London lad lessons

You may have noticed that I’ve neglected to ever write a post solely on the subject of European guys. Learning how to deal with them as a hyper-communicative, flirty blonde is an essential part of the “European experience”, and my recent trip to London confronted me with three notable albeit brief encounters worth recounting.

Bachelor #1 – Let’s call him “Salsa Guy”. Alone in London for the last day of my trip, I went to Bar Salsa to find a packed house of dancers taking advantage of the long weekend. It was a nice milestone to realize how far I’ve come from Ginger in Germany two years ago thinking that “Club Salsa is Mildly Terrifying” to Ginger in England going out alone without hesitation. Salsa Guy was a fantastic merengue/reggaeton dancer (read: sophisticated grinding) and eventually inquired as to my age. Shocked to discover that he was seven years older than I, he mentioned in all seriousness — and I quote — “I would marry you if you were older”. Ahem, sorry? My dear, it wouldn’t matter how old I was, you do not simply tell me after thirty minutes of dancing that you’re fantasizing about wedding bells. Needless to say, I switched partners after that point…

Bachelor #2 – Walking around unfamiliar parts of London at three in the morning as a young woman wearing disheveled dancing clothes, make-up likely smeared from sweat, complete with crazy lioness-hair is probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. On the way home from dancing I see Mr. Blue Suit out of the corner of my eye because, well, his suit was really freaking blue.

I pass him, walking at a good clip, but hear someone coming up next to me about a block later. Mr. Blue Suit says, “You alright, love?” in a voice that clearly indicates his lack of concern for my well-being. I shoot him a sideways glance, keep walking at the same pace and instinctively answer in what interestingly turns out to be a French accent, “I…don’t…speak English”. Mr. Blue Suit is taken aback, quickly recovers and says, “But you do speak a bit, right?” and as I turn the corner away from him he tries one last time, “But you speak a bit!?” and I’m gone. It doesn’t shake me, I find a bus stop and ride back to the hostel I’ve begrudgingly booked for that night, bringing me to…

Bachelor #3 – Signore Salvatore caught the exasperated glance I threw him after unsuccessfully attempting to key open the door leading up to the room I’d booked. Later that afternoon I ran into him in the 8-bed room I was given and (of course) he had the bunk under my bed. We chatted for a grand total of three minutes — half in English, half in Italian — before I ran off to Platform 9 and 3/4. When I returned later that night, I found this on my pillow:

Cute, right? [Alternative sub-interpretation: a woman’s affection can be bought with cliché trinkets]. Sadly for him, I was gone that night and he slept long the following morning, so we never spoke again. I made sure to scribble a quick thank-you, but had to smile to myself wondering how many key chains he might go through in a lifetime.

Ah, boys


Jaded eyes: when returning to touristy roots is a good thing

I sometimes practice ‘metatourism’ for fun, wander around a city and watch the tourists, try to pick out the locals. In London it’s more of a challenge to spot the natives due to how inherently diverse the city is. As soon as you set foot in Zone 1 however, the ratio of cameras to people becomes virtually 1:1 and it’s practically child’s play to identify them. I split my time over the weekend into half-native/half-tourist activities, and relearned how to have fun as a gawking, pointing, photo-snapping tourist.

Days 1 & 2: Couchsurfed at an Englishman’s house 25 minutes from Victoria by tube. Learned the rules of cricket, what Brits mean when they call something a “sticky wicket“, how to give a Hawaiian massage, and contented myself with the fact that my version of porridge is authentic relative to that of the masters of porridge-making. Also: Oyster Card = ♥. I understand the momentary feeling of panic when you reach for it, can’t find it, then realize suddenly it’s just in your other pocket.

Days 3 & 4: Played ‘tourist’ with a friend from uni and her mom, neither of whom had ever been to England (it was even her mom’s first time in Europe)…

Portobello Market: chock-full of tourists. I’m fairly sure the only natives there were the shopkeepers, and half of them aren’t even English-English. My normal reaction would have been to avoid it entirely on a busy shopping day, but Emily and I decided to take the sillier route and dance on street corners, poke fun at somber-looking steel drum players, comment on artsy purses in our best British accents, etc. etc.

Covent Garden: My favorite area from my first trip to London, the theatre district! Also overrun with the average fool ready to part with any amount of money for a cute tea cup or Punch & Judy doll, but home to wonderful pubs & restaurants, cupcakeries, bookshops and plenty of stimulation for a creative mind. Em, her mom, and I shelled out £24 at the Fortune Theatre for a chilling production of The Woman in Black, a ghost story performed as a classic film noir/thriller.

Harrods: Where else could one find a tea which costs five thousand quid per kilo? We spent more time oohing over the pricey oolong than over the designer jewelry and handbags. After darting quickly through the “beauty apothecary” (sorry, all I could think of a magical, Harry Potter-inspired beauty shop) and its consultants standing with perfume bottles in hand, ready to pounce on you as techno music pumped in the background, we made it to the realm of chocolate creations and got slightly high on the heady smells of deliciousness.

King’s Cross: Platform 9 3/4. Finally, after years of waiting, my HP pilgrimage was complete. I reveled in the cliché, the pure tourism of it all when I finally had my moment at the trolley and realized that when it comes to fulfilling childhood dreams, being touristy is the best way to do so!


Port of Entry: Calais border crossing to Dover

English Border Patrol Agent (BPA): Where are you from?
Ginger: America.
BPA: What are you doing in Germany?
Ginger: Teaching for a year at a middle school.
BPA: And what are you teaching, exactly?
Ginger: The American language.
BPA: Oh good, if you’d have said you were teaching them English, then there would have been a real problem! (laughs)

Finally! A government employee with a sense of humor! I had forgotten what that was like…


Crossing over, on the ferry: ordering food

Ginger: I’ll have a tea, please. (Barista leaves immediately to serve it…) Actually, what kind do you have? (Hoping for green tea…)
Barista: The milk and sugar are just around the corner. (Brings black tea.)
Ginger: (Ah, naturally.) Right, thanks. (Pays £1,40, adds sugar.)

How silly of me to think that there would be a choice


Dover: reactions, thoughts

Dang, those cliffs really are white.

First bout of homesickness: the harbor, boats, and seagulls make me miss Lake Michigan’s open water terribly. (Never mind the fact that in my notes I wrote harbour).


London: reactions, thoughts

*Note — I was 16 the first time I traveled to London with my family. We did the normal touristy stuff and it was excellent.*

Very old English gentlemen who remind me of my grandfather still make me smile to myself. Extra points if they’re smoking a pipe.

Very old English ladies who smell like my grandmother make me tear up, and then smile to myself.

“I laughed until I soiled my breeches.” (Film advertisement on a double decker bus) manages to sound considerably more elegant than “I laughed until I shit my pants”.

First Krispy Kreme in years, £1,20 (1.97 USD) from Tesco. So. Worth. It.

Fish and chips is still damn good — pass the vinegar!