London Breakfasts

 

At The Haberdashery, in Crouch End. According to Time Out is one of the 7 Best Breakfasts in North London.  I couldn’t miss it, could I?

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At The Breakfast Club in Angel. I believe the picture says it all.

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And of course, at my place. Black coffee and the unmissable Italian biscuits “Pan di Stelle”.

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The curious case of the girl who became a burger addict

“I will never, ever, work as a waitress. I don’t wanna serve people, I don’t like having to work with food. I wanna eat food! I don’t wanna prepare it for other and I don’t want people to ask me to do things for them. ‘Can I have some water?’, ‘Can you bring me the salt?’, no way! I am not gonna do that. I would just hate it. I barely pour water for myself! I rather not have an apple if I have to clean and cut it, how can I stand to do this for others?”

Then I moved to London.
My English wasn’t that bad when I arrived. That’s why I wanted a nice office job. But honestly, how was I supposed to look for an office job when even English people have a hard time finding one? Besides, I needed to work asap. I had a rent to pay, food to buy and possibly I had to save money for my not-so-far-even-if-still-unknown-master.

After spending a few days in the hostel trying to figure out how to find a job quickly I realised what I had to do: wear comfy shoes, print loads of CVs and find a nice way to ask: “Hello, do you have any vacancy at the moment?” without appearing too depressed or desperate or hungry or tired. Well, no, I wasn’t that bad. But certainly I was anything but motivated. When I moved here in March the whether was horrible (honestly, it still kinda is). I didn’t even have my own room, but I was sharing with sometimes 5, sometimes 25 boys and girls. Snoring all together.
In January I injured my foot jumping like a stupid kid. After one week of crutches and a couple of weeks walking like Dr. House, still feeling the pain I asked my Doctor: “Just avoid any effort, do walk the minimum and slowly it’ll get better”.
It wasn’t even a week after his severe suggestion that I was walking up and down the streets of London, the pain as big as ever, but knowing I had no choice – or else, back home.

I choose I wouldn’t have looked for a house until I had a job. What if I found a place where to live and then a job on the opposite part of the city? Nonsense. I kept the room in the hostel and went around begging for a job. Recruiting agencies, shops, restaurants. As a first job anything would have been good. I have to admit I even wondered about McDonald for like half an hour before deciding that if Mc was the only choice I would have gone back home for real.
Poor, but spotless.

One night I was going back to my hostel, without much hope, nor will. I happened to stop at Baker Street Station to look for some nice place where to have dinner. I found Nando’s and I had my moment of food happiness.
I guess just those who know me understand what I actually mean by food happiness.
Anyway, going back to the station after my meal I noticed, right at the corner between Marylebone and Baker St, an office advertising some office kind of job. Simple things. Personal Assistant, Data Entry. I made a mental note to pass by the day after and leave my CV just in case they might help me find something 9 to 5, well paid and possibly in which I could have dressed like a real secretary. Whoa!

There I was, the day after, all scared and performing my worst English trying to convince them I was exactly the girl they were looking for, even though I didn’t even know what I wanted myself. I left the recruiting agency less than 5 minutes later I got in, without any hope to keep me going and kept walking randomly on Baker St. As I walked I turned my head anywhere hoping to find some staff vacancy ad, then I saw it: “Grill Chef Required”.

Ok, the only thing I can cook is Carbonara, and not even properly. But I was confident. Few steps and I was inside the restaurant.
I walked further in and a blond girl came lazily towards me. She barely had the time to say “Hi” when I began “Hello, I’m sorry, I just wanted to ask you if you have any vacancy”. As I spoke I was mentally checking if I was saying everything properly. I didn’t want it to come out as it did in a restaurant in Soho where I said: “Do you have any vacation?” and they had been kind enough not to send me to a travel agency. I had my CV at hand and I gave it to her while she said: “You can speak to the manager”.
The manager? Already? No! No! I just wanna leave my CV, you can have a look, I’m sure you will find out I am not good for it, I have no experience, there’s no way I am gonna speak to the manager.
As I had all this mess in my mind a girl with black skin walked in my direction and  introduced herself. I didn’t get her name. She asked me to sit with her and as she spoke I didn’t understand pretty much anything of what she was saying but I managed to say something. I explained I saw the ad for a Grill chef, but I was looking for a waitress position. She asked me many questions, she also told me that the blond girl was Italian but didn’t realised I was Italian too. I said I didn’t realise she was Italian either. I was just to lost in my thoughts to care about her accent.
Then the manager asked me to come back the day after for a trial shift.
God! I came here this morning to leave some CVs hoping to spend my months in London wearing nice dresses and uncomfortable high shoes and tomorrow I’m having a trial in a restaurant I don’t even know? What do they do? GB..what?? Never heard about it before. I didn’t even read the name of the place while coming in.  
“OK, tomorrow is perfect. What time?”

Your Server is Elena

Your Server is Elena

Today, August 26, its my last day at GBK. I have been working here for 5 months.

I loved it, I hated it.

It made me laugh, a lot.
It also made me cry, just once. – at least that I can recall.

I met wonderful people, and some assholes.
But most of the assholes were, in fact, customers.
Oh!
And the blond girl who gave my CV to the manager became the closest thing I have had to a best friend in these months in London. And even if I tell her every single day that she is stupid, she manages to stand and accept my bad behaviour.
I am gonna miss Arianna and I am so glad I met her.

Leaving London

It’s just when I leave one place that I actually realise how much I will miss it.
Isn’t it such a cliché?
I started writing about New York just one month before moving back and now I feel I haven’t said much about London while I was living here.
In few days I’ll wake up in Leeds with so many memories of The City – and so much left unsaid.

I didn’t write about the Globe and when I have been there for free for Shakespeare’s Birthday.
I didn’t mention being to Battersea Park, walking in Regent’s Park during my breaks and getting my first 2012 tan in Hyde Park, by the Serpentine.
I didn’t say anything, anything about the Olympics, the biggest event in 2012, not only for London, but for the whole United Kingdom and well, for the whole world.
I didn’t write about Brighton and its attractions.
I didn’t tell you about my job, my colleagues, my friends.

The worst is that I still have so much to say about New York as well, not just London.
So many things I probably never tell.

I often think about my dream post.
I want to tell you about New York and London, together.
What do these two cities have in common? Which are the differences?
No news, how many people wrote about this?
But I want this post to be my own, mine only.

And now I tell you I am going to Leeds, without introduction, nor explanation.

I just keep hoping I’ll find the time,
the will,
the words,
to explain what’s going on.

Until then.

I saw Her

At half past twelve I am still in my bed wondering what to do whit my day. I specifically asked to have the day off to go in town and see the Queen but then I feel too lazy to get out of bed. I’m just chilling on Facebook and checking some emails. Then something happen. I just get out of my duvet, start dressing quickly and at 1pm I am on the Jubilee Line, heading for Hyde Park, hoping – at least – to see Her in the maxi screen and enjoy the show with thousands of people instead of waiting to see the BBC report by myself in my 13″ MacBook screen.

I sit on the train and I log on Facebook on my mobile. I happen to follow something that posts: “The Queen has just arrived at Westminster Hall”. I move my eyes from the screen of my phone to the map of the train. Exactly, the Jubilee line stops at Westminster. Change of plans. No Hyde Park and no big screens.
I jump off the train at Westminster, people everywhere. Too many even for such a touristic spot. The exit for the Big Ben is closed so everybody moves towards the river and the first thing I can see is the London eye. I start walking faster, not sure of where I am going and then I just start following everyone else. I arrive under the Big Ben, but on the other side of the road. Usually it takes just few minutes from the Big Ben to Westminster Abbey, but it’s too crowded. I’m stuck and can’t move on, nor get back. After a while I manage to turn right on Whitehall, where it’s easier to walk but still I can’t find a good place where to stop and watch. Too many people block the view to the street where the Queen is gonna pass on her carriage and Im simply too short. I keep walking, not losing hope. And then I see it. There are few steps leading to a door in a building. There are about 20 people standing on those steps but there’s a tiny empty place. I move close, I look at one of the girl on the steps and shyly ask if I can fit. She smile and step aside. I finally have my view.

I check the time, it’s 14. I still have some time before the Queen is gonna pass, which should be at 14.20. And being the Queen of England I don’t think she’s gonna be late.

I wait, people around me are getting excited. They discuss about which side of the carriage she is supposed to sit. I feel some drops on my head. Oh no! It’s raining. But no one seems to care. Everyone keeps waiting. It’s just too exciting a moment to really worry about the rain. I wonder if the carriage will be open or close. Will we actually be able to see Her? I am pretty close and I can see very well the people on the other side of the road, if the carriage is open I’ll definitely see her. I’m getting excited myself.

A gun shot. People start to scream. Not of fear but of joy. It’s the sign. She’ll be here soon. I prepare my camera. I want to take a video. Another shot. Then another. After few seconds guards on black horses pass in front of us. Then others. Then others. And finally I can see two red guards on white horses. Then a carriage. People are screaming. I can see a beautiful hat. It’s the Queen’s hat. In front of her, Charles. On her side a woman that I can’t place immediately. Must be Camilla.

Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla

Queen Elizabeth II and Camilla

Other guards on black horses. My camera risks to fall from my fingers. My hands are trembling and I can’t understand why. Another carriage. People are now screaming louder. Louder than for the Queen. I can see another lovely hat. It’s Kate. On her left William. In front of them Harry. I lose my concentration and for a moment I forget I am taking a video. I am staring at Prince Harry. He’s cute! And then the second carriage is gone.

Kate and William

Kate and William

Prince Harry

Prince Harry

People are smiling.
They are happy.

I leave my step – my point of view above the crowd – and start walking in no direction.
And I can’t get rid of a stupid smile on my face.
I grab my phone and call: “Mom, I saw the Queen.”

God save the Queen. And Starbucks, please.

Finally it’s here, one of the most awaited event of 2012: the Queen’s Jubilee.
Many events are happening in London, but since I spend most of my time working – and restaurants do not know what Bank Holidays means – I’m not exactly enjoying the big party. Not yet anyway.

The only thing I was able to enjoy was the special Frappuccino Starbucks made to celebrate the occasion. It’s called Royal Mint and it’s a mix of chocolate and peppermint. As a Starbucks addicted I couldn’t possibly imagine not to try it, so as soon as I finished my shift at the restaurant I headed for Oxford street to my favourite Starbucks store. There wasn’t the usual incredibly long queue I am now used to wait for. I just ordered my Royal Mint Frappuccino and – surprise! – got a gold foiled chocolate medal for free, apparently it comes with the drink. I really should make a note to thank the Queen as soon as I get the chance.

Golden Chocolate Medal

Golden Chocolate Medal

It was a bit chilly outside so I chose to have my Frappuccino inside, reading my book and relaxing after a boring day at work. It probably wasn’t the best drink I had in Starbucks as to me the peppermint flavour was a bit too strong and covered the chocolate ones.
But I guess this is the problem of a chocoholic like me. In fact, my favourite Starbucks drink is – and probably will always be – my beloved Caramel Hot Chocolate, cream on top, of course. And not the salted one I tried in New York. That was disgusting. Just traditional Caramel Syrup please!
My second favourite is the Banana Chocolate I had in New York when I went the first time in September 2008. That was my first time to Starbucks at all and I definitely fell in love for it back then. Shame it was just a special for that summer. I never found it again in any other Starbucks.

Royal Mint Frappuccino - Starbucks Jubillee Special Edition

Royal Mint Frappuccino – Starbucks Jubillee Special Edition

So here’s my first Jubilee impression. I hope the Queen might forgive me if the only thing I could appreciate of the first Jubilee day was only a matter of food. After all, when it comes to me, it is always about food.

PS. Don’t forget that till the 5th of June you can still enjoy the Happy Hour! From 3 to 5pm you can enjoy any Frappuccino you like for half of its price. As Starbucks smartly suggest it means you can go with a friend and it’s just gonna be like 2-4-1!

I can’t get out of Waterstone’s without a book.

I just can’t help it. As soon as I get into one of the Waterstone’s  bookstores I feel like buying. The good thing is I am not just buying all the useless stationery and gadgets but I am actually buying books. It is not bad indeed to buy books (if not, maybe, for all the paper that I am wasting, but I am 99% sure the book I buy are made with recycled paper, I don’t feel like killing trees for my own benefit). The problem I need to stress out here is with the loyalty card. I actually feel rewarded by the fact that buying books I earn points on my card and then I’ll be able to buy more books.

Waterstones on Oxford Street

Waterstone’s on Oxford Street

Loyalty programs are the reason why I am always buying toiletries at Boots and doing grocery at Sainsbury’s. An addiction indeed.

But if I need to buy some food and having a bath, I definitely do not need to read. Gosh, this sound stupid! I mean, I do not need to buy books. I can just go to the library and borrow some, right? I even registered at Willeseden Green Library.
But Waterstone’s… is different for me. First, it’s like doing shopping, but instead of spending money in shoes I’m doing an effort of investing in culture (well, I’m not exactly reading classics or manuals, but at least I’m improving my English). Second, they just happen to have stores in all the places I like to hang out: Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, the O2 Centre on Finchley Road. Probably the only place I go where they do not exist are the Westfield centres at White City and Stratford (I am not totally sure about the latter, it’s so big that they might actually have one hidden somewhere). I think in Westfield they just have Foyles, which is a really nice bookshop chain as well. I loved it when on April 23, for the World Book Night, I popped in and they gave me a book for free (“The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox” by Maggie O’ Farrell, which I haven’t read yet – apparently I have a problem with free books). They also gave me a voucher with £5 discount on any book worth £15. I honestly don’t know if Foyles have a loyalty card. Fact is I discovered Waterstone’s first, and since the prices of the books are usually the same, I just stuck on my original choice.

Foyles at Westfield Stratford

Foyles at Westfield Stratford

So, if anyone has some really good solutions to my problem with loyalty cards please feel free to suggest. I just warn you, telling me these programs are just marketing strategies which do not reward me but them… doesn’t help.
I am totally aware of that, I need something stronger.

Like a Dry Martini.
With olives, please.

Wait a minute. What the hell are you doing in London?

Now I’m back on the blog I need to make a step back and start from the very beginning.

Why am I in London?
What am I doing here?
Where am I living?

I’ll try to answer these questions in a useful way, especially for those who might think to do the same. And in a discouraging way, for those who would like to but are too scared to leave their lovely and comfortable houses.

Once I was back from New York I had to focus on my future. Should I keep studying? Should I look for a job? In both cases a second question came up: where?
My first decision was to opt for the easiest option: staying home, so I didn’t have any rent to pay, and keep studying in Pavia, where I got my Bachelor, so to postpone my job hunt at least for a couple of years.
Everything was settled, I even bought the books to prepare for the course in International Relations with Economics, but then I felt something was wrong. Something wasn’t going as I wanted it to go. And in a corner of my mind an idea started to develop. The same idea I had when I finished my Erasmus in Reading: “I want to study for my Master in England”.

I bought my flight to London Heathrow and made a reservation in a hostel for three nights. That’s all you need when you’re leaving. Oh, well, and patience.
You need to look for a house, a job, open a bank account, get a National Insurance Number and activate a new Sim. In my case I also had to enrol for the Ielts exam and think about which Master to take. These are not things you do everyday, and having to do all these at the same time, well… needs you to be patient. If, like me, you’re not, you’ll freak out every now and then; that’s why you’ll need to buy something with written “Keep Calm and Carry On” and put it where you can see it often.

Keep Calm and Carry On in my room

I managed to get most of the things above in the first couple of weeks. The only thing I still can’t get is a decision on my Master, but that’s a long story we’ll discuss later, if we will.

So I have a lovely – tiny – room in North West London, a tiring but entertaining job as a waitress in Central London and my only shelf – at the bottom of my bed – is getting crowded with books which are giving me more emotion I could have ever imagined. Once in a while I wonder if it’s sad to spend so much time reading books, spending so much time by myself. But then I recall that the same time now I spend reading was earlier wasted on Facebook, than I think it’s a big improvement. Besides, after all the hours I spend at the restaurant – surrounded by colleagues and customers – the company of myself and my books is more than enough.

So, what am I doing in here?

I work. I read. I eat. I sleep.
Nothing special, right?
I could do just the same anywhere else.

That’s the point, I guess.
I’m doing it in London.