Jetlag in London


Jet lag is a bitch. Night three and I’m staring at the ceiling of Kelsey’s flat in a half drugged daze, unable to fall asleep. My eyes sting. My stomach is uneasy. The 8-hour time difference has wreaked havoc on my body’s inner clock. The air mattress makes a rubbery squeak as I roll over for the umpteenth time. Jodon is just as restless, creaking on the cot above me. Welcome to London.It’s been nearly two years since I’ve written a post. It’s embarrassing really. But life has its ways of tearing you away from the things that matter, and this blog has been left to collect cyber dust for the last 22 months. I have no excuses. 

But the road was calling, and the bug has caught up to me once again. And so here I am, jet lagged in London with my partner in crime, Jodon. We plan on spending the next few months exploring Europe, marvelling at its history, and learning how to travel as a couple… without killing each other. 

London has been a whirlwind. I don’t know how we would have made it through the days without Kelsey’s Grade-A guidance. I’ve never met anyone more organized than Kelsey. A plan, a list of directions, busses, trains, prices and must-stop food places were left neatly on the dining room table for us when we woke. We followed the directions like zombies fumbling toward living meat: dazed, half dead, unthinkingly. 

Camden, Soho, Westminster, the Thames, Borough market, Tower of London: each neighbourhood offering layers upon layers of history.  

I find it difficult to fully grasp the history that Europe has. Most buildings are older than the existence of Canada. The cobblestone streets we walk on, the buildings that now house H&M and Starbucks are older than the history of our entire country. The Tower of London has been a fortress, a palace, and a prison. It’s walls have held the kings and queens we learn about in school. William the Conqueror fortified it 900 years ago. 400 years later, Henry VIII beheaded his wives. The streets of London house the real life fairy tales of human history: even if they now lead to a McDonalds. It’s unfathomable to me.

And yet, through all the history, I still fall in love with the here and now of London: the bustling English-style pubs, the riverside restaurants and the hidden food markets that scatter the city.

Borough Market. My new happy place. I dragged Jodon, a non-market lover, to it two days in a row. Food stalls, cheese shops, wine and beer sellers, pastries, butchers, fish mongers: this place has it all. From Spanish tapas to Ethiopian cuisine. Life changing coffees to fresh baked baguettes. I got lost in the aroma of a stinky French cheese stand, smelling the molds, dying to try them all. My mouth salivated at the Pieminister stand; we bought a tarragon chicken pot pie and savoured in the flaky crust. Food markets are where I thrive. We splurged and picked up enough food for a charcuterie dinner, complete with French cheeses and chocolate truffles for dessert. Needless to say, it was sensational. Borough Market does not disappoint. And what’s more, the Market has been around since 1014AD… Just a casual 853 years longer than Canada. Mind blown.

So maybe it’s the time change, or maybe it’s the kilo of cheese I ate minutes before turning out the lights. Whatever the case, I’ve been carefully counting sheep for hours now without any progress. But the price to pay is small. The journey ahead is worth the week of restlessness I’m feeling now. And I’m already looking forward to our next stop: Paris. 

Belem: Detox Days

Adam is pumped to finally be at the Amazon River

To be honest, we did nothing in Belem. We desperately needed to sleep and detox after Carnaval, and quickly got comfortable lounging around our hostel.  Soon, even the most menial tasks were overwhelming. Originally, we were supposed to spend 24 hours in the city.  It was going to be a quick stopover before we booked hammock space on a cargo boat and cruised the length of the Amazon River from Belem to Manaus.  When we arrived, however, we found out that a brand new boat was sailing for Manaus this upcoming Saturday.  The lady ensured us it would be very nice and, not being in much of a hurry, we decided to hang around for 4 days.

 

Each day we came up with a task to complete. Groceries. Laundry. Buy hammock. After we completed one task, we felt accomplished and could spend the morning and the evening catching up on reading.  So that’s what we did. 
Our mornings were filled with LOTS of coffee drinking and writing; then, each afternoon we spent a little time at the market.

Belem’s market is THE largest open aired market in all of South America! It runs along the riverfront and holds just about everything you can imagine.  To begin with, there are rows upon rows of clothing: sweatshirts, t-shirts, football jerseys, bathing suits and the such.  Then Hammocks.  Hammocks are a very popular commodity in Brazil is seems, and Belem’s market had colourful, hand-woven hammocks strung up all throughout the stands. After that there were crafts, and trinkets, and carvings, and toys.  Then finally the food began!  Hundreds of cheap eateries all packed together in one area.  Each sold a version of fish and meat with the usual rice, spaghetti, beans and salad.  They had wooden stools to sit on, and one, very reasonable, price for everything (we paid a little less than $3US for a massive plate of food that neither of us could finish).  After the eateries were vegetable markets. Huge pallets of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and MANY things I’d never even seen before.  I’m assuming these were local to the area, and, with one of the most diverse ecosystem’s on Earth at your fingertips, I’m sure there were an endless number of unique foods sold there. After the fruits and vegetables, venders sold hundreds of little vials of liquids all labeled in Portuguese. It wasn’t until I looked in our guidebook later that we realized they were extracts from plants found in the Amazon jungle. They were natural healing remedies that the locals used, apparently, quite frequently! Bottles of coconut milk were sold, then the meat: live chickens, ducks, rabbits etc were in cages all waiting to be freshly picked for eating. Finally came the fish. The smell was horrid, as to be expected in an outdoor fish market, but the selection was incredible. Every day the fishermen go out early in the morning to fish, by 5am they are all back at port and selling their goods to the venders. It’s a hectic scene as people shout prices and throw around fish, trying to get the best deals (as we saw on our last morning when we passed on the bus early in the morning).

At the more “affluent” end of the market – which was enclosed and air-conditioned – there were loads of expensive buffets, small restaurants and a brewery. We found and acai berry shop and sat down for prawns and acai on our first day in Belem. We ended up sitting with a couple from California that we had literally met only 20 seconds earlier. They heard us speaking English, asked us where we were from, and we asked them to join us for lunch. Afterwards, we remarked how different things can be when you travel. I HIGHLY doubt I would invite a random couple for lunch on the sole fact that they speak the same language as me back in Vancouver! But it’s such a normal thing to befriend someone instantly when you are in a different country.

 

 

We all loved the acai. It is actually everywhere you turn in Brazil, so I’m amazed it took us this long to try it. At this place they sold it in litres; it comes out in a thick dark purple liquid that has a similar consistency to yogurt. It has a fairly bitter taste alone, and will stain your teeth purple in an instant, but, after adding a little sugar and tapioca, the stuff was delicious! Not to mention, it’s considered the super berry of the world with all the supposed health benefits it provides. We’ve had it several times since in Brazil, and I’ll be on the look out in Vancouver when I’m back!

 

Our lazy few days were easily pushed along by the weather. Although it was hot and muggy during the afternoon, by about 5 o’clock everyday the rains came in. I suppose that’s why the Amazon is considered a rainforest.  But these were not just normal rains; these were torrential thunderstorms that boomed across the city for a few hours each evening.  I have never heard thunder this loud before. The rain bucketed down in waterfalls all across the city and even within our hostel walls I jumped with every clash of thunder. The storm lasted just a few hours, then calmed down around 9 or 10. So we spent that time watching movies and playing cards: a far better alternative to bearing the storm outdoors!

 

When Saturday arrived it was time for the boat! We were up at a ridiculous hour of the morning (first from a man wailing in the halls of the hostel at 3am, and then from our alarm a couple hours later) to set up our spot on the boat and trek up the entire length of the Amazon proper!