London, United Kingdom
Just because one is living life out of a backpack and on a shoestring doesn’t mean that one should let themselves go. By the power of Groupon, I have had a couple of days of pampering and excursions about town.
Voucher number one was for an hour long body massage and paraffin hand treatment in West London. The massage itself was bliss! The first I’ve had in a very long time and all the more rewarding for the changes and challenges I’ve dragged my mortal coil through over the last year. Having being all rubbed up the right way, I was then invited to dip my hands in hot wax repeatedly, have them wrapped in plastic and put into oven mits. Then it got weird…
I was directed to one of those chairs with a built in massage function which struck me as odd having just had a proper, professional massage but whatever – I’ve been in these chairs before – they wiggle up and down your back and wobble you about a bit, right? Wrong! Not this one. At the press of a button, the chair seized my legs in a vice like grip and started pulling them down to a point that made it clear the chair was built for a much shorter person. At the same time the back reclined far beyond a flat position causing my whole body to bend back in an exaggerated arch. Stretched to my limit, I was then concertinered back into place only long enough to see the control panel had been set to ‘stretch’ which I couldn’t override, my hands been bound up with hot wax and oven mits!
And then it took off again like some super villains torture rack. To make matters worse, the chair was in the middle of the shop and right behind a row of taller chairs and mirrors that made up the hairdressing section of the salon. Directly in front of me was a lady facing the mirror having her hair down. All I could see of myself and presumably all she could see of me in the mirror was my head disappearing and reappearing with contortions of pain as I struggled to free my legs from the calf-popping clamps! Each time I came into view in the mirror, I felt the urge to wave my mitted hand at the lady as a child might wave to her parent as she passes by on a merry-go-round.
After serving about 20 minutes of this sentence for a crime I’m not sure I committed, the chair released me, my hands were unbound and I was set free thinking how much I needed a massage after the ordeal!
A free woman, I headed to Leicester Square for my first real day about town. I wondered through China Town, Soho, through to Carnaby Street and up towards Oxford Street on a mission to find a few essential items for upcoming trips in warmer climes. It was a first for me to be looking in major High Street shops – The Gap, Top Shop, H&M, Zara, Mango, Uniqlo as opposed to a dedicated section in a department store for ‘real women’. I hardly knew where to begin but happily ended with some successful purchases.
My next Groupon voucher took me to London’s oh-so-fashionable Hoxton for a haircut at The Slaughterhouse! Set under a railway arch in a space that doubles as a tattoo parlour and photographic studio, I sat back and let the French-accented and freshly inked Quentin work his magic in a way I knew I could never replicate beyond the first post-cut wash.
Taking full advantage of my manicured mop, I thought it best to strut around East London while I still looked the part. Through Hoxton and up into Shoreditch to find it even more gentrified than when I was last here. Brick Lane is almost exclusively fancy little cafes and vintage shops now but luckily my old faithful was there waiting for me like a thorn between the roses – Beigel Bake, Brick Lanes 24 hour bakery, famous for its salt beef in traditional boiled bagels (or beigels to use their old spelling). I opted, as always, for an egg bagel with lots of mustard – it just doesn’t get better than that.
With half a dozen bagels safely secured in my bag, I continued towards White Chapel and Spitalfields Market – at least, it used to be a market, a fairly ramshackle one that would pop up on a Sunday then disappear. It’s now a fixed and permanent structure on the verge of becoming a shopping centre!
From here I made my way towards Bank through the old City of London, up Threadneedle Street and passed grand, beautiful buildings that reminded me that I was indeed in an old, majestic, powerful city. I could have spent an entire day just soaking up the atmosphere but not today – it was time to go home and pack for tomorrows trip…