The first day of international travel is almost always a rough patch for me. Without fail, I get sick. This time was no exception, as I finally caught the cold going around (the one that lasts days and makes you feel super sluggish). Couple this with very little sleep, the sudden timezone change, and a LOT of walking after I finally landed in the middle of the London new years, and I was the walking dead.
Taking the train to west London, I immediately realized it was bitter cold. My leather jacket wasn’t enough, and I had to fish for my gloves and scarf. Without a proper internet connection, I began searching for a Starbucks to get on Google Maps and get my bearings (next time, I should prepare more thoroughly). Slowly, I mapped out a walking route to the hostel. The 1.4 mile distance felt monumental given my sickness and tiredness. However, I was not ready to pay a fortune for a London taxi.
I arrived at the Monkey in the Trees Hostel, which is in an area near the borough of Hammersmith, near a very old market (Shepherd’s Bush Market). The hostel is actually part of a pub called The Greyhound. The pub is on the bottom floor, and upstairs are the bunk beds.
Unlike “pubs” in the West, many pubs in England seem more like family locations, and during the early evening the pub / hostel is swamped by families with their kids running around, while mom and dad drink pints.
I met with two wonderful Chilean women, Esi and Ninia. We immediately clicked and spent the evening together, making it to Leicester Square, which is the closest available place to watch New Years fireworks without having to pay a monumental ticket price. We arrived via the “tube” railway. A costly but effective mass transit system ($6.00 or so per one-way ticket).
Esi and Nenia met up with almost a dozen other Chileans who they had encountered the night before quite randomly. This left me feeling slightly awkward, as I don’t speak Spanish. And, by around 1 AM I wanted nothing more than to pass out.
We ended up in a Mexican restaurant. I was not that interested given that I was born and raised in the American Southwest, and it was about US $8.00 just to enter the place.
I needed a strategy to wake myself up, so I took a small shot of hot sauce. The others thought I was crazy, but it cut back my cold symptoms and gave me a second wind of energy.
Now with more energy, I managed to get a lot of exciting shots of different streets in the early hours, including Chinatown and it’s huge hanging orange lamp / orb.
Ended up having a lot of fun. I have yet to meet a single Londoner who does NOT have a sense of humor. This makes meeting random strangers both very fun and easy.
Returned at 5 AM. Despite everything I’d been through, I could only sleep 3 hours (maybe because of my cold). I woke up and had the complimentary breakfast, and then got to work on my computer. Around noon, the real tiredness set in. I returned to my room and passed out for five hours.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings