What’s a good birthday gift for someone you know for ages?
How about the perfect birthday gift? Tougher.
How about the perfect 40th birthday gift? Well, there is no such thing, you would say, and then stop asking yourself.
Kudos to my wife: she did not try to answer these questions by herself. She asked me!
– What do you want for your birthday?
– I want to pack my bag and go to a place I’ve never been before but I’ve always wanted to go.
– By yourself?
– Sure, baby. Enjoy. Bring a nice gift for me and our little one.
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That easy! But where should I go?
Bon Scott’s grave?
I eventually settled for this goal: fulfill a childhood dream and a university-years dream with this trip.
- When I was a kid, it was all about football: Real Madrid (saw them playing in my Transylvanian hometown in 1982!), Juventus, Liverpool.
- When I was a student, it was all about Pink Floyd, Genesis, Eric Clapton-is-God, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson.
Mind you, these were the dreams of a person behind the Iron Curtain, in communist Romania circa 1980. I had absolutely no idea what a passport is at that time.
Having this goal in mind, the place to go was obvious: London, England!
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One of my colleagues at work gave me precious advice on visiting London, along with the guide and the map. Thanks, Amy! She also gave me some tips on museums and art galleries, but my goal had already settled the points on the map: visit a football temple and a rock and roll temple!
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To conclude, here is what I have accomplished during my 3 day stretch in London, starting on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s my style of tourism, but you might find something to match your preferences:
- have a pitcher or five with friends from around Europe that fly to see you in London. It’s a good idea to let people know you are there, since the longest flight from Western Europe is about 2 hours. I had friends coming that I haven’t met for 10-15 years, from Cologne, Cambridge and Ipswich.
- spend the Saturday night in SOHO. Check the legendary Ronnie Scott’s club.
- have a bite in a gourmet food-mall. There’s cheese in there from the hottest goat in Europe.
- tea in Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon
- ABBEY ROAD studios and crosswalk
- a Japanese beer in a freehouse
- check the “little Marrakesch” (as I called it) for the best shaorma in town
- while in little Marrakesch, take a picture in front of Tony Blair’s house, and peep through an art gallery window, selling Picasso and Chagal (they all are within the same 3-minute perimeter, would you believe it?)
- Chelsea Football Club: tour the stadium
- lunch at HARD ROCK CAFE LONDON, where it all started in 1971.
- tour the ROYAL ALBERT HALL; take the 1530 hours tour (the last of the day), you might get to see a great rock band doing the soundcheck for tonight’s concert. I saw THE KILLERS! (I didn’t care, but the teenagers in my touring-group were salivating)
- watch the Monday night football game in a pub (Newcastle won 2-0 over Aston Villa)
About one year later (Jan 2010) I visited Barcelona and its famous arena Camp Nou. (Romanian language podcast)