The city where I attended a youth art camp at Central Saint Martins five summers ago, where I roamed around freely, where I discovered British eccentric fashion, where I spent my free afternoons idling at Tate by the riverbank… Although I had initial difficulties living alone in this foreign land, I eventually came to embrace the city, its character, and its pace.
It was with this nostalgic mood that I found myself in London once again, this time with a companion. Of the three cities that Justin and I were visiting, I awaited our arrival in London with the greatest anticipation: I could not wait to rediscover and re-experience the city as my older self. Whereas five years ago I was a high school art geek aspiring to enter one of the world’s finest art schools, now I have already graduated from university with a degree in history and psychology. Looking outside our train on our way to city centre, it was a bittersweet, surreal feeling.
Sometimes I wonder…
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Our “home” for the next ten days was a hostel located across the Borough Market named “Orient Expresso.” It is part of the St. Christopher’s Inn chain, which has branches across Europe. Because we were too early for the hostel’s check-in time, we dropped off our luggage with the counter and dragged our exhausted selves out for a walk (more precisely, my weary self and Justin’s drugged self).
The sky was grim and leaden by the time we crossed the Thames River. Before we could figure out our location, rain began to fall heavily. Caught without our rain gear, we sought refuge in a red telephone box. Fortunately, it was finally check-in time. We darted to the closest tube station and returned to our hostel, where we threw ourselves at our beds and napped until we could no longer ignore our growling stomachs. Too tired to seek out British cuisine, we visited Chinatown, located by Leicester Square, for some comfort food.
This was when our questionable love affair with London’s Chinatown commenced. As you will see over the next few posts, it quickly assumed a routine existence in our daily excursions. Not that we dined there everyday (although we were shamefully close), but we would frequently find ourselves passing through the area when trying to get from one place to another. Blame it on its central location.
(Aside from Chinatown, the tube station Waterloo and its long moving walkway also became a regular on this trip.)
For both of us, London’s Chinatown was a much more welcoming sight than the ones we have seen in Montreal, Vancouver, or New York. Despite its small size, its stone-paved streets were generously lined with Chinese and Japanese restaurants, bakeries, and pubs. Rather than a place to get fake Balenciaga bags (i.e. as in NYC), it was primarily a neighbourhood reserved for dining and having fun.
Having done a quick survey of what the bustling quarter had to offer, we decided to have our first dinner in Europe at a Japanese joint called “Tokyo Diner.” The funny thing was, I had randomly dined at this same restaurant five years ago. I did not realize this until we descended into its basement dining area: “Eh?! Weren’t I here for supper before?!” Maybe there are quite a bit of temporal consistencies in our preferences and decision making afterall? I suppose so.
Justin, on his first visit to Tokyo Diner, ordered curry katsu, the same dish that I had ordered years ago from this kitchen. Instead of repeating myself, I had curry udon. The meal was not spectacular per se, but I was glad to be slurping hot curry broth after a long day of travel.
After dinner, the two of us dropped by a nearby Boots to pick up some “necessities.” In Joyce’s lingo, this meant facial masks. I never perceived myself as an idiotic “high-maintenance” girl, but come to think of it, I may not be as far away from this dreaded stereotype as I think I am. Take for example, this one time when some unexpected problems arose and I was forced to leave my apartment and stay at Justin’s place for a few nights:
“Shit, I forgot to bring my toothbrush.”
“What? Then what did you bring?”
“Hmm… My eyelash curler?…”
We also went for a random stroll around Soho, amusing ourselves with its shop fronts and drunkards. For reasons that I shall keep to myself, this was one of my fondest moments from this entire vacation.
Names & Addresses:
St. Christopher’s Inn
59 Borough High Street
London, SE1 IHR
2 Newport Place
London, WC2H 7JP