Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hallo, London!

I know why they call it a "red eye" flight. There is nothing like that gritty, painful feeling in the eyes from trying to sleep on a plane against all physical instincts. You know you're supposed to because of the whole time/date change thing you want to overcome so's you can be at your best upon arrival, but your body really doesn't want to because it's not time to yet.

All things considered though, the flight and my handling of it went as well as could be expected. I slept for a few hours, though not contiguously, my legs didn't get as swollen as they did on the hellish Shanghai flight, and I somehow wound up in Economy Plus seating without having to pay the extra upgrade fee this time around. I'm not exactly sure how I managed to swing that, but it was lovely, especially since I didn't have to pay for it out of my own pocket.

My seat mate and surrounding friends were friendly fellows, all on their way to Sheffield, England then ultimately to Russia -- they're roadies for Alice Cooper. I just checked his web site, and they're doing 10 shows in England over the next 12 days. Anyway, they were nice guys. I thought about asking them if there was any truth to the rumor that Alice Cooper is LDS, but decided against it. I needed my sleep more than I needed that conversation.

We got to the hotel at around 12:45, but the rooms weren't ready yet, so we walked up to a little restaurant that the concierge recommended, Maggie Jones. Since today is Sunday, these little restaurants all have a set "roast" menu. It reminded me of Sunday dinners growing up -- we had roasts frequently on Sundays, and I love thinking about the hundreds of years of traditions that have gone into a nice family sit-down dinner that made it into my little family in America in the 20th century.

Anyway, the restaurant was small and adorable -- it was reminiscent of an old farm house with small rickety stairs, a thick rope for a hand rail, hardly any room to maneuver in, old sturdy wood furniture, and excellent food. I had a venison pate for a first course, then roast lamb for the main course. I haven't had lamb since I was a kid, and I loved the familiar taste of the meat with a little bit of roasted onion and potato, topped with a bit of mint jelly. DE-licious. Dessert was an apple crumble with cream. The apples were perfectly tart, with the crumbly crust sweetened just enough to take the bite out of the apples, then a thick cream over it all to cool it off.

At this rate, I am not going to do very well weight-wise this week, but the airplane food was scant and less than delicious, so it's okay to have one really great meal today, right?

The rooms were ready when we got back, so I lightened my backpack load, armed myself with my camera, and went next door to Kensington gardens and palace. I hadn't planned on visiting the palace proper, probably simply because I didn't realize it was a possibility, but I did end up spending 12 pounds to see the parts that are open to the public. There was a lovely homage to Princess Diana, since she was one of the recent royal occupants, then Apartment 1A where Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden lived during the 60s-70s, then the older stuff about William, Mary, a bunch of the Georges, and even a little about Queen Victoria. It was all very grand and lovely and palatial, as one would expect a, well, a palace to be. It lacked only the cold stone mortars of medieval castles, but I guess that's why it's called a "palace" and not "castle."

Then I walked around Kensington Gardens and got a bit into Hyde Park. It was perfect late afternoon autumn lighting and the trees are all beautifully changing colors. People were out in full force rollerblading, jogging, walking dogs (never once saw one on a leash. Is it possible that British dogs are all as well-behaved as British humans? If they would speak, would it be also with perfect accents and elocution? I imagine so), playing frisbee, feeding the birds, feeding the squirrels (can't wait to upload photos of the cute old man who literally has squirrels eating out of his hand. Charming!), riding bicycles -- it was the perfect, idyllic family Sunday afternoon. It made me happy just being there to see other people's happiness and joy.

It started to get cold and dark at about 4:00 p.m., so I headed back to the hotel where I've been ever since relaxing, ordering room service and watching TV. The show selection is as minimal as I remember it being the last time I was here nearly a decade ago. The majority of the channels appear to be perfect for the typical Arabic or Muslim guest, which I am not, so there are approximately four channels with potential to interest me. I am now watching "The X Factor," which appears to be similar to "America's Got Talent," and the only thing it's helping me to accomplish is wondering why Simon Cowell is so very critical of the American Idol contestants but does not have a bad thing to say to any contestants of this home-town show. Is this British elitism at work? I believe so. There are performs who would get heartily mocked by him if it were American Idol, yet are heavily praised by him on this show. It's all quite perplexing and bewildering, and I mightily hope that there is another viewing option available to me soon.

Sadly, the DVD players are not compatible with my DVDs that I brought, and I don't feel like watching anything on my laptop, so I will continue to complain about the dismal viewing selection.

The good news is that if I can hold off going to bed for at least two more hours, I will have a fine chance of beating jet lag and being ready to tackle on the many meetings that await me tomorrow.

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