Today I was headed to London! I had breakfast and then took off for the train station. The ride was only 2 hours to London and I mostly slept. Once there, I took some time just to relax and re-pack my bag before meeting up with some friends who happened to be visiting London as well (thanks to social media for informing me). I walked to dinner down this super cool street (Brick Lane) lined with vintage shops and trendy eats, a very hipster area. Dinner was at a place we at was called Dirty Bones and after eating nothing but a bag of chips that day I was super excited about the menu! I ordered a fried chicken sandwich with spicy aioli and we split skinny fries (turns out you don’t get skinny by eating them). We also split a bottle of Rose despite one of my friends saying he gets canker sores from rosé (we ordered him some salt water just in case). It was one of their birthdays so we also had a surprise dessert with a candle. I have never heard a restaurant participate as much as this one in the birthday song, the place was erupting in song! Turns out they probably sang so loud to get the same in return, because there was another birthday girl there. Michael was a little bummed to have to share the spotlight 😉
This morning I met the Australians and my new roommate from China for breakfast (the hostel breakfast was decent, cheap and mostly easy, but I really wish it had eggs). Orignally, the group from yesterday was going to do Toledo today, but everyone kind of decided against it and instead we made plans to meet up at Buen Retiro Park.
I knew the park was huge, but I didn’t expect it to be SO huge. I could have been lost (good lost) in there for days. It also was well maintained and clean. We basically just took a slow pace stroll around the park. Stopping at the lake to watch people paddle boat, stopping for a cafe, stopping to look at beautiful greenery, stopping at the crystal palace (not impressed) and then stopping at what was my favorite part…the park with peacocks!!
The peacocks were everyone and roamed around freely! We spent the next 30 minutes there taking pictures of them (and the baby ducks) leveraging Michaels iPhone with portrait mode. Finally, we made our way out and then I discovered my next favorite place, a road lined with little vendors selling used books. They were mostly in Spanish, but I still could have browsed through for hours.
Yet, we were starving so kept going trying to find the Mercado. The local one was closed, so we went to the touristy one. I was not disappointed! It was like being at a food and wine festival, a building filled with booths of small tastes of the most delicious bites to eat and beverages to go alongside. I started with a Vermouth on the rocks and some olives. Next, had a bread topped with soft cheese, pesto and tomato. Then, a mushroom fritter. Finally, more bread and cheese paired with red wine. We surprisingly were full so we called that lunch (it was 3:30pm by now) and then walked back to relax in our hostels.
A few of us decided to do one final dinner all together. We tried to go to this cool rooftop, but it was full. Instead we walked around until we found this cool street food place. It was a big space with lots of different asian food booths inside and long tables to sit at. I had my favorite, pad thai! I was so hungry at that point, it was 9pm that I also split some marinated tofu. We talked about interesting fruit we’ve eaten (as we stuff our faces with fried noodles) and whether or not we wanted drinks. Surprisingly we couldn’t find any room for drinks or dessert so we said our final goodbyes and parted ways.
The plan for today was to go to a Muy Thai gym and take a class. The class wasn’t until 2pm so first I went on a hunt for Pad Thai. So far, I’ve had Pad Thai everyday, it’s my favorite at home so while here I’m on a mission to find the best ever. To date, there is one clear winner. A storefront on the main square, conveniently close to me.
Today I chose a restaurant near the gym. There were a lot of locals eating there so I figured it was good. I tried to take note of how to order. It seemed they wrote down what they wanted on a piece of paper and then sat down and waited for it. I must have stood out, because a lady came over before I had a chance and handed me a menu while pointing me to a table.
After lunch I headed up to the gym which was on the second floor and was an open air room. The gym was super nice and I was a bit intimidated by all the people dressed more reasonably than I was, in boxing shorts. They told me to start running so I and one guy from France (who was living in the city to master the sport) began running laps. I had told them I’ve boxed before, but it was evident that I still needed instruction. My instructor, Nam, taught me the basic stance, proper techniques and then we began a 2 hour workout.
The best part of the day was when Nam (who had been sort of teasing at me all day) grabbed a soccer ball and asked me to try and take it from him. I laughed in my head, knowing what was about to go down. I quickly stole the ball, nutmegged him and then told him to try and win it back. He gave it a good effort but was unsuccessful, and I was glad that I made up for some of the boxing I was lacking.
I attempted to watch the sunset on this rooftop bar but for some reason they were closed. Just didn’t feel like opening today I guess. It seems to be the trend on my travels that I miss a lot of sunrises and sunsets. Oh well, I was going to hang out with elephants the next morning!