Posted on November 4, 2012 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay6 Comments »

Wow. OH and I have just got back from a most wonderful few days in London!

We stayed in a great little hidden gem of a hotel by London Bridge called (oddly enough) The London Bridge Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw* from the nearest tube station (also, oddly enough, called ‘London Bridge’), and … guess what? A very short walk from this hotel is a bridge over the Thames which is also called London Bridge. Some coincidence, huh?

That’s London Bridge there. No, no … the one in the middle, that you can hardly see. We’re standing on the Millennium Bridge, the one in the foreground in Southwark Bridge, then comes London Bridge in the middle and Tower Bridge at the back. The Shard – the tall pointy building on the right – was also just a stones throw from our hotel. You can go back and read footnote No. 1 again if you want clarification on that.

Anyway, I digress. As usual.

The purpose of our trip to the great metropolis was to meet up with some good friends from Italy; Paola and Umberto. Now Paola, as you may remember from previous blogs, is my best and most valuable Skype language partner, because she teaches Italian to her students in a school at home in Genoa, and she is patience itself with my attempts to get my very English tongue around her language, but she has also become a good personal friend. Umberto, her partner is a lovely guy, and very good for me because he speaks no English**, and since OH speaks no Italian***, this means that Paola must practice her English talking to OH, and I must practice my Italian talking to Umberto. This is no hardship for anyone, because we all get along really well together.

And so we set out on a couple of days sightseeing together in the city where I was born and lived for most of my childhood. It’s changed so much since those days that now I’m just as lost as anyone else when navigating the streets and transport systems, but it’s wonderful what you can do with an Oyster card, a map, and enough money to call a taxi when you’re truly lost.

Actually, that was OH saying ‘I used to work just down there!’

We had one thing booked: a ride on the London Eye. Now both OH and Umberto had reservations about this, so at first Paola and I suggested that we go up on the Eye, and the men stay below and have a beer or something, but of course the main problem with this is .. well. Go back and read the second and third footnotes again, in case you weren’t paying attention the first time. So, OH gritted his teeth, and Umberto gritted his even harder, and they joined us in a gondola after a short scuffle with a security person or two°.

Umberto demonstrated how he was planning to keep himself safe at altitude by holding onto his seat with both hands.

But OH found that in fact the gondola was not at all crowded, and moreover, was safely glassed in, so he was fine. Actually, in the end, they were both fine and both enjoyed the ride immensely.

There were two other things on Paola and Umberto’s list; they wanted to see The Shard and visit the British Museum to view the Rosetta Stone. Well, the Shard was easy. It kept popping up all over the place, even providing a certain amusing juxtaposition with the Tower of London.

The Rosetta Stone wasn’t too difficult either, once we’d given in and hailed a taxi. However, I don’t remember the British Museum being so crowded! It was actually quite hard to get a view of the thing.

But it is worth it. The Rosetta Stone is quite impressive, and quite unique. It is, indeed, a wonder to behold, as you can see from that young lady’s face. I don’t know who she is, but it’s damn near impossible to get a picture of it from a distance of more than a few inches without getting someone in the shot.

So there you are. A wonderful two days, with some great people, and we managed to eat pretty well too (though there was one restaurant which more or less told me to go away or risk death, being unable to confirm their ability to make sure my food was safe from fish contamination).

Oh, and if any of you are thinking of learning Italian, just go sightseeing in London. Everywhere we went, we heard Italian being spoken. There were literally hundreds of Italians! I don’t think we went to a single tourist location or walked down a single thoroughfare without hearing it at least once.

No wonder I’ve heard many of my Italian Skype contacts say that they lived in London for a while but didn’t learn much English. It was because they hung out with their compatriots all the time.



* If you happen to have a particularly strong throwing arm and can toss a stone a couple of hundred yards.

** I tell a lie: Umberto knows a few words and one complete sentence: ‘Thank you for the pizza’.

*** Again, not the whole truth. OH knows a few words too, most of which are to do with food: ‘formaggio’ (cheese), ‘pecorino’ (cheese), ‘stracchino’ (cheese), ‘taleggio’ (cheese), one phrase: ‘una birra fresca’ (a chilled beer’), one sentence: ‘il conto, per favore’ (the bill, please) … Oh, and ‘scarafaggio’ (liberally translated as ‘cockroach’).

° OH’s claustrophobia extends to being crushed in queues among strangers, so the hour long queue did NOT appeal. He decided to pay extra for fast tracking instead.