Mind the Gap

Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, February 13, 2009

Like they say...the US and UK are two countries separated by a common language.  One of the more confusing differences is the word, subway.  To a Brit a subway is an underground walkway not the underground mass transit trains that we Yanks think it is.  So when you are in London, ask for where the Underground or "Tube" is when trying to get to a subway.  Another amusing difference is the phrase you hear a lot on the Underground, "mind the gap" which translated means to watch your step when getting off the train.  For some reason I found this very amusing and would chuckle every time I hear it on the Underground PA system.

I met Jim at the Kings Cross Rail Station this evening.  One comment...do not stand in the way of people as they are boarding a train.  If you are not careful, you may be carried away in a wave of humanity to some far English town.  In general the Brits are very polite people, but not in this case...move out of the way or get steamrolled.  Jim clued me in to this phenomenon.  Unless you pay a little extra, there are no assigned seats on the train.  Unless you do not mind standing for the duration of the trip, you will also push and shove your way on to the train to get a seat.

On my walk to the station from the British Museum, I noted the location of various pubs.  Once Jim arrived we headed to one of these establishments, McGuinty's.  We both had a very delicious plate of chicken curry and vegetables...definitely a culinary import from the former colony of India.  To wash the curry down, we both drank a pint of the guest ale, Courage.  Jim was surprised by the fact that the ale was warm.  I was surprised that Jim did not know that the local British ales are served from cellar cooled barrels and are not refrigerated like the American lagers.  This was one of the things I was looking forward to drinking when I am here.  For the second round, I had another pint of Courage while Jim ordered a Fosters.

After dinner and a few pints, we decided to head to the SoHo district on the west end of London.  We spotted a "black cab", taxi, dropping off some passengers at the train station and attempted to hail the driver.  We must have breached some type of protocol because he refused our fare and we had to stand in line at the taxi stand before getting a cab.  SoHo is reputed to be the trendy place for nightlife in London and it lived up to its reputation.  Where the taxi driver dropped us off, there were crowds of people out and about.  Needing to relieve myself of some Courage, I stepped into the nearest pub, Admiral Duncan.  Immediately I realized it was a gay bar, but I really had to go...so the hell with it.  I wanted to head out immediately after doing my business, but Jim wanted to stay because he did not noticed the clientele of this establishment.  I pointed out to Jim the outfits of the bartender and the magazines laying around that this is not a place I would be comfortable drinking a pint.  There were several of these establishments in the area.  At the entrance of one of them was a young man clothed in nothing but tight silver shorts, dancing and waving to all passer-by.  Someone could catch their death on cold night like tonight in that get-up.

Jim and I were looking for a place where scantily cladded women could be found.  We did not have to go far to find one such establishment, but to our chagrin we could not enter because I was wearing Nike Air high tops or "tennies" as the bouncer called it.  Word to the wise for others looking for strip clubs in SoHo...wear dress shoes.  The bouncer did direct us to another street which had a few more gentlemen clubs, but he warned us to be careful because some of them are not safe.  We did not know what he was talking about until we entered one of these unsafe clubs.  At first we thought we found a bargain because the cover was 5 pounds vice 15 pounds at the other place.  We eagerly paid the cover and walked down a long flight of stairs into a room with no one there except one waitress.   This should have been a clue something was wrong because there were thousands of people enjoying a Friday night in SoHo but no one here.  We were told by the waitress that the dancing will commence once we purchased a drink.  A pint of beer (which they only had one unnamed brand) cost 8 pounds and a half a pint cost 4 pounds.  Other places you could get two pints for 4 pounds.  Next, the waitress wanted us to buy her a glass of wine costing 40 pounds.  When we refused, she wanted to charge us a 35 pound hostess fee.  At this point we got up to leave.  As she was screaming for us to see the manager, I was wondering if some 200 gorilla will magically appear to block our exit.  Fortunately nothing like this happened, so we escaped slightly poorer but with our kidneys intact.  Another word to the wise...do not go to strip clubs which charge only 5 pounds to enter because you will end up spending a lot more for nothing.

We found a coed drinking hole and had a pint of beer.  I was so traumatized by the experience I do not remember the name of the pub or the beer.  After another pint, I was ready to call it a night after staying up for 30 hours (not counting the slight nap on the plane) and walking a few miles around the exhibits of the British Museum.  I suggested to Jim to hit the mens room before getting on the subway.  Jim did not heed my warning and half way into the 50 minute train ride, he needed to go, bad and there are no "loo"s on the Underground.  Since this was going to be a one way trip to the hotel, Jim bought a 4 pound one way farecard.  Fortunately, he was able to convince the security guard to let him out of the turnstile to go to a nearby men's room without having to pay another ride fee.  To use the facility at this station, cost you 20 pence and you needed the exact coin to stick in the slot.  After a little agony, Jim was able to find a 20 pence coin.  Final, word to the wise...you can never have enough 20 pence pieces.
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