Tag Archives: Marble Arch

Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: London Part 2

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Bolt, the Queen and the Marble Arch

Usain Bolt seems to be a really popular guy in London. As we made our way around the city he was featured in quite a few advertisements. Go Bolt! Equipped with our complimentary hotel umbrellas we headed to the famous London Bridge. Apparently the London Tower and the Tower Bridge have replaced the London Bridge in prestige. All this time we had been singing about the London Bridge falling down, I had expected the London Bridge to be a bright, shiny part of the city’s history. Instead the Tower Bridge was the main attraction. We visited both, just for the fun of it.

Our next stop was Borough Market – an open air market that sells everything from fresh Parmesan cheese, to candied nuts. There I had the best honey, cinnamon roasted cashews. The vendor sold trays and trays of candied this, or yogurt covered that – and he allowed me to sample all that I wanted. I had to consciously make myself walk away from the table. We were told that we had seen only a fraction of what the market had to offer, because it came alive on the weekends, not on the Tuesday that we were there.

Catching the “tube” (metro/train) we made a second attempt at the Buckingham Palace. We had a nice stroll through Green Park on the way to the palace. I don’t know what an average day is like at the palace, but to me, the place was packed. Does the Queen really live there? We hung around taking pictures at the palace and the Victoria Memorial.

On the way back to the hotel I was delighted to find a roadside fruit vendor. Back at the hotel we dropped off our day’s purchases, then headed back out to wander around the Marble Arch area.

The group settled on Middle Eastern cuisine for dinner. My boyfriend, whose culinary taste had been hard to please, wanted something more familiar (hint, American franchise food) so we continued along.

It was a nice stroll in downtown Westminster. As we reached the end of one street – we saw it – the Marble Arch. What is it with the Europeans’ fascination with arches? My companion decided to eat at a McDonalds. While he was ordering I noticed veggie burger on the menu. It was part of the deli menu. Veggie burgers at a McDonalds? I had to inquire more. I didn’t feel like eating a sandwich. But I was encouraged to try it to see if I liked it. And I liked it. It was lettuce, cucumber and mayo on a wheat bun, with a chickpea burger. The burger tasted like falafel, which I had earlier at a Middle Eastern restaurant. The mango smoothie was pretty good also. That was my first time eating lunch at a McDonalds since I stopped eating fish at age 19 (I stopped eating meat at 15). I really enjoyed the stroll, as there was no pressure to make it to any particular destination.

Heading back to catch up, with our friends, we encountered a long line in Restaurant. We joined the group, who had finished their meal. All of us were in high spirits and decided to do a group toast. As we sat there sipping on champagne, we were getting mean looks from the people who were waiting in line. This was strange, as everyone we encountered in London was really nice. I asked the server if the restaurant was always so popular on a Tuesday night. He explained that it was Ramadan and the fasting ended at sunset so every evening was packed. We soon ended our celebration and headed back to the hotel.

At the hotel we made arrangements for transportation to the airport. We were leaving out from London Southend Airport, which was more than an hour from the hotel. We had an early flight to Amsterdam.

Stay tuned for more on my European adventure.

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Chronicles of an Island Girl’s First European Adventure: London Part I

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The Eye and the Rain

I never cared to visit London until the 2012 Olympics. Of course after the country was put it in an international spotlight, I wasn’t the only one interested in going. (Now I can’t wait to go to Brazil! But Brazil has always been on my travel wish list.) My first impression after landing in London was “why is it so cold.” We traveled from France to London via Easy Jet to London Luton Airport. It felt like 60 degrees when we got off the plane. London Luton is like the airports in the Virgin Islands. We walked off the plane, down the stairs, unto apron, then into the airport. When the cold morning air hit my face, for a second I wondered if it was summer in this part of the world. Then I remembered that France was a hot 90 something degrees. Putting the chill aside, it felt good being in an English-speaking country. We were able to negotiate our cab fares! (The little things we usually take for granted.) After reaching to the hotel we set out to find something to eat.

On our first stroll through the Marble Arch area in Westminster, England we were startled by the loud horn blowing on a delivery truck as we crossed the road. The group hurried across the street but the horn blowing continued. We looked back to see a Dominica flag in the truck, driven by two men – one wearing a visible Gucci chain. For those who may not know, a gold puffed Gucci chain is a trademark piece of Caribbean people, specifically Virgin Islanders. It’s a surefire way to identify a Caribbean person; it’s right up there with the hibiscus earrings. We started waving and shouting “ehhhhyyy” at the guys. It turns out that we were not being run out of the London street, but instead given a real island-styled “hail up” – and it felt really good. The truck kept on its way, and we kept on ours – wondering if and how the drivers recognized us as island people.

The guys in our group wanted to go to Brixton in southern London, where we were told has a large Caribbean population, for some island food. But we were too hungry to venture all the way down there at the time. We ate at Giraffe’s then headed out to sightsee.

While we had found many historical marvels in Paris, I found the Eye of London to be a modern marvel. It’s described as a revolving observatory. In essence, it looks like a gigantic ferris wheel. A misunderstanding with my boyfriend had dampened my spirit a bit as I rode on the Eye. But the 360 degree views of London from aboard the eye were a must see. I had been looking forward to seeing Big Ben. But after I did, the Eye stole all of Ben’s glory.

As we were leaving the Eye it started to rain. And I was unprepared. One couple in the group was equipped with a complimentary umbrella provided by the Marriott Marble Arch where we were staying. As she said, “If a hotel offers a complimentary umbrella, that mean it rains a lot.” We waited out the rain a bit, then decided to go ahead with the rest of our sightseeing. Passing by several double decked sightseeing busses, we came across the iconic London phone booths, then headed for Buckingham Palace.

It started to rain on the way to the palace. Then it started to pour. The group had to decide if it made sense to continue or to head back to the hotel. Since we were nearly there we continued. The experience was pretty cool, as my boyfriend and I walked and talked – in the rain. The palace wasn’t too much fun in the rain. We plotted our way back to the hotel.

Luckily for us, the wifi at the Marble Arch Marriott Hotel was pretty good. We used our extra time to check in with family and friends back home.

For the first time in days, I got a full night’s rest!

Stay tuned for more on my European Adventure.

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