QXZ's London Invasion, Part Two

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One Step Beyond
It's the single most popular cheese in the world

Sleep wasn't all that terrible after all. Woke up at 10:00, out of the hostel by 10:30. Went over to the TESCO (supermarket) to buy a Traveller's London A-Z (£3.45) and breakfast on a packaged ham & cheddar sandwich with a bottle of "cranberry juice drink" (£1.94 total).

Decided to rock the obvious tourist look, with camera slung over shoulder. Time to eat up, then get to Whitechapel, I think.

Auspicious: the sun has come out.

Managed to get on the wrong train and had to backtrack one station from "High Street/Ken" (as described by the woman behind me on the cell phone). Even the surveillance cameras have the Underground logo on them.

Mr. Ripper didn't heed the signs: "Commit No Nuisance" is (or once was) clearly printed on the Fournier St. side of Christ Church, Spitalfields. The stone of Christ Church is so acid-eaten that the whole building has taken on the texture of a river cobble. The wind started gusting as I walked around the church.

There's an obelisk just south of the church. An engraving at the base reads ERECTED BY THE METROPOLITAN FREE DRINKING FOUNTAINS ASSOCIATION 1860. It forms part of the fence around Christ Church Gardens.

Spitalfields appears to be heavily Bangladeshi these days.

Walked the length of Hanbury Street, but no clues as to exactly where Annie Chapman was murdered. (Note: Turns out it was the yard of No. 29) The other sites of the Ripper killings are further away and/or too ill-defined for me to go find, and I don't feel like doing the guided tour.

Stopped in at the Ten Bells (right next door to Christ Church) for a half pint of cider. You can't say the Ten Bells isn't aware of it's history; Ripper merchandise is for sale, a listing of the murdered prostitutes names and places of death is painted on the west interior wall, and newspaper clippings are attached to the wall underneath. One of the articles, from the May 24, 1992 edition of the Sunday Express, is about the possible "Royal connection" to Jack the Ripper. Maybe Mr. Moore wasn't reaching too far.

Otherwise, the place is smaller than the bulk of it's history lead me to expect. There's some nice tilework (original?) and lots of aged wood. Hard to know what actually dates to 1753.

Left the Ten Bells at 2:30 to the appropriate sound of Christ Church's pealing. Planning on walking to The City.

Stumbled across the Roman city wall while trying to find the Barbican. There is a wall walk, apparently, that goes from the Tower to the Museum of London; two places I plan on visiting. Cool.

Made my way to St. Paul's Cathedral just as it closed to tourists for the remainder of the weekend. Stunning, though; even in the settling gloom. I'll be back on Monday.

Decided to cross the Thames on the Millennium Bridge but found it closed for re-engineering. Apparently it swayed a bit too much under pedestrian loads, so tuned mass dampers and support cabling are being added. I guess I'll walk along the river, then.

Crossed the Thames on Blackfriars Bridge. Odd sight before crossing: the piers and landing of a bridge that's been removed. Once across, walked to the OXO Tower complex to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my evening. Current plans are eating and picking up a copy of Time Out. St. Paul's, floodlit, is visible across the river. Beautiful. I may have to revisit it several times.

5:55 PM, GMT - back at home base: TESCO. Bought a Time Out (great scam. spend money to discover ways to spend more money) and yet another ham and cheddar sandwich for sustenance. Also, one hour of Internet time so's I can sends some emails! Yee haw!

Leaving your hot chocolate until after your meal allows you to watch the whipped cream slowly collapse.

Arrive back at the hostel a bit before 8:00 PM. There is an actual Australian in the room. After all the talk about Earl's Court being overrun with 'em, he's the first one I've encountered.

Just heard passing description of one of the roommates as "the huge guy? about six-three? with the drugs? he's dangerous". Sounds fun. We've got some long-term folks here. From what I've gathered, a good amount of people are staying here until they find a job and somewhere permanent to live. New Londoners are forming before my eyes.

Overheard in r.e. U2: "Great band, ennit? Makes you proud to be Irish. One of the greatest bands in the world."

Went to Leicester Square to see Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but arrived too late. Got a ticket for Heist instead. £10.00! That's about $14.00! NYC movies seem cheapish now.

Observation on the Men's room at the WarnerVillageWest End: it's narrow, just like everything else in London.

Londoners appear to be nearly incapable of navigating crowds. People, chronically, will stop in the middle of crowded sidewalks. Or have no idea how to avoid upcoming congestion. Any attempt on my part to avoid collisions usually fails. It's conversely possible that I'm incapable of navigating London crowds. Maybe I haven't got a feel for the flow yet.

Back at the hostel the ever-present French guy is drinking his constant companion, whiskey, with a semi-crazy Spaniard. I, myself, wouldn't label him crazy but he says all Spaniards are crazy. "People from Valencia," he says, Castillian-lisping the 's' sound, "are the craziest of all."

Bringing a pillowcase wasn't useless after all. I've improvised a (rather hard) pillow by stuffing my towel, my unused sleep sack and my hoodie into it. Good night.

Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/1/01. QXZ endorses nothing.

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