Thursday, January 17, 2008
When I was five years old my family took a trip to London. One day my mother decided to take my brother and me to the London Zoo, so we spent the morning at the grocery store getting picnic food together. We chose sandwiches, chips, and cookies, and then headed to the beverage aisle for sodas. I remember staring up at the tall wall of cans, which were arranged by flavor. For some reason none of them had labels, so we just guessed what they were by their color. My brother chose a purple can for ‘grape’ and I chose a brown can for ‘root beer.’
We arrived at the London Zoo mid-morning and spent awhile looking at the animals before we sat down on a bench to eat lunch. I ate my sandwich and my chips, and then popped open my root beer to wash it all down.
“Ew,” I said. “This stuff smells like beer!” Being five years old, I had never actually tasted beer, but I was certain that the stuff in my can was none other than fermented hops.
“Oh come on, it’s not beer. Just drink it,” my mother told me.
I took a sip.
“Ew, this stuff tastes like beer!” I said.
“Give it to me,” said my brother eagerly, reaching out his hand for the can. I gladly deposited it into his excited grasp, watching his face as he smelled it and tentatively took a sip.
“Ew! This stuff tastes like beer!” he said. My mother sighed.
“Give it to me,” she told my brother. He did as he was told. My mother held the drink to her nose and frowned. She took a sip. Frowned again. She turned the can around and read the list of ingredients.
“Wow, this is beer. It’s called Shandy…beer mixed with lemonade.” All of our faces puckered at the thought (and still do). She promptly took the Shandy to the nearest trash receptacle and that was the end of my (very) underage drinking.
While my family still vividly remembers the day I drank Shandy at the London Zoo, the zoo itself was somewhat lost in our memories. Today I set out to remind myself of what I saw way back when.
My trip to the zoo started out as a walk from Hampstead to Primrose Hill. From the top of the park I could see the zoo, so I decided to spend the afternoon with the animals. I walked through the birds of prey exhibits, stopped to watch the swimming penguins, took pictures of the tiger and the lions, briefly took a peek at the petting zoo, walked through the entire aquarium before realizing that it was closed (whoops), visited the giraffes and the indoor rainforest habitat, and quickly said hello to the meerkats, lemurs, and otters.
It may have been the gloomy weather or the fact that a lot of off-season construction was going on, but the zoo seemed a bit more depressing than I remembered. I’ll have to stop by again in the summertime to see if the atmosphere changes with the seasons.
Around 4pm I looked at the sky and decided it was best to head home before the rain started. As I exited the London Zoo the first drops began falling. By the time I made it to the Chalk Farm tube it was pouring rain. It was nice to come home to my cozy flat, which is now brimming with boxes since the first installment of our belongings from San Francisco arrived on Monday.