Just Touched Down in London-Town

6 Mar

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Our flight from Sao Paulo to London arrived 20 minutes late and after changing our clothes and freshening up we arrived to an insanely long lineup to go through UK Customs. By the time we got through, Scotty O, former Managing Director of GMR and current CMO of All Saints in London, was waiting at arrivals to greet us with a homemade sign made with a newspaper and a Sharpie marker (see photo).

We all saw the Costa coffee booth and put our bags down at a table in the airport before making moves to order up some much-needed caffeine when Scotty pulled out 5 tall boys of Carling. It was 8:30am. If we weren’t 100% sure of what the tone of the day would be, we were at that moment.

As we drank our tall boys we got caught up on Scotty’s new role as CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of the popular clothing brand All Saints, filled him in on the highlights of the trip so far and went over the rough itinerary for the day.

First up: purchase day passes for the tube and take a grey and rainy ride from Heathrow to Picadilly Circus for a traditional English breakfast. Our first choice of restaurant, Piggy’s, was closed and we opted for our second choice, Concerto Café. Without even looking at a menu, Scotty ordered up 5 English breakfasts, we were pressed for time after all. The only thing we did use the menu for was to order our morning hit of caffeine – the latte I had was heaven and North American sized to boot (java in South America is served in much, much smaller portions – Jonny and I once got coffee that came in a plastic shot glass), and if you’re looking for a traditional English breakfast, Concerto does it well, especially the hashbrown!

Because our plane had been late and because it had taken so long to get through customs, we made an executive decision to ditch activity #2 on the itinerary Scotty had prepared which was to take a 2-hour bus tour through London that would a quick overview of all of the major tourist sites.

Instead, we hailed the most amazing cab driver who showed us the Cole’s Notes version of the city bus tour (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, the gate only the current heir to the throne is allowed to walk through, etc.), slowing the car almost to a stop to allow us to take photos out the windows and even pulled over outside of Buckingham Palace so that we could get a good look.

Next on the agenda was a proper Sunday spent watching football and rugby within London’s pub culture. Scotty instructed our cab driver to take us to the Shoreditch neighbourhood to a pub called The Griffin. The driver responded by saying, “Are you sure you want to take the ladies there?” Scotty admitted it was a bit of a dive but he was sure, and the driver said something about making sure we had a lot of £1 coins and Scotty laughed so I thought it must be a cheap dive bar.

I guess Scotty didn’t recognize the route the driver was taking and asked him about it which is how we found out there are 2 pubs called The Griffin, one of which is a strip club which was where we were headed. We re-routed and walked the 2 wet blocks to the pub, only to discover it was closed so we walked across the street to a funky hipster spot called The Book Club, where we had a few ‘gentles’. (Gentles is a Jonny-word for gentle pinting.) While there we sat by the bar and watched in horror and the bartender took no fewer than 10 minutes to mix the most revolting cocktail I’ve ever been witness to: a raw egg, chartreuse, vodka and tequila, shaken and poured over ice. Whoever ordered that must have some big balls squished into their skinny hipster pants.

Once we’d settled we tried again at The Griffin and they were open for business. We had the pub to ourselves for the most part and had a few more gentles as we waited for 2 of Jonny’s buddies, Harry and Frazer to meet us. We all got along famously from the moment we met and shortly thereafter it was on to the next one (Jigga reference for you, Scotty), Owl and the Pussycat (or according to Scott’s Twitter update, Pussy and the Owl Cat). I’d long since switched to half pints by this time but the boys were still beating me by a long shot to the bottom of the glass.

Next up was the neighbourhood of Brick Lane where we passed through a market of outdoor food stands, concrete walls covered in graffiti and a number of vintage shops. We stopped at bar called The Big Chill which was playing full-on hip hop club music in the middle of the afternoon. Here we also ordered some chips (fries) to make sure nobody was getting into a state that would put any one of us on a no-fly list with British Airways.

Once the glasses were empty it was over to All Saints to scope out the merchandise before hitting the final pub of the day, which I will refer to as Sandra’s pub, where the crowd was a rowdy bunch of football fans packed in like sardines to watch the match. Pints, half pints and shots were had by all – there was no longer anything gentle about this pinting! To boot, the owner of the bar, Sandra, also happened to be bartending, and drinking a fair bit as well I assume, and spent a good few minutes trying to convince Tal that she should break up with Jonny for Scotty. I guess Scotty’s already made quite an impression at the All Saints watering hole, though I would expect no less.

By the time we were out the door it was 5:45pm and the flight for the next leg of our journey, from London to Singapore, was at 8:30pm. We were an hour away from Heathrow and somehow we were convinced that a sit-down dinner of fish and chips around the corner from the pub was a good idea. It wasn’t.

By the time we ate (or packed up our food to go, depending who we’re talking about), paid the bill and said our see-you-soon’s, we had no choice but to make a run for the tube. Apparently in London “just around the corner” means a 2km sprint. In the rain.

We made it onto the train, transferred on to the Picadilly line and rode the 20+ stops to Heathrow, arriving at the proper tube station just after 7:45pm, when our gate was scheduled to be closed according to our online check-in receipt.

We still had to make it upstairs, through security and to the other side of Terminal 3. We took off sprinting from the tube, budding in line at security, and began the sprint towards our gate. The boys were flying and Tal and I being a bit behind spotted one of those airport golf cart trolleys. We had the driver drop us at our gate (though we figure we probably could have run faster) and incredibly we made it through to board the plane just as the gate was closing.

We all wish that J.J. had had his GoPro video camera on taping the whole ordeal, though the footage would definitely have required a Parental Advisory sticker due to some of the language that was spoken, or shouted rather.

Every time I visit London I fall more in love with the city and the people that fuel it. Thank you London and thank you Scotty O, this rates as one of my top 5 days on the trip so far.

Note:I write this from the plane on our way to Singapore, desperately hoping the Adavan I’ve taken kicks in at any moment as I’m running on one hour of sleep, many, many gentles and the adrenaline rush of sprinting like mad people through Heathrow airport.

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2 Responses to “Just Touched Down in London-Town”

  1. Richard A Clegg March 6, 2012 at 17:04 #

    So glad all y’all enjoyed Blighty & London.

    “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
    — Samuel Johnson

    Pappa & Mamma Clegg

  2. Jag March 14, 2012 at 12:43 #

    hehe this was a great read kate!
    it’s awesome that you guys had someone to whirlwind you through london.

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