You can’t be a Master Trainer if you do drugs!

19 Feb

Such was the phrase I saw on a Pokémon bookmark at the Game On exhibition at the Science Museum in London during my trip there this weekend. There was a display with various Pokémon collectibles…that sure brought back memories. As did all of the old video games that they had at the exhibit.

The exhibition was one of my main reasons for making a weekend outing to London, although I also wanted to see some of the sites that we’d skipped during our rather sparse sightseeing tour last month. So I went to see Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, etc. I also walked through Green Park and St. James’ Park, which were a very nice respite from the busy streets. You can see the photos I took this weekend here:

London: Part II (new pictures start on page 2) – includes photos of Chelsea and Kensington, the Tower Bridge area by night, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, and the various attractions of Westminster

London: Part III — a few more pictures of the Houses of Parliament and a few that I took while walking from my hostel back to Victoria Station

You’ll notice that the daffodils are in bloom in the parks, which must have begun very recently, because there are daffodils on campus that weren’t blooming when I left on Friday but are now. Spring is slowly on its way here…very odd to hear myself say that in February. I’m used to a winter that lasts into April back home, or a perpetual summer in California. I hope that living in California for two winter seasons hasn’t affected by tolerance of a *real* winter, because even though the weather here is extremely mild compared to that in New Hampshire, I’m tired of it and can’t wait for warmth. I think part of the problem is that there’s no snow here…snow is what makes winter bearable for me. Although I’m sure plenty disagree.

Anyway, I had made reservations for a hostel last month, and I chose one right near the Science Museum for convenience. It’s run by a company called Meininger, which is German (all of the forms I filled out had the German words before the English), and is located in a building called the Baden Powell House, named after the founder of the Scouting movement. I’m still a little perplexed about the overall function of the building, because there was a fashion show going on when I arrived, and there were conference rooms in the basement.

Well, whatever the case, it was my first taste of staying at a hostel. Not too bad, if a little bizarre. The room consisted of 6 bunks (12 beds) and 2 miniscule space ship-size bathrooms. It was a bit odd sharing accommodation with so many other people, even though I didn’t even see most of them – only heard them coming in at night or leaving in the morning. There was a large group of rather noisy Italians who kept waking me up. But all in all, there weren’t any major problems. Everything was clean, nobody was *too* noisy, and the cost included breakfast, which admittedly was rather sparse, but what can you do?

The one person I did meet was a Japanese guy named Shingo, who was pretty cool. He had lived in L.A. for a while so his English was fine (well, with a bit of an accent – he did say ‘ridicurous’ a few times…Seinfeld ftw). He had been staying in Paris for a few days but decided to come to London for a change, although he certainly wasn’t fond of the prices (he decided to change hostels in order to find one with a kitchen, so he could eat for less money). The best thing, though – when he goes back to Japan, he’s going to work for Konami. I’m so jealous. He’s a graphic designer (he kept stopping in the Underground to look at some of the ads, heh).

Anyway, Shingo decided to accompany me to the British Museum on Friday night shortly after my arrival. We left sometime past four and headed for the tube — big mistake. It was absolutely packed. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden on a subway that crowded before. It also made me glad that I’m not living in London, or another big city for that matter (Los Angeles doesn’t even have this problem, and Boston isn’t that crowded). Also, even though I bought a day travel pass for £5.10 ($10), that was definitely not worth it. The UK is too bloody expensive.

Fortunately, the British Museum and all the other major museums are free (except we had to pay £2 for a map of the place). But that was definitely worth the trip. Probably my favourite museum ever…just amazing. Such incredibly old and fascinating artifacts. The British basically just took whatever they wanted from the countries they colonised, but at least it’s all protected now. I took some pictures of things that caught my eye:

The British Museum — of course it was impossible to take pictures of everything (and some of the exhibits closed before we could get to them), but my photos might at least offer an idea of the range of awesomeness there. Definitely one of the museums that everyone should attempt to visit during their lifetime, along with the Louvre.

The next day, I walked to the Science Museum to see the Game On exhibition, for which I had paid something like £9 (the museum entrance is free, but not the special exhibitions). Shingo had expressed some interest in going (working for a video game company and all), but I think he was hesitant to spend 9 pounds on it. Admittedly, that is a bit pricey, but I didn’t mind because I probably spent more for entrance to the Boston Museum of Science and the Star Wars exhibition last year.

I wish Shingo had come, though, or that I’d planned this trip with someone else, because the Game On exhibit would have been much more fun with a friend. It was really cool to play some of the arcade games from before my time (although they probably have them at FunSpot back home…it’s not the second largest arcade in America for nothing). I played Pong on a big screen, which was actually more difficult than I thought it would be. I played a few other games, but I didn’t really have time to get into them.

Practically every console ever made was represented, and there were lots of interesting tidbits written here and there, but for some reason I just couldn’t really get into it all. Partially because I felt pressured by the time limit – an hour and a half in the exhibit – but partially because it was just kind of boring on my own. I could’ve paid extra money to try out the Wii, but I think I can wait until June if it means saving a few quid. :p

Ultimately, I left the exhibit after about an hour, feeling a little disappointed – not with the exhibit itself, just my experience. I also felt a little frustrated…after two years of having no time to play video games, followed by a strong renewal in interest last summer, it’s been another 6 months without really playing any games. The exhibition just kind of taunted me, I guess. :p I can only hope that I’ll have time for gaming this summer…

I walked around the museum for a while, visiting the various exhibits, but nothing really captivated me. I started getting tired of walking all over the building and it started getting crowded around lunchtime, so after eating a ridiculously priced lunch (the sandwich was £3.20), I headed to the parks for a breath of fresh air.

The whole area of Westminster is basically a giant tourist magnet, but it was nice to see the famous attractions and all that. When I got back to the hostel, I was exhausted…I slept for a little while but then Shingo woke me up to go get something to eat. We went to a Japanese restaurant near the hostel in Kensington, but the food was really crappy. It was (only) £5.20, though…heh. You could get an amazingly delicious dish for that much in the U.S.

I was supposed to stay in London until Sunday evening, but after Saturday I was tired of walking around and tired of spending money. I figure I’ll have plenty of chances to go back, and it’ll be much nicer when it warms up. I seem to have mixed feelings about London, though. It’s massive and grand, filled with history and all that, but it’s a bit too big for my personal tastes. And while the city seemed virtually empty the last time I went, this time it was painfully crowded in places. Strange. Also, the outskirts of the city aren’t particularly attractive (but that’s probably true of most cities). I guess I’m just more of a country person.

Anyway, rather than paying a ridiculous fare for the tube from Kensington to Victoria Station, I walked back (and got a little lost, but kept my bearings). On the train, I got stuck near a woman with two loud, bratty kids, but I stayed so I could listen to her accent (that’s so me). From what I know of English accents, I’m pretty sure that hers was a Liverpool (or “Scouse”) accent…one of her kids mentioned eating scouse (although they sounded like they were from the South).

The Liverpool accent is quite unique, partly due to a large Scottish influence I believe. As I’ve said, I enjoy listening to accents that *aren’t* from the Southeast, because they’re more interesting and offer a pleasant change from what I hear all the time. At the hostel, there was a large group of girls who I *believe* were Geordies, i.e. from Newcastle, but I’d have to do some research to be sure. But they too had a distinct Northern accent, with some characteristics similar to Scottish — most noticeably the intonation. It’s a bit more varied and fun to listen to, rather than the monotonous RP of some people here.

(RP = Received Pronunciation)

Eventually, even my linguistic interests couldn’t help me bear her annoying children, so I was glad when we got off the train in Brighton. When I got on the train to Falmer, however…just my luck – the Scouse family returned, and sat in the same coach as me. Fortunately that was a short ride.

Speaking of scouse…last week, the International & Study Abroad Office hosted a “British Food Evening”, which was intended to reverse our negative conceptions of British food. Unfortunately, it did nothing of the sort.

We were allowed to try two main courses and two desserts (which, for £5, was quite a good value, especially considering I was really full by the end of it), but the dishes themselves left something to be desired. Well, the chicken pie and apple pie were fine, but those are just as American as they are English, and I tried them specifically because I knew I couldn’t go wrong. For my other two dishes, however, I ventured into British territory – with fisherman’s pie and bread and butter pudding.

The fisherman’s pie was just utterly bland. I’m glad that seafood is readily available here (LA was terrible for that), and the fish n’ chips are heavenly, but other than that, the seafood doesn’t compare to that in New England. As for the bread and butter pudding…I don’t think I’ve tasted something more putrid in my life.

I don’t mean to diss British food entirely, though. I’ve had a few very tasty dishes, and it’s great that the ingredients are often fresh, organic, and locally grown…it really shows in the taste. However, British food is quite hit-and-miss, and a lot of the traditional dishes are just bland, and, indeed, sometimes gross (not to mention loaded with fat). It explains why they import so much foreign cuisine, though.

I would kill for some clam chowder right now.

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