Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A tourist's life is very hard

As Pablo once told me 'A tourist's life is very hard' and we were finding out that he was right. We happened to be in London for a few days to visit the mammoth art fair 'Frieze' and to catch up with the art scene and at the same time to tuck into a few Indian meals. If I was to say that after a few days of 10 or 12 hours of walking around London, it felt like we were doing the Camino de Santiago, I wont be far from the truth of how I was feeling.

The other day after a six hour review of Frieze with our friends John and Loli, we decided to go to a performance being organised by a group known as 'Spain-now', at a nearby Spanish restaurant even though we were exhausted. The performance consisted of a Spanish graffiti artist 'decorating' the restaurant windows, and the place was packed with fresh faced guests while the four of us were flopped out on some chairs wishing we had badges which said 'I have just come from Frieze - show some respect'.

The other exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, had the title 'The shape of things to come' and contained work which was a bit like The Sex Pistols hitting the music industry some years ago. Everything looked a bit bizarre, but there were truckloads of tourists and school kids milling about.Perhaps we will see a new wave of art hitting the galleries and museums which will be associated with a new movement. We can start a trend by calling it 'punk art' or 'junk art'.

The number of people in London was frightening and coming from Spain, it was similar to how you might feel when you arrive in India for the first time and see a quantity of people you are not used to. One afternoon we had agreed to meet some friends at the Festival Hall on the Southbank. This concert hall has a huge forecourt and when we arrived we could hardly walk through this space, for the number of people who were just sitting with not an inch of space between them, as if they were in a giant sardine tin.

As it was pointless to try and get a drink on the ground floor bar, our friends decided to seek refuge in the haven that is the third floor bar called something like 'Skylark' or 'Skylon', where I decided foolishly to try a Margarita. This turned out to be rather poor version of this great drink, perhaps because the barman decided to do his own mix instead of relying on the trusted Margarita Mix from Jose Cuervo. To put some salt in the wounds we discovered that this mish-mash 'Margarita' had cost us 12 (yes twelve) Pounds, which is roughly twenty Dollars. Still this is a lot less than the forty Euros that Anmar (who was incidentally one of the friends at the Skylon) had to fork out for a beer and a Tapa in Plaza Mayor in Madrid not so long ago.

The usual shopping activities were also affected by the hordes of people in London, and on one occasion when Marisol tried to raid Primark which is one of the bigger shops on Oxford Street ((with a business model which relies on keeping the prices so low that the sales are enormous), she found that such was the crush of people that it was virtually impossible to even get in.

Leaving Marisol to fight her way through shoppers I decided to head west to Shepherd's Bush to go and pay my respects at the Sikh temple. As I made my way on the Central Line of the London Underground, a young lady who was sitting in front of me, took out a scarf from her handbag and covered her head, then pulled out what turned out to be Sikh prayer book and began to read. It appears  that religion is making a comeback in the youth of many cultures. Later I did my own meditation at the temple and hopefully added to my spiritual well-being.

Later in the week we were roaming the backstreets of Liverpool Street and the Spitalfield Market area when we had two unusal things happen to us. First we stumbled upon a sale of antiques and retro furniture, which was labelled 'for one day only', and thats unusual. It was only when we recognised one of the workers seated in the corner of the space as one of the supervisors on the famous TV programme called 'The Apprentice', where Alan Sugar mainly does a lot of 'you are fired'  before hiring one 'apprentice', that the event made any sense.

Second, a little later the same day, when we were still roaming in the same area, someone approached us and very pointedly said 'Holaaa?' . We recognised the face immediately and realised that we had witnessed a fantastic coincidence. It was a lady who lives in an apartment in the very same building where we live in Spain and we normally see her everyday at home. How small this world is or as they say in Spanish 'the world is like a small scarf.'

While we were in London we also had the occasion to celebrate Marisol's birthday and our wedding anniversary, and we revisited the Stanhope Bar on Gloucester Road where we had first met thirty eight years ago. There were also numerous visits to the Massala Zone restaurant to tuck into as much Indian food as possible. Several helpings of Bhel Papri Chat, Gol Gappes and Aaloo Tickis were required to get to a satisfactory state of bliss and to be able to cope with the next few months without these essential soul-foods.

Finally we are now home and trying to rest our weary legs, and to resolve to take it much easier next time we travel. It is understandable that the tourist has to make the best of the time on a short trip away from home but it should be possible to do this without turning the whole thing into a marathon.

Perhaps Pablo will come up with a better saying, something along the lines of 'conserve energy to be happy' or 'the smart tourist does as little as possible' and hopefully he will again be right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Muchas gracias, me han gustado mucho tus comentarios, naturalmente me ha tenido que traducir mi sobrina. Saludos. LUZ M.