Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Caroline vs. London (a quick visit!)

After leaving Tokyo, Clem and I headed to England for a friend's wedding.  Before going up to Yorkshire for the festivities, the two of us had a few days in London, so we did a few pre-wedding errands and just relaxed.

We stayed at Generator Hostel in St. Pancras, a great part of town.  Generator is really "cool" with awesomely decorated common spaces, and we actually stayed at their Dublin outpost as well (a couple Ireland posts are coming soon!), but I found the London staff to be kind of standoffish and unwelcoming, which didn't feel great after a long, looooong travel day. I wouldn't stay there again, though to be fair it is mostly because Clem and I feel like we've outgrown the hostel phase of our lives. The location is fab, and rates are really good compared to what you'd pay for a private room in London hotels - just don't expect staff to be tremendously involved or helpful.

Breakfast at Karpo on our first morning in town.
I love love love this style of bike parking! Spotted on our way (by hire bike!) to Shoreditch.
Shoreditch. My first time really in the East End, which was a nice change of pace from my typical touristy activities in the centre of town.
Patio drinks with an old friend at the Earl of Essex in Islington.
A good ol' English Breakfast at Bloomsbury Coffee House, one of my favourite spots in St. Pancras.
My first visit to the British Museum! A very overcast day gave the main hall a kind of underwater-looking tinge and didn't make for great photos, but I love the architecture too much not to post this one. A lot of museums in London are free, which is great for the wallet, especially with the weak Canadian dollar right now.

We were back in London at the end of our trip as well, and chose to stay across town, in Bayswater.  This is another fun area of town, and it's right next to the hip Notting Hill area, where I met some uni friends for brunch one day.  Unfortunately Clem and I were both sick, so we didn't do much more than stay in bed and venture out for food.  We stayed at the Bayswater Inn Hotel, which was BAD.  Please, friends, do not stay there.  We chose it because it was a decent price in a convenient location and the photos looked really good, but it was one of the worst hotel experiences of my life. Luckily our room had been recently renovated and was actually pretty nice, but everything else was suuuuuper rough, and the staff were horrendously rude.  By our last day we were well enough to actually do things in town, so we stayed out of the hotel for as long as possible. We headed to Westminster for a walk-by, then meandered up to Trafalgar Square before grabbing some fish and chips in Fitzrovia for our last meal in London.

Notting Hill townhouses.
6ix God in SW1
Monument to the Women of World War II on Whitehall.
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.
Picked up some fresh fish & chips with beers and mashed peas from Golden Union
Clever signage at the London Gin Club!
Digging into our fish and chips on the grass at Soho Square
Tudor-style gardener's hut in the middle of Soho Square.
Oxford Street is a treat for the eyes (not so much for the wallet).

I like visiting London, but I don't love it as much as I used to.  There are always a few things I want to do, like see friends and visit certain museums, but from now on I think London will be a via point for other UK trips, as opposed to a destination in itself.  Regardless, Clem and I had a fun few days and liked having London as a final pit stop before I flew home to Ottawa and he went back to Berlin to finish out his work contract with GPPi.

xx, C.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Caroline vs. To Kill a Mockingbird

So, I have this GIGANTIC list of books I need to read scribbled in a Moleskine notebook I carry in my bag everyday.  There are tons of classics I've never read, and my messy list is one way to keep track of what I should buy when I'm loitering in a bookstore.  I was almost finished Murder on the Orient Express when Clem and I flew to London at the beginning of August, so I consulted my list and decided to get To Kill a Mockingbird for my holiday reading.  For some reason I thought it was a really long and complicated novel, so I was surprised to find it is only 309 pages.  The story is beautifully written and thoughtful, and Scout's character really resonated with me.  The narrative of the racially-biased justice system is also (sadly) still relevant to contemporary society's struggles with racism, especially in the American South.  Definitely read this if you haven't already!  (Or, if you have, read it again!)

Some touching excerpts:
"Miss Caroline began the day by reading us a story about cats. The cats had long conversations with one another, they wore cunning little clothes and lived in a warm house beneath a kitchen stove." p.18
"I stood on tip-toe, hastily looked around once more, reached into the hole, and withdrew two pieces of chewing gum minus their outer rappers. My first impulse was to get it into my mouth as quickly as possible, but I remembered where I was. I ran home, and on our front porch I examined my loot. The gum looked fresh. I sniffed it and it smelled all right, I licked it and waited for a while. When I did not die I crammed it into my mouth: Wrigley's Double-Mint." p.37
"'The world's endin', Atticus! Please do something - !' I dragged him to the window and pointed. 'No it's not,' he said. 'It's snowing.'" p.71
"...Jem asked, 'How do you make a snowman?' 'I haven't the slightest idea,' said Atticus. I don't want you all to be disappointed, but I doubt if there'll be enough snow for a snowball, even.'" p.71
"Jem and I always thought it funny when Uncle Jack pecked Atticus on the cheek; they were the only two men we ever saw kiss each other." p.86
"Rose Aylmer was Uncle Jack's cat. She was a beautiful yellow female Uncle Jack said was one of the few women he could stand permanently." p.87
"'Scout, you'll get in trouble if you go around saying things like that. You want to grow up to be a lady, don't you?' I said not particularly." p.88
"Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches: when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra's vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father's lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good but had grown progressively worse each year. She hurt my feelings and set my teeth permanently on edge, but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were already enough sunbeams in the family and to go about my business, he didn't mind me much the way I was." p.90
"'Grandma's a wonderful cook,' said Francis. 'She's gonna teach me how.' 'Boys don't cook.' I giggled at the thought of Jem in an apron. 'Grandma says all men should learn to cook, that men oughta be careful with their wives and wait on 'em when they don't feel good,' said my cousin." p.91
"'Scout,' said Atticus, 'n***er-lover is just one of those terms that don't mean anything - like snot-nose. It's hard to explain - ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favouring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.' 'You aren't really a n***er-lover, then, are you?' 'I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody...I'm hard put, sometimes - baby, it's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you.'" p.120
"...today was Sunday, and Aunt Alexandra was positively irritable on the Lord's Day. I guess it was her Sunday corset. She was not fat, but solid, and she chose protective garments that drew up her bosom to giddy heights, pinched in her waist, flared out her rear, and managed to suggest that Aunt Alexandra's was once an hour-glass figure. From any angle, it was formidable." p.141
"...'Show you something if you won't tell anybody.' I said what. He unbuttoned his shirt, grinning shyly. 'Well what?' 'Well can't you see it?' 'Well no.' 'Well it's hair.' 'Where?' 'There. Right There.' He had been a comfort to me, so I said it looked lovely, but I didn't see anything. 'It's real nice, Jem.' 'Under my arms, too,' he said. 'Goin' out for football next year.'" p.248-249
"'They fired a few shots in the air, then to kill. They got him just as he went over the fence. They said if he'd had to good arms he'd have made it, he was moving that fast. Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn't have to shoot him that much.'" p.259-260
"...Miss Gates said, 'That's the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,' she said. 'Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. Pre-ju-dice,' she enunciated carefully. 'There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me.'" p.270
xx, C.