Cheesy Taste of London (Guest Post By Paweł Jankowski)
My trip actually started in a local bus station. Bear in mind that the flight to England takes a mere 2.5 hours, whereas getting from Ostrowiec to Kraków’s Balice Airport took us more than 15 hours, with a refuelling stop and an overnight stay in Kielce. So, before the opportunity of tasting cider and all those ridiculously delicious ales and bitters arose, I had to have another sup of „draught” Łomża and „wheat” Okocim which encouraged me to leave my Fatherland even more. Our means of transport from Kielce to Kraków is fully deserving of being called „the slow train”. However, the newly renovated coach was warm and cosy inside and the sunrise over the highlands so marvellous! Getting to the airport was a piece of cake, as was our flight. However, Gatwick – our destination – gave me the first impression of what „the second biggest London airport” can mean when we were walking over quarter of an hour from our terminal, taking several escalators and travelators before finally getting through passport control and baggage reclaim. Then, another curosity in the form of an unmanned shuttle train to the south terminal, getting on the train, followed by quick transfer to Brighton via Three Bridges, Burgess Hill and Hassocks before finally getting off at Brighton's Victorian-built station whereupon we handed in, strangely enough, our used tickets to the man keeping guard over the electronic ticket barriers.
Taking a Skoda taxi instead of an iconic London cab shows you what globalisation and the competitive free market means in practice and that Eastern Europe is nearby. Then, suddenly both my brain hemispheres experienced a little shock which lasted throughout the entire trip. There were wrong-way drivers everywhere! Getting accustomed to this way of driving was initially so tiring, at least for me, so that I was utterly confused when I had to find the right (not left) bus stop, let alone crossing streets, constantly looking in the wrong direction. Getting off the bus instead of getting on was not my fault either. But, I had enough time and patience to conduct my private survey on how pedestrians feel about it and how they stick to the left-hand traffic rule. To my surprise I found that the only footpath user sticking to that ancient „driving on the left” rule was a Yorkshire terrier of Polish origin blocking my way all the time with its lead while I was struggling to collect its smelly droppings, falling into the trap set by the ever-present lead wrapping itself around my ankles.
With due respect to Brighton’s historic and cultural heritage including Brighton Pavilion, the charming narrow streets, Pier and Marina, countless pubs, the gay-lesbian quarter, Colin’s lovely lounge amongst others, there was somethig else that I remember most, namely the extensive use of the Mandarin language and its varieties as well as Spanish and... Polish. Great Britain truly seems to be a melting pot of races, cultures and languages and the South Coast proves it completely. Next time I visit England I will try to learn some Chinese or Spanish. I may even be able to rely on my Polish to get by. Btw. I would probably be more satisfied with Polish pub options in Brighton than I am in my hometown!
Do you associate England with bad weather, overcast skies and strong winds, constant rain, drizzle etc? Open your eyes, it’s time to wake up! Brighton, along with its neighbouring towns, is one of the sunniest places on Earth. And so is London. Beautiful morning sun wakes you up and accompanies you along the beach counteracted by a gentle breeze. Brighton also lays claim to being the happiest place in the whole of England – due in part to the strong sun, steeply-sloping cliffs and stony beaches in addition to the strong ciders and real ales.
Let our sins be absolved
„Dear Father, another pint of Strongbow, please”. „Which drink from your altar would you recommend?” Have you ever had a pint in the raised pews of a church looking down upon the magnificent altar of drinks just below you? Sounds godless in the homeland of the late Pope John Paul II, doesn’t it? In that case visit The Font pub in Brighton and have yourself baptised there. It has been quite a while since the church was converted into a pub, it is now resplendent with its wide range of alcoholic beverages and overly loud dance music. Churches are apparently in retreat there. Former churches are not.
Cheesy taste of London
Travelling on a low budget results in a certain kind of diet. The Thames and the Houses of Parliament have therefore the taste of cheese rolls. So does Victoria Station where I was finishing my last food supplies taken from Brighton. We covered a pretty long route walking through the must-see places in central London. And to my satisfaction we did not spend a single penny in London! I took a couple of nice photos of tourists photographing Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. The labyrinthine London tube is busy even on Sundays. Only afer returning home did I realise that the population of Greater London is nearly double that of Slovakia; and that the ridiculously huge Gatwick Airport is only the second biggest airport in the region. If so, the size of Heathrow is definitely beyond my imagination.
Pariah gets back home
The 6am coach from Brighton do Gatwick. A huge departure lounge. Removing the entire contents of my backpack, pockets, belts and metal eyelets of my boots at border control. Having my body rubbed down by someone wearing thin rubber gloves. The long walk to the gate. Another cheese roll. Boarding the plane. Waiting impatiently as the pilot announces a „tiny technical problem”. Hearing some ominous squeals and bangs from under the plane body. Bus transfer to another machine interrupted by a Boeing 747 (The English Rose) taxiing on the runway. Take-off. Admiring sunny weather over the English Channel. Watching steward(esse)s serving toasted bacon sandwiches. Landing in cloudy and snowy Kraków. Regional train with sauna and cryogenic chamber in turn. First symptoms of a freezing arctic high hitting Poland. Taxi to Harper’s place. Seeking solace in Lithuanian beer. Singing Karaoke falsetto. Thank you very much indeed for reading this rubbish. Cheers!