Day 94 and 95: London

So I’m an idiot. You know how the Earth rotates and times are different in different places . . . well I totally forgot about that. I had been in contact with these nice guys in London who said they could store my bike in their garage until I decided to ride it again. Forgetting about time travel I told them I was going to arrive on the 10th. I figured out what a dumbbum I was when after the plane had landed and the pilot said the routine announcement – temperature, time and date – the 9th of June. I said fuck out loud – a long gaspy one – you’d spell it like this ffaahhhhhhhhhrk.

I spent most of the 45 minute tube ride hassling passengers for their phones.

“Sorry no battery.”

“Oh man. I haven’t got any credit. Sorry.”

“I’m from Jordan. I don’t have a phone but I want to talk to you about politics.”

“Whats’s in that giant box?”

The young lady with no battery eventually yielded and let me send a text. Something like:

“Hi Peter.

Nick here. This is embarrassing – I’ve got the time zones mixed up. I’m in London now. I’m heading central. Is it ok for me to come a day early? I totally understand if not. Just send me an email to let me know.

Sorry again.”

No idea what to do next, I didn’t have any internet to look at my emails. I headed to the nice guys’ house anyway. Somewhere nearby I did some more hassling. I had a few takers but the nice guys didn’t answer. Then –

Guy with a board smile, briefcase and curious head tilt:

“Hey are you Nick by any chance?”

Rainbows.

Peter and Ian did a year long bike tour through the US, Canada and Aus in 2012. They met a lot of nice people along the way so they thought they’d be nice too. This is what their house looks like.

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Last night we were talking bikes and bites when Ian, fingering a smartphone, said ‘Sir Ian’s at the The Grapes’. Sir Ian Mckellen or Gandeto* as I like to call him, was at the local. Shoes on men!

Apparently it’s Gandeto’s local too, and by local I mean he solved it from bankruptcy and now owns it. The charmingly uncrusty celeb was playing trivia with some locals who looked, according to Peter, far less deserving of Sir’s friendship than ourselves. Unfortunately Ian and I didn’t get any chances with the old man but Peter can’t wash his shirt because Gandeto touched his shoulder as he walked past.

It feels like I’ve gained an extra day of life – wheel rocks, counter stops, bing bong, you accidentally won the gameshow of life. Here’s your reward.

Great. Time to eat.

My first stop was a fish and chip shop in East London called Poppies. It had won some best fish and chip award and Time Out said it was great.

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The standard of fish and chips in London must suck. The only good thing about this meal was its size. The chips were sog end of average and the fish, although well battered, had less texture and taste than a towel. After coming from the epicentre of intense taste It was quite a shock to eat something so bland.

I should have known better, the restaurant was empty when I walked in. The only other customers to come in after me were holding maps or packs. But I didn’t learn. I made the same mistake again about twenty minutes later. Following another suggestion from Time Out I found an award winning pie store named Square Pie – again practically empty. Luckily they sold mini pies – if I was going to swim in a pool of disappointment I only wanted to dip my feet in.

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Shit again.

Are those guides and awards that wrong or does London actually have no good fish and chips or pies? How could that be possible? London is one of the capitals of the world isn’t it overflowing with good food of every kind?

From now on all I’m trusting are my instincts and recommendations from people on the street. If anyone knows any food blogs that are worth reading please let me know.

I had a bittersweet afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny day and I spent most of my time riding along Regent’s Canal and the Thames, a nice mix between charmingly British brick-and-green and touristy epic.

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It was a lovely ride but I couldn’t get my mind off the terrible meal I’d had. Every time I rode past a busy cafe, restaurant or street stall I would chastise myself for alienating my instincts and missing out on the opportunity to have something really good. Eventually, sometime after Regent’s Park, I decided I needed to take action. What’s the most reliably excellent thing I can eat?

Ice cream.

I knew no blogs or guide books could be so inconsiderate to get an ice cream suggestion wrong. I read through five anyway – just to make sure. They all said Gelupo one place was the best.

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Watermelon with cinnamon and jasmine, and ricotta with chocolate and black pepper. Subtle, soft and delicious. If you could eat feelings this would be somewhere between being wrapped in a doona, jumping in the ocean and realising you love someone.

Tomorrow I’ve got a flight to Brno in the Czech Republic. I’m going to try to hitchhike from there to Bulgaria in a day and a half so I can go to a music festival.

*I can’t remember if I knew who Ian McKellen was before X-Men and Lord of the Rings came out.

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