Yesterday, as I caught up on the latest episode of Sherlock, I found myself distracted by the backgrounds of the show, remembering London, even though the scenes on tv were not most of the places we had been, though I was delighted to see Sherlock and a companion walking through Piccadilly Circus and by the Tube station we used. Sigh. Still, all in all, it was London. And London is wonderful.
Despite starting off the first two hours at Passport Control with 800 of our closest friends at Heathrow, this was a most wonderful and needed trip. Due to the horrific outcome of the election and other extremely stressful things going on for Ed and me, the timing of this trip was perfect. And London was perfect.
Some high points and strong images:
*Walking 27 miles in three days (no buses or Tube on Christmas Day, if you are planning a trip).
*Women smoking hookahs in sidewalk cafes on Edgware Road.
*Having an Italian lunch on Christmas Day with our new friend Bobby. During that lunch discussing how Bobby loves country/bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss. I told him she was from Peoria, which was only an hour or two from where we live. Then the man at the table next to us leans over and says, “Did you say ‘Peoria?’ I’m from Peoria!”
*Feeling like a sardine in a can at Harrods. Honestly. How can that many people fit into one store?
*Getting lost on our first day of walking and seeing a house with the plaque “Home of Benedict Arnold, American Patriot.” The hell, you say. That’s not what we call him.
*”Mind the gap” and “This is a Bakerloo line train to Regent’s Park.”
*Watching Kitten Rescuers as well as The Glenn Miller Story on British tv. Also seeing a celebrity panel show that included Carrie Fisher just two days before she died.
*Lights, lights, and more lights on Oxford, Regent, and Bond Streets. Simply stunning.
*The store windows of Fortnum & Mason all decked out for Christmas.
*Thinking I might have seen British author Neil Gaiman in the Christmas Eve crush at Fortnum & Masons (I asked. It wasn’t. Though I do not regret asking.)
*Seeing Stomp in a teeny theatre. Amazing!
*The tiniest hotel room on record, though centrally located and affordable. I will stay there again.
*Rekorderlig Swedish pear cider. Ahhh.
*The most amazing food (Bangladeshi, Indian, Italian; and Ed had Portuguese and Brazilian).
*Accents from most everywhere in the world except Britain (or very little British). A lovely man I spoke with at the Victoria pub said most actual Londoners leave the city over the holiday. To make room for us interlopers, I suppose.
*Waterstone’s Books. A little five-story piece of heaven on earth.
*The world’s best chippie (that’s fish and chips in Brit-ese) at the Golden Union on Poland Street, just off Oxford Street. Thanks, Bobby, for that!
*Hearing the pealing bells of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. Heavenly.
*Beautiful and ginourmous Hyde Park.
*Having Oyster cards for the Tube before we left home so we could quickly (relatively – see paragraph two above) leave Heathrow for London. So happy I did my homework on this one.
*Walking, walking, and more walking and, happily, just getting tired, not sore, feet.
*And, to cap it off, getting surprisingly upgraded to business class for the flight home, including complementary drinks, the best food, warm towels to wash up, a nice blanket and space, glorious space to relax in. We kept poking each other with goofy grins, repeating, “I can’t believe this!”
That, my friends, was London. Wonderful, beautiful, courteously well-mannered, polite, cosmopolitan, ancient, direction-confounding, marvelous London. A spot of tea or chippie, anyone?