London-part 2

London Travel Blog

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Rueda Class by Cuban Connection
... My hosts left bright and early Wednesday morning. And as promised I did absolutely nothing, but lounge around and watch Pride and Prejudice all the way through, made myself a lovely dinner and ventured off to the North Bank once again. But this time is was dark and I was headed a to Cuban salsa class at 4 Wild Court.

I was a little intimidated when I walked in, informing her that it was my first time there, and she pulls out this rather lengthy list of Rueda (a couple group salsa dance performed in a circle) moves and me not knowing, well a lot of them. So I decided that I should head to the intermediate group.

At first I was stunned and thought I should head to the beginners group to learn their new moves, but I picked up them up quickly and in no time they told me to go over to the advanced group because I had a glazed look in my eyes as they repeated the same moves over and over until the other folks got it.
Kew gardens, Pagaoda Tree
Certainly is was part boredom, but mostly me just missing my best friends from Madison. The class continued without a hitch, I followed well through a bunch of moves I have never done or seen and once class ended some of the teachers asked me to show them the moves our group in Madison liked to do.

The class turned in to a club like atmosphere as the night went on. I met a few great people who I hope I can talk to again in the future including a women from Brazil and a guy from Argentina, who will be returning for the holidays and promised to show me all of the salsa places to go to in Buenos Aires when I am there. The only bummer outcome of the evening was the cold that I picked up and that overpower me the next few days. I am almost back to normal though.

The next day I decided to save my feet and ride Vicky's bike to Kew Gardens, which is on the south side further to the west.
Kew Gardens, the Pagoda, not near the tree
I looked on-line for the best route, but found advice inadequate. I found Dave and Vicky's bike route maps, but of course map 9 the one I needed was missing. I was close to the Thames, so if worse came to worse I would just follow the dramatic bends of the river until I got there. But not to worry, the signs, along with my logic, and my ability to ask questions, got me there safely. Only to be slammed by the 25 USD entry fee and that I could not ride the bike. So I hobbled through the gardens, which were lovely, and when I could not go any further I sat by the pond until I felt like I got my monies worth. The garden had some very interesting trees, developments, and statues by Richard Moore.

Then I went home a different way and I knew I went too far when I was going up this huge hill that I did not remember going down on my way, it nearly killed me.
Kew Gardens, One of Moore's statues
But when I came out to the main road I knew exactly where I was and got to ride all the way down the hill back to the flat. This wore me out so I stayed in the rest of the night.

TV is lame in England. So many channels dedicated to crime shows, American show, live gambling, and such all repeated on the next channel a half and hour apart and then on the same channel two hours later.

Friday, was awesome. I headed up even further north to Camden Town, which at first looked like every where else, just smaller in stature. But as I kept walking I found the culture to be very very very different. Far more diverse, working class, and the scene for gothic, punk, and hipster culture. Amazing markets covered every possible place with a bunch of small shops of clothes, gadgets, and food generally already prepared for eating. I walked around the markers for hours and then headed across the tracks to Primrose Hill, which was like entering back in to the prim and proper England I had seen before. These two areas were so opposite, yet so close, it was very amusing.

I returned back to the happening Camden Town for some eats. At the communal tables I met a man named Robert who shared a lot with me about the changes occurring in the area as large companies catch on to the investment potential of the area, and essentially destroying what attracts people there in the first place, its uniqueness, its smallness, its down to earth vibe. This was just the type of education I made this trip for.

After dinner and conversation I walked along the locks or canals. Upon entering I was approached by some Gambian men, on another kind of hustle, doing their work by the water. I stopped and chatted with them for awhile about their lives and the area. According to one of them, a lot of Gambians lived in the area, but the Somalians were there by the dozens. The must have been working some where else on the canals or in another fields altogether because I did not notice as many. I left them to return home and as I walked to the tube station I realized that everyone around me was speaking languages other then English, and when some one walked by speaking English it seems like they were the foreigners. So beautiful.

Saturday was my last day there, so I went to another very diverse sector of the city in the south called Brixton, which used to be known as dangerous, but has a better reputation nowadays. Upon arriving I found myself in the middle of another set of markets, but these ones were just about living, not about making a statement. Interesting though, while I saw mostly Caribbean and Latino immigrants at the market, the shops were owned by Middle Easterns, excepts the meat and fish markets which were owned and operated by white British. A few restaurants that served their traditional ethnic foods and some knock-off designer purse booths that represented the people who shopped at the markets, not including tourists.

Venturing further I could see why the area may have had such a bad rap in the past. I noticed more council housing, government housing, here than any where else I had been. Dave told me earlier that each borough had to house a percentage of low-income housing that was relatively evenly distributed. This may have been the case, but in Brixton council housing seemed to have all been in rushed awful development style of the 60s and 70s. So perhaps the people there felt more alienated and marginalized then in other parts of the city, where traditional buildings were converted.

The immigrants in Brixton originated from the Caribbean and Latin American more then anywhere else, and they were a beautiful community of people. It was great. Although, getting back to the South was a mess due to tube and rail construction. But somehow I figured it out relatively stress free via buses and the tube, as I was not in a rush and had no plans, but still cannot figure out how the buses do not topple over around sharp turns.

I really liked Camden Town and Brixton, with the greater diversity, culture, and food. They brought a new excitement to London that I had not felt in my previous walk abouts and I was beginning to think that I could actually live there should the need or opportunity arise.

My hosts came home that night, we shared some pizza and stories of our adventures, and then I took off dancing again per recommendation of the friends I made at Wednesday's class. They were there and we danced in a room dedicated entirely to Cuban salsa, which was sooo much fun. Still though, no one can work it like Cawi, who taught me my moves in Madison.

I left early in the morning for Dublin. The taxi driver said he would let me sleep, but instead he kept me talking to me about the changes London has experienced with gun violence, now on the rise from non-existent, and the different areas of the City. I shared with him some of my comparisons on London to the States, where we generally live in a constant state of fear, which I did not feel there at all. Much like Paris, despite being a large city one still feels as though they are in a small village, in a community of equals and familiar faces, where there is no room for hate and aggression. But I did avoid the whole pub scene and stayed completely sober so, it is likely I was just in the right places all the time...
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Rueda Class by Cuban Connection
Rueda Class by Cuban Connection
Kew gardens, Pagaoda Tree
Kew gardens, Pagaoda Tree
Kew Gardens, the Pagoda, not near …
Kew Gardens, the Pagoda, not near…
Kew Gardens, One of Moores statues
Kew Gardens, One of Moore's statues
photo by: ulysses