We left 21 year old Jessica sobbing in a horrible hostel toilet because she couldn’t hack being away from home on her own for the first time. Fortunately, life was about to improve as she (I) discovered the joys of Brighton (sorry, I’m slipping into a weird kind of third person Jimmy from Seinfeld thing). First thing in the morning of day two, I marched myself down to Victoria Station and invested in a round-trip ticket to Brighton (34 year old me is aghast at the thought of buying train tickets on the day at the actual ticket window. They must have cost a fortune!), with which I instantly fell in love. Finally feeling flush in my independence, I got my lip pierced, which I had been dying to do for ages but hadn’t because I knew my parents wouldn’t be happy, to say the least (and yes, I was an adult, but living with them meant I was still very much under their control. I had a curfew until the day I moved out, aged 23). But now that wouldn’t be my problem for a while (I did also have several tattoos already at this point, but I was good at keeping them hidden, so no one knew). I had a wander around town, visited Infinity Foods (which I still really like) for some vegan sweets (I was just coming off of a year long flirtation with veganism, and was still eating mostly vegan. That lasted until I rediscovered the joys of cheese), visited Brighton Museum, and tried on vegan combat boots at Veg Shoes. I suppose I must have made it down to the pier, but I didn’t even mention it in my journal!
I returned to London that afternoon feeling much happier with the world, and even popped over to Buckingham Palace to have a look at the outside, and went inside Westminster Cathedral, which I’m almost certain I had confused with Westminster Abbey at that point. The weird thing is that I don’t think I’ve ever been back to Westminster Cathedral since, even to walk past (which is frankly all I would be doing anyway, since I’m not religious), so I’m not sure how I managed to find it in the first place! I still do love Brighton – I don’t think I could live there, but I like to make the trip at least once or twice every summer to grab a cone from Boho Gelato, which didn’t exist at the time of my first visit, and walk along the pier, though not at the same time. I learned that lesson the hard way after a jerk seagull snatched my cone out of my hand and ate it in front of me with all his jerk seagull friends.
In London, I had moved from my original hostel (which was near Victoria) to one in Bloomsbury, just across from the British Museum, so of course I felt compelled to spend a day there, and found it memorable mainly for the Ancient Egyptian collection (nowhere near as crowded in those days) and the incredible pain my feet were in by the end of it. This was also the day I discovered ICCo, aka Goodge Street Pizza, which is still one of my standbys if I need a cheap quick meal in the area. I liked it so much I went back the next day and accidentally made a date with a guy who worked there (he didn’t speak much English so I was just smiling and nodding and didn’t realise what I’d agreed to until it was too late) and subsequently stood him up, since I still technically had a (awful) boyfriend, so that put an abrupt end to ICCo, at least until a year later when I actually moved here and renewed my acquaintance with the place, which became my Friday evening treat to myself after class. The guy who asked me out was definitely still working there as of a couple of years ago, but I’m pretty positive he doesn’t remember the incident by now!
I also visited the Tower of London (for the one and only time. I got angry about how basic the Beefeater tour was. I was bitching in my journal because it cost £13, which to me seemed unbelievably expensive. I looked up how much it costs now and guess what it is?! £26! Of course, because the pound has gotten so weak over the years, it probably works out to a similar amount in dollars) and attempted to visit Whitechapel on account of my fascination at the time with Jack the Ripper. I’m not sure what I was hoping to see (Victorian London, alive and well?), but it certainly wasn’t what I got. All my journal says on the matter is “Whitechapel sucks.” I also made it to the Tate Modern and remarked on taking the Tube back, so I’m a little confused how I got to Tower Hill and Whitechapel in the first place. Surely I didn’t walk?! I definitely would not have taken a bus, so I’m a bit perplexed.
Day five was my last in London, and I spent it exploring Camden, which I loved in all my innocence of youth. I bought a horrible cheap black and white striped dress that I thought looked amazing, and a pink and black striped hoodie, both of which you’ll see pop up in pictures later on. I recall that I ended up in Camden because I was trying to walk to the British Library navigating solely by those arrow signs, and the signs crapped out at one point, so I just kept going until I hit Camden (I probably would have been disappointed with the BL back then anyway. It’s not much to look at from the street, and King’s Cross was pretty grim in those days). I also popped back to Westminster for some photos (I seem to have gotten Westminster Abbey and Cathedral straight by then) and prepared for my trip on the Eurostar the next morning, which I believe still departed from Waterloo at that point. My journal records that I bought a white chocolate Magnum for dinner because I couldn’t find an Indian restaurant or chippy to eat at. Must not have been trying very hard!
Sorry if this post was a bit uneventful, but after my first day, I did basically just have a nice time in London, so there’s not much to be said about it, other than the wry observations of a hardened Londoner looking back at my youthful naïveté. I also wasn’t interacting much with my fellow backpackers at that stage, so I don’t even have any stories to tell about other travellers. I think it’ll get more interesting as things go wrong, so hopefully my next post, which will include my journey to Venice via Paris, and Venice itself, will be more exciting! Thanks for bearing with my reminiscences!