Any trip that starts with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and ends with a fist fight in Dublin has got to be worth the trouble if you ask me. Toss in the best band in the world (complete with broken bones), 4 cities, mammoth proportions of street art, a series of ‘food porn’ pix that will keep me salivating for weeks to come and quality time with some of my favorite BFF’s and you have a hell of a trip…or more accurately, a 4 part adventure with Euro Bean. Note to readers: All of the links in the text below go directly to a photograph that I took that pertains…though I will share some of the many photos I shot on this trip with you, you will also have to do some poking around to find some of the nuggets
Part I – London Calling
“Nothing is certain in London but expense.” ~ William Shenstone
Fred Allen once said that “the first thing that strikes a visitor to Paris is a taxi.” What I wonder is whether or not Mr. Allen ever visited London. For the 3 days and 3 nights that I walked that city I became more certain with each passing step that death-by-bus was imminent. The traffic anxiety was a permanent fixture for my 3 night stand and, if I’m being honest, one of the reasons I didn’t fall head over heels for London.
Z met me at the station for a quick egg salad with speck and to hand me some keys and then it was off, suitcase and all, to the site of The Cans Festival. Wheelie suitcases on cobblestone are only slightly less annoying then crying babies in strollers on cobblestone but that didn’t stop me. As it turns out, it was lucky that I was a day late as the tunnel was virtually empty but the paint was still fresh and smelly and vibrant. I started snapping pictures and a guy asked me if I had been to the other end already. When I replied, “no” he told me I was in for a long day. I took in all of that art for almost 3 hours, constantly finding new pieces, before Jamie came and found me.
I caught my first glimpse of Big Ben (“Parliment!”) and contimplated how many times a day National Lampoon’s European Vacation is quoted in that very spot. Though it was all lovely I was never really struck with the awe that sometimes hits me when I find myself somewhere new.
Regardless of the lacking shock and awe we headed to (finally) drop off my many pounds of stuff and then head to the Apollo Theater for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Fortunately for me, I saw this guy live. Sadly for you, I did so sans cameras. Starting my rock and roll fantasy week right off the bat with that show was a good omen…He was lit from the front for much of the show and it projected a huge and sharp shadow of him on the wall. This large and daunting figure seemed to fit the size of the crunchy and industrial sounding rock that was coming from the stage more than the man himself. It was a good show and I promise that I will see him play again though next time, for sure, I will take pictures.
Jeff rolled in the next day and we did what tourists do and saw the sites. On foot. All day. Seriously. I don’t know if you realize how large a place London is but I can tell you that I sure did that day. Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abby, Big Ben, Parliment, the Queens Gardens and a ton of other significant but not totally interesting sites to behold.
After too short a rest for the toes we were off to grab Z and rock some Ween at the Shepherds Bush Empire. Needless to say, it rocked throroughly.
Next day saw more of the same though this time we started with buttered crumpets and worried less about mounments and more about neighborhoods. We wandered the Tate, Bourrough Market and what is most certainly the Williamsburg of London. Vintage shops, tons of street art and some Vietnemese food.
I would love to tell you all that I fell in love with London but I’m not going to. I loved seeing my peeps and my band and Nick Cave and Big Ben and whatever but the town itself felt like a backwards (literally) and akward version of New York. With a history as old and rich as England’s I would have hoped to see the history more intertwined with the present day where the past meets the future and all that. Many of the cities I’ve been to this year have managed that integration in a way that’s charming or seemed to avoid it entirely maintaining their old fashioned atmosphere but London missed on both counts. I felt the same way about Milan but a sweet man changed my opinion pretty quickly…Maybe a sweet man in London would have made all the difference. Hard saying, not knowing.
There is hip stuff happening there and really cool things to do but the aesthetic was somehow not satisfying. I might be taking out my dislike of the Gerkin (the huge dildo shaped building by the London Tower) on the whole city but I will do so with no apologies. Any city where cars have the right of way over pedestrians is bound to cause some distrust. Add to the equation the tendency to charge the same amount for sneakers in pounds that you would in dollars and you find me scratching my head wondering if people actually are willing to pay 80 dollars for low top Chuck Taylors. I about broke the bank and my head (on a bus) but I did so with a smile on my face so I’ll quit my bitching. London rocked and it was the perfect place to get things started.
Saturday morning I kissed my friends goodbye and headed to my 2nd London airport of the trip to catch a flight to the City of Light.
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