Day 3: REALLY??

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October 26th 2010
Published: October 26th 2010
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Max: I am up at 4 AM London time and then must have dozed on and off for a bit; but I gave up at 6:30 AM and hoped that the 7 or 8 hours of sleep that I had enjoyed—as much as sleep can be enjoyed whilst sitting straight up in a plane or totally interrupted in the middle of the night (which is daylight in my brain)—in the past 48 hours would see me through. Let’s just start off by saying that it didn’t.

Caitlin snoozed away while I tried to find all of the articles of toiletry and good grooming that were stashed in carry on luggage, checked in luggage and my enormous “purse” which is really a zip up shopping bag, and should have been arranged for quick dressing to get out to see London! First, the hotel hair dryer didn’t work, so I changed adaptor plugs so I could use my dual voltage dryer. It was then that I noticed that my fancy droid, although on the charger was relaying the message: No Service. Okay, how about Caitlin’s cell phone? No Service. How about the “wifi” for my laptop? No Service. By now Caitlin is up—perhaps because I am kicking things: do you think jet lag has anything to do with this? We are tired and start to make bad decisions such as, let’s use the TV to fix the “wifi” and spend precious time in utter frustration. Finally the reality that we are going to miss the overpriced, bad, but convenient hotel breakfast sends us down to the reception desk….”oh, there is a white cable in the desk drawer, just plug it in and you have “wifi” Yes, we now have “free wifi:” that same “free wifi” that costs 20 pounds a day…..In all fairness, you can have free wifi if you stand in the lobby with your laptop next to the sign that says “Business Centre” surrounded by 12 or so men waiting their turn for 20 minutes of free wifi.

Okay-- now for cell phones. The helpful concierge sends us to a phone store “that is not too far away” so we can get Caitlin’s phone unlocked: We walk for 30 minutes (Caitlin swears it was more like 15). It was 30. The nice phone store man reports that my droid, although it is unlocked may not get reception for days or weeks because it is Verison service. That is how they are, he assures me, kindly. This nice phone store man sends us to nice phone store man #2. Nice phone man 2 can unlock the phone, but he is busy. Come back in 30 minutes or so. Okay, let’s go back to the hotel, get the camera and do a bit of sight-seeing……..WHERE IS THE CAMERA?

We tear apart our hotel room: No camera. We retrace our steps: No camera. We buy 24 hours of “free wifi” so we can email Roger and John: No camera. We are nearly in tears: all of our first day in London photos gone. What do we do now? Buy disposable cameras? Where? Should we buy disposable cameras and retake photos of our First Day in London? Oh….poop!

We trudge back to Nice Phone Man Store #2 and give him 5 pounds. We are happy. Caitlin turns on her phone: No Service. We return to Not-So-Nice Phone Man #2. “Oh you need a UK sim card---give me 10 pounds” Not Very Nice Phone Man #2 watches Cailtin struggle to put the UK sim card in and finally asks if she needs help. We glare—he says: at no charge. (Caitlin is sure that all of this is being tinged by our generally not-great day, and that everything was much more pleasant than this). But now, says he, you will need to go to the store across the street to buy a phone card (Caitlin will admit that this is SUPER annoying, at this point). They don’t have any—go to the Tesco in the next block……FINALLY! We have one cell phone between us.

On to Picadilly Circus to pick up our British Heritage Passes so we can get in at discount prices and beat the lines at all the places we didn't see today....WHAHHHH! Late afternoon lunch at one of the many, many packged food places in London. Why do the British have such a thing for pre-packaged food? Just a question.....

We decide that it is too late and getting too cold for us to split up: Our plan had been for Max to go to the Society of Genealogists and Caitlin to the Science Museum and shopping at Boden. Caitlin graciously gives up her plans to accompany me and be my guide through the tube. Have I mentioned that Caitlin by now is an ACE navigator of the London subway system? I am so grateful that she has been such a smart and patient travelling companion.

To make a long story short, after leaving the tube we were fairlly well lost in Central London before we finally found the Society of Genealogists (SoG) 55 minutes before close. I madly zeroxed off copies of a Maxfield research magazine whilst Caitlin looked up pubs close by for dinner---which we couldn't find. At 8:30, we gave up--hungry and cold--to go back to the underground and try Caitlin's next choice of restaurants: Polish cuisine. Sometimes even the worst day can have a very good ending.

Daquise: We peer into the steamy windows, knowing it is warm within. There is a table just inside the door laden with food and flowers.

Caitlin: Sometimes things just have a way of working out. Like, when you've already walked up and down one street trying to find SoG, and have walked back up and down the same street looking for a particular pub (The Fox & Anchor) which apparently does not exist....or at least the street it is on does not exist. Tired of searching and feeling generally foiled by today, we throw in the towel and trudge back into the tube, headed for some other pub, which is at the next stop on the line headed towards our hotel near the Glouchester station. We think. But we are wrong. We are actually headed round the Circle line in the other direction, which means that we will go to the restaurant that is next headed the other way. Daquise. A Polish restaurant. AND I WANT PUB FOOD!!! Damn it, I'm in England and I want to eat some goddamned English food. If I wanted Polish food I would have gone to Poland. (Not true). But, oh, how wrong I was. The meal was.....perfect. Perfectly perfect. We basically asked our waiter what he would eat if he were us, let him order for us, let him figure it out. We didn't tell him we'd had a really, really rough day. We didn't even tell him we needed a hug. But that's kinda what we got on our plates - a big food hug. Steak tartar (which the chef carefully and begrudgingly prepared for us tableside), perogi (straight from the pan onto our plates) and kura w rosole - a little terrine from which pieces of chicken, vegetables and homemade noodles (oh! little dumplings of goodness. I'm sure their texture was very close to that of love, peace and understanding) cooked in broth were lovingly served, piece by piece, morsel by morsel, and dressed with the most lovliest and most delicatest lemon cream sauce you've ever tasted. But it's not, the broth has yet to be poured into little white two-handled teacups, for us to sip throughout our meal. Everything is so good that we are almost in tears. It is exactly what we needed. Our waiter gives us a sampling of desserts - plum cake, apple pie and poppyseed cake - and we are officially in love. We walk back to the hotel, feeling refreshed and refurbished, and only have to, briefly, retrace our steps once.

Max: Did I mention that the stars came out, the night became calm and clear, and that the cold breath of the air made everything sparkle? Tomorrow will be better.....But we have no camera so no photos to offer for tonight's blog. Just imagine a painting by Marc Chagall: we are wandering our way home from Chelsea, we have had a wonderful dinner and it is beautiful.


26th October 2010

Finding decent food in a hurry
Try Prêt-a-Manger - it's a really good sandwich shop chain that very decent offerings. Not a pub, but quite passable for a quick lunch when you need one. I hope you find your camera. Yes, I hear hotel connectivity is costly in London. (It's London, after all.) I had purchased a unlocked phone and UK SIMM card in the US for my son when he went there. National Geographic has a service that sells these (!). We mostly got by with texting for communication, and he occasionally piggy-backed on a travling buddy's laptop use. Hidden costs of travel, communications back home... Glad your day ended better than it had gone otherwise. I'm asking my son to send pub recommendations. He spent 3 weeks in London last January seeing the London season before it moved to Broadway and had a wonderful time taking in the London experience.
27th October 2010

The Bard
My, my. The Bard of Auburn has waxed eloquent!

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