Sunday, June 26, 2011

London Part 2

Trying to catch up here is part two of our activities in England. 

Lets go to England for a taste of Brazil
We have found so far that wherever we travel we find that consistently the foreign restaurants have the best food at the lowest price.  I was out drinking one night and was surprised to find out that bars in England are required to close at midnight.  The bartender told me about a bar down the street that stayed open all night.  It was a Brazilian bar with a big bouncer standing out front.  First he told me they were closed then he looked both ways and said to go around back.  Apparently you can stay open after midnight but are not supposed to serve alcohol and can't let people in.  Your supposed to just shut the doors and people who are there can stay as long as they want.  It was great, they had live Brazilian music and people were dancing and drinking.  Apparently they do this every night and are open till 6:am.  I only stayed a little while but a couple days later we went back there for dinner with some friends and the food was amazing as well.  For 9 pounds we got a whole sea-bass with another whole plate of rice, beans and salad.
     We also ate at a couple Indian places that were great and very affordable.  On the other side there was the fish and chips and meat pies at English restaurants and pubs which never really impressed and were always a bit pricey.     
I shot some pool with some guys one night that were out on a stag party (British version of a bachelor party).  They have snooker in Brittan but this was not snooker it was regular bar pool.  The British have three noticeable differences in their pool though.  In US bar pool the cue ball is slightly larger than the other balls so it can be separated when you scratch and come out the cue ball hole.  Because bar tables need to have the balls only accessible when you put in quarters their is a bar inside the table along the path that the balls role which is just low enough that the 15 solid and striped balls can fit under but the cue ball hits it and is redirected to the cue ball hole.  This difference in cue balls also killed a guy once when he was showing off with his bar trick of swallowing a pool ball then coughing it back up.  He used a cue ball instead of a regular ball once and because off the size difference it got caught in his throat and he choked to death (credit to 1000 ways to die for that story).  If this guy was British he would have been fine because in Britain the pool the cue ball is smaller instead of larger.  It may seem like this wouldn't really matter but if you shoot pool you know the difference in the radius of the ball would throw all of your angled shots off.  Needless to say I sucked at British pool.
      The second difference is that when you scratch in British pool the other player can put the ball anywhere on the table they want and gets two shots.  It doesn't matter if they miss their first shot or their sixth shot they then get another shot.
     The final difference is they do not bother with numbering the balls (except the 8 ball).  There are only Red and Yellow balls. Guess there's no playing 9 ball in England. 

Small victory for Terrorism in England
There are almost no public trash cans in England.  Trash cans have always been the first casualty in the was against terrorism.  I guess you could say they are an indicator species.

Small Notes
  • Travelers always seem to know what to do and see in a city better than people who have lived there for years.
  • The door from some house in the movie Notting hill sold for 100k+ pounds.  Just a normal door.
  • There is no consistency in street signs in London, if and where they are displayed and when they are if they are even the correct street name.  Anyone who has been there will back me up. 

Your my hotspot
Val and I found the solution to overseas phone issues.  I purchased an unlocked smart phone and sim card (no small price tag there) and Val has her iPhone and a $20 throw away phone that takes a sim card.  We can call each other on our sim card phones and both have a local number.  My phone has a hotspot function that when on allows Val to connect to my wifi with her iPhone.  This way we can both use apps like skype and directions but we only had to buy one expensive unlocked smart phone.

Snickers (your not yourself when your hungry)
Val gets grumpy when she isn't fed.  Lets hope she reads this after a good meal or I'm in the dog house.  You all know those Snickers commercials where there's a group of people and one is acting like a diva or pain in the ass and their being played by Rosanne or Betty white.  Well that's Val if she gets hungry.   

Keep out
We have barbed wire and razor wire but they get serious with their wall/fence climbing deterrents in London.

They do have the plain barbed wire.

Here's a nice variation of the impale you spike.

Now we get into where they really excel, the hamster wheel topped walls.  
This is a series of wire mesh X's mounted so they can individually spin on a central bar.

Some particularly nasty spinning spikes.

And the same type again but multi-tiered this time, guarding nothing more than a flat spot on a bridge support. 

Designed to slice dice and stab.  I'd like to see the security footage from that camera. 

Another variation designed to do some damage.

This is the cheap ass version made of sections of  pipes that have been cut then bent back and slid onto a bar. Looks like it would still work for the most part though.

Here's an ornate one on a wall at Westminster Abey.  Looks a little like the chariot spikes in Ben Hur.

I wish I could have seen the testing process when they were deciding how to make all these impeding and impaling devices. 

Grave robbing anyone?
We traveled down to Stonehenge one day and also saw ancient burial mounds (burrows) in the same area.  I was surprised when the guide said there were dozens of burial mounds in the area and only a couple of them had been excavated.  They figured they knew everything they would find out from these first couple excavations and left the others alone.  One of the mounds they excavated was of an ancient bronze age king and the treasures recovered there are so valuable they have been locked in a bank vault and never put on display.  The remains of the king himself were left in the burial chamber and remain there as does who knows what treasures in the many untouched burial mounds.
     These mounds are spread through out the fields all around the Stonehenge with only a sheep fence separating them from the road.  Of course my first thought was why hasn't anyone gone out with a shovel and dug these up?

Camilla the gorilla
This is the affectionate name the British people have given to Prince Charles' wife.  Wonder what they have against them?  Prince Charles in next in line for the royal throne but for some reason the Brits and not thrilled to have him.  The openly hope he has a short reign and the newly wed prince William then becomes king. 

This is not the London Bridge

This is.
Yep, the London bridge is not nearly as cool as you'd think.

But the London Eye is.

Even on a cold and drizzly day they put our hundreds of lawn chairs in Hyde park.

Hot Fuzz in front of Buckingham palace. 

They had to make some incentive for guys to come to church. 

Valerie finds a mall.

You can now take terrorist training in the malls in London.

Just for Rose.

You can take a crap in Westminster Abbey but no photos inside.

The Socialist party has an office in London.

And so does Scientology.

To see all the photos go to and look at the London gallery.

Update on Iceland
Forgot to tell you, wood is very scarce in Iceland.  They had no trees until they started planting them in the last decade or so.  Originally there were some trees but they cut them down and burnt them all up for heat over the first couple hundred years.
Also the punishment for people found guilty of murder used to be they were exiled from the country and if they did not leave or came back anyone who saw them could legally kill them.
If someone broke into your house you could legally kill them as long as you did it with their own shoes.  This is why I did all of my breaking and entering there barefoot.

Now on to Scotland.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

London Part 1

Most of our time in England was spent in London.  London is a nice city from what we saw.  It has a river (the Thames) running right through the middle which is always good.   I have found I prefer cities that are built around some geology.  We saw the London eye, Westminster Abey, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, the city of Bath, Hyde Park, Big Ben and the London Bridge among other things.

Sorry about Slough
Our stay in London started out poorly.  I had booked accomodations at the last minute online (5 minutes before the flight) at a place called the airport guesthouse.  I had assumed it would be right next to the airport but found when we got there that the address made no sense to me (or anyone else) and several information desk people had different ideas of where it was.  After a bus, then taxi ride we arrived at the hotel which was right on the bus route in the first place.  This place was tiny.  Even smaller than the NY hotel, only room to stand our luggage upright.
     The next day we bought a cell phone in Slough (Carphone Wearhouse is great) and everyone we talked to apologized for the city.  The city of Slough wasn't actually that bad, that it was even farther away from London than the airport and difficult to get to and from was the real problem.  
     We stayed there for 2 nights before finding new accommodations.  We stayed in the new Studio apartment for 12 days and it was awesome.  If you plan on going to London you should check in with Rob at  This studio had plenty of room a nice shower, washer, etc.  Basically it was fully furnished for living and close to central London (in Vauxhal).  They didn't need to make it such a nice place but then did so thanks guys. 
     Now here's a first.  I rank Los Angeles as better than Slough, but to be fair I think Slough was really like the San Fernando city of London.  I'm going to stop mentioning how cities compare to Los Angeles unless I find others where LA is better.  

 The only house we saw in this style in England was this strip club on our terrible walk between Slough and the airport.  We meant to take a bus but as we walked down the street a bus stop never came.  I was not fun.

I literally blame it on reality TV
Before we left LA I had noticed 'literally' was the new it word.  Everyone was using it in every sentence and always to add emphasis to something that it literally didn't work for.  "I literally died when I saw it...My head literally exploded, etc.  Our friends across the pond have also caught this bug apparently and after exhaustive research I have tracked it back to reality TV.  In their never ending quest to make every hour of peoples lives none of us should care about on all their shit shows seem interesting the producers are having to constantly ratchet up the rhetoric.  If I leaned anything from Hollywood it's that the only way to eradicate such a highly contagious disease is to drop a bomb on the infected areas or track down the original monkey and then all drink it's blood or something.  

Something they have that thankfully we don't is 'brilliant'.   They will use brilliant in any and all situations.
'hey lets get some breakfast'
'brilliant, lets'.  
'I just finished watching every Tyler Perry movie back to back' 
'that's brilliant, why didn't you let me know'
Then you'll get this.
'did you see that special on Stephen Hawking last night?'
'Yeah, that guy's smart but my cousin went to college and he's literally twice as smart.'

Complete strangers will call each other love ('would you like a pint with that love?').  Which makes you reevaluate every song a Brit has wrote about love. 

Val's quotes of the day
'I don't hate children, I just don't want to be around them.'

'It wasn't real right?'
About a guard standing post at the Windsor Castle.  Just after she asked this the guard turned and walked his rounds.

It's been confirmed, London taxis suck
Taxi's are not the same everywhere.  We all know they will try to take the long way whenever possible and will basically overcharge you any way they can but most cities have some regulations on their taxis to ensure some order and fairness.  London seems to be lacking in some areas.  Our second day in London we were heading back to Slough around midnight.  The train only went as far as the airport and the last bus had gone already so we found ourselves needing to get a taxi from the airport to our hotel.  Anyone who has traveled knows airports and other travel hubs are the worst places to pick up a taxi.  You are always better walking a couple blocks and getting one off the street.  Luckily we had gone through this before and new it was only a couple miles.    It's a couple miles away from the city though (not toward) and the taxis all refused to take us there.  One said he might for 60 pounds, it is a 5 minute ride!  I thought how are they even allowed to line up at the airport if they are going to refuse a fair.  Shouldn't the first taxi have to take whoever comes, and since when do they get to dictate the fair.  The guy running the line said at this time of night they all want fairs going into the city where they will be able to get more fairs.  FUCK those guys.  We ended up calling a taxi service in Slough and having them send someone to pick us up.  It cost 12 pounds total. 

One for the road
We were having a burger and a beer for lunch our first day in London and overheard the following conversation.
'you want anything to eat with that love?'
'no, I'm on to work now so just the pint'
I thought he might have a little drinking problem then hoped he didn't work in construction or drive a tour bus.  Later in the trip we were having dinner with some Londoners and brought this up.  Apparently it's not an isolated incident and is actually considered very normal to have a pint or two during or before work or for students before going to class.  Teachers of all grades can have a pint at lunch and nobody thinks anything of it.  Can you imagine if a school teacher cracked a cold one at lunch in the states, it would be a scandal. 

You know what they call a hamburger in London?
They don't call it a hamburger?
Would I mention it if they did?  Anyway hamburger aint made of pig, so they call it a beef burger.

Part 2 coming soon.
For photos go to and check out the London event.