The Misadventures of Suolan and the Minority Nomad in London
You may recall from my previous post, Suolan came in shortly after I did. She was asking about the London tours as well. Suolan seemed cautious about going alone so I invited her with me. I honestly have zero idea why I did it. I didn’t know her, never seen her, and wasn’t hitting on her. Thank god I did. And so began the adventures of the Minority Nomad and Suo Lan getting lost in London, finding out why the rest of the world thinks American’s are arrogant douchebags, and having one of the best first days in a new country in my life.
Suolan is a Chinese exchange student studying in Tennessee and on spring break. My first impression of her was sheepish and shy but she soon proved to me that she had truly spent some time among American college students. What made her so funny to me was she was extremely blunt with people without understanding how blunt she was because of the language gap. For example, she regularly told me I had too much energy and I shouldn’t eat so much chocolate.
Suolan finally came out of her room ready to leave about 30 minutes before the tour started so we had to hustle over to the tram station and head down near Buckingham Palace. We arrive about 5 minutes before the tour was supposed to start but no guide. We left the designated meeting location and headed over to Buckingham Palace where we thought might have been the actual meeting place. No guide. So here’s where my military prowess and American arrogance come into play.
If have a firm belief that if you give me a map I can find anything. The maps that are provided by hostels are damn good to put it likely. They are damn near in 3D and if you get lost using one you might want to put down the talking iPhone for a second and get grounded in the real world. Suolan and I begin discussing what to do since we’ve missed the tour (the next day we find out we likely didn’t). Do we wait, do we go back to the hostel, do we ask another tourist? I suggest we give ourselves a walking tour. We have a map, how hard can it be? They speak English here. Suolan agrees and off we go.
We head through Green Park which we thought was Hyde Park. After walking, shooting, and talking for about an hour we arrived at the Marble Arch. The entrance to Hyde Park from our side. WOOPS. Oh well. The walk was nice anyway.
What really stood out to me was the organization of the park. Everything is in a certain place for a certain reason. Each monument, sculpture, and bench have been placed with some national significance. You never have a feeling of clutter in Hyde Park as the area is beautifully maintained and organized. A very well designed park. The Grand Entrance truly is magnificent. After checking out the Animals in War Memorial, we decided to follow the Aston Martin road (what I called it anyway).
The guy in me saw an Aston Martin store and I had to check it out. I mean come on. I’m in London. After wasting a bit of time there we wandered down the street and I had my National identity put into check. So we head down Upper Brook Street following signs to a 9/11 memorial we had seen earlier in Hyde Park which I really wanted to see. Apparently we ended up in one of the most exclusive parts of London. Mayfair.
So as we walk toward Grosvenor Square I admired the architecture which included the home of Jimi Hendrix (my favorite musician of all time) and George Frideric Handel (now the Handel Museum). All of a sudden I see this HUGE gated building with armed guards. It wasn’t so much the building but the location. It’s like someone was playing a game of SimCity and randomly put it there. It just didn’t belong. Flat white, ugly security gates, and security everywhere. I should have put things together but I didn’t.
Once we hit the corner of Grosvenor Square, we make a right and then I see it. A GIANT golden Eagle with a huge American flag. And then it hits me. WE ARE ASSHOLES!!! At not point in my life had I been hit by such a realization. I’m a very proud American but seeing how gaudy and ridiculous our Embassy looks surrounded by the gorgeous and timeless British architecture transported me back to every single American arrogance comment I had heard throughout my life. Grosvenor Square is largely an American park with monuments and landmarks dedicated to American politicians and military units as well as the 9/11 memorial park. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very well aware of the need for that level of security but it just seems like elitist overkill to me especially given the other Embassies that surround the area.
Imagine a fleet of Mercedes Benzes. They are all in a straight line, clean, and orderly. Now imagine a huge tricked out Hummer H3 doing donuts in front of them and finally coming to a stop in a cloud of smoke and burnt rubber. That’s the scene in Mayfair. AMERICAAAAAAAA!!!!
After spending a bit more time in Grosvenor Square, we visited Hamilton Gallery and Mt. Street Gardens. We also visited the Church of The Immaculate Conception Farm Street. Public parks are gorgeous in London especially in this affluent area. You quickly realize these people are in a FAR higher tax bracket. Suolan doesn’t know much about cars while I do. I explained to her that the street we were on had approximately 20 million dollars in vehicles on it. Ferraris, Bentleys, Mercedes, Lamborghini’s, Porches. It was almost obscene. I was starving but I knew damn well I couldn’t afford to eat anywhere in that area so we decided to head back to our Hostel as it was getting late.