocks from Hyde Park where we took a long walk the first day we were in London. We also managed to find a play structure where Abby could swing before we headed off to Notting Hill for some window shopping.

The clear highlight of our entire trip to the UK was the fact that we got to see a few of our friends we hadn't seen in some time. We saw the Steenbliks who we got to know while in Boston when Al was in law school. They have a beautiful apartment close to Hyde Park and seemed to have settled into the British lifestyle quite comfortably. We appreciated their hospitality (and free Internet access) and loved the chance to catch up on life and kids! We observed jealously as Brock easily went to sleep on his own after dinner.

The other set of friends we got to see were some friends from my time in Spain when I was still working for McKinsey. Giovanni and Jaime were fellow analysts in the Madrid office who took me out until the wee hours of the morning as a true Spaniard is supposed party. I grew to love Spanish pop music after four months there.

In between seeing our good friends, we managed to do go to a few museums and stores. Our highlights are listed below:

1. British Museum
This is probably our favorite museum in the UK. I've been there before and the museum lived up to my expectations once more. I love the reconstructed Parthenon as well as the spectacular displays of Egyptian artifacts. If you get hungry at the British Museum, there is a hot dog stand right outside the main gate that is seriously good (and cheap).

2. Tate Modern
I had not visited this museum in my previous visits to London but it is one of my favorite modern art museums now. In particular, they had a special exhibit on modern day cities where they profiled large urban cities throughout the world and displayed various statistics in visual formats. Those of you who know Albert know that he loves random numbers and facts so this was particularly fitting for him. The rest of the exhibits were also quite well done - it reminded me a lot of the Whitney in NYC.

3. Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms
This was also a first for me and a clear favorite site in London. I love Winston Churchill stories and the museum is a new addition to the Cabinet War Rooms that is incredibly well done. The interactive displays were fun for adults and children alike. The cabinet war rooms also were fun to see not only for their historic value but also to remind us of the serious nature of war when it is conducted on home turf.

4. Westminster Abbey
I've mentioned this in previous postings but Westminster Abbey is amazing if you love to see where famous people are buried. I am actually very interested in seeing the tomb of Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin. If you find all of this to be too morbid, Westminster Abbey might not be the highlight of your trip. It is much less a church as it is a place where some very notable historical figures are buried. My favorite part of the church is the tomb of the unknown soldier with the inscription:
They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward His house

5. Hamley's
Onto the shopping! Hamley's is literally a 7 story toy store. If Abby could walk and talk, this would have been a nightmare for me. Instead, Albert took her around and declared anything she grabbed from the shelf something she "wanted". I was a bit skeptical but Albert was allowed to spoil Abby a tiny bit for this one day.


6. Harrod's
Everyone talks about the experience that is Harrod's. We tend to agree and love it for all of its pomp and circumstance. However, I refuse to ever go there again on the day that the "There is only one sale" Sale at Harrod's starts. It was crazy - even for this Japanese girl. My people were standing in line at the Gucci counter which I found to be a tad bit embarrassing. I love the food court there but I wasn't about to spend $40 to eat some fish and chips at the counter. We ended up buying food at Harrod's but took it outside to eat. It ended up raining in the middle of our meal but for the most part, the food was delicious. The toy store there is also something you have to witness. I'm just glad Abby couldn't speak because we could leave there without having her launch herself into a temper tantrum.

7. Cornish Pasties
In all honesty, this should go in the York section of our blog. I forgot to mention it there so I'll mention it here. Cornish Pasties. I hate them. Albert loves them. We almost got into a fight over them. Albert wanted them for lunch. I would have rather eaten a vat of oil. We had one night in York where we found a store selling freshly made Cornish Pasties - which are a flaky pastry that surrounds some sort of meat/veggie concoction. I thought it was OK but a bit oily. Albert thought they were brilliant (as the British would say). I personally thought once was enough but while walking through London, Albert's eyes lit up when we passed another Cornish Pasty store. Albert loved them so much he had to take a picture of the sign on the wall showing how one makes a Cornish Pasty. As you can see, I was less than thrilled:

Cornish pasties aside, we had a wonderful trip filled with memories we will hold onto for a while. We loved seeing old friends and I was heartened that I could travel to an academic conference in my post-Abby life. Despite some of the terrorist threats, crazy flooding and horrible exchange rate, we loved the UK.


fünf said...

You are a gem of information. How long is your trip? Are you guys turning European or what?

Ko Family said...

Alyssa - these should be back-dated. We got back a while ago. This trip only lasted 2 weeks. We couldn't possibly afford to be there much longer than that!