Having had our fill of Covent Gardens, we hopped back on to the Piccadilly line and got off at the next stop which was Leicester Square. Leicester Square is to London what Hollywood is to Los Angeles, home of movie premiers, theaters, shopping and night life. I was there for the theaters. With over 24 theaters in close proximity, Leicester Square is a theatre lovers dream. With many theaters like the Apollo Theatre being built over 100 years ago and more! Once done with the Leicester Square we walked west and soon reached Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus is to London what Times Square is to New York. Large neon billboards impressively adorn a large building which in my estimation was four stories high at the junction of Regent, Coventry, and Glasshouse streets and Shaftesbury Avenue. Piccadilly Circus is the perfect juxtaposition of old London with its Majestic Victorian buildings colliding with new London with large colorful neon lights flashing the latest designer brands. I didn’t care for it so we made quick work of it and decided to head northwards via Regent Street towards Oxford Street.
London is a very walkable city as I discovered. Most major touristy sights in central London are close to each other so with a little planning and a tube map, it is possible to take in a lot of the sights in a day. Which is precisely what I intended to do. John, however, was not so enthusiastic. You see, not only had he seen all these sights numerous times, but he also had a destination that he desperately wanted to get to (Arsenal). Furthermore it was close to lunch time and I could tell he was getting irritable. So I tactfully suggested we stop for lunch so he could tell me all about the Emirates stadium and Arsenal football club I ventured. Was there anything like it in Paris we could visit? I asked coyly. His face brightened up and I knew my traveling companion was back to full engagement. We stopped at an old style Ale House called The Tottenham. Now for those who follow the English Premier League, you will know that Tottenham is another London team like Arsenal and are sworn rivals! John thought it would be ironic to go into a pub named after Arsenal’s arch rivals and talk about Arsenal. I didn’t care. The Tottenham aka The Flying Horse, I later learned, was the last standing Ale House on Oxford Street. Built in the 18th century, the bar was loaded with character and history. The decor was magnificently 18th century British complete with solid wood finishings housing the liquor bottles and introduced by a marble bar. The food and beer were exquisite and John having refreshed himself, dove into the Arsenal story.
By the time I finished my Shandy (A beer mixed with soda, usually carbonated lemonade or ginger beer), John had explained Arsenal’s French connection. After all, we we would be in France in less than 48 hours. I vaguely remember him enthusiastically explaining that Arsenal’s coach was French and had been the coach for over 20 years and all the team’s top scorers had been French. He mentioned names like Anelka, Henry, Giroud and Lacazette. I smiled and nodded knowingly but was mostly clueless to the names apart from the ones that are currently on the team or we had met. We walked along Oxford street which reminded me of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills with all the high-end posh shops. We eventually got to Oxford Circus train station which is serviced by the Victoria line. We boarded the train headed to Walthamstow, where John had once lived and got off at Kings Cross St Pancras station. At kings Cross we switched trains back to the Piccadilly line headed to Cockfosters and got off at Arsenal station, home of the Emirates Stadium.
Remembering how nervous I had been when we set off on our first overseas trip together, I am filled with relief and gratitude. The trip had gone swimmingly and the anxiety of meeting John’s Mom had proved unfounded. My first trip to Europe had been an eye-opening experience and I can’t wait to see more of the world with my dependable travel partner. Next week, we finally set out to Paris. Or do we?