I'm not going to try to make sense or even decent prose of my notes - just going to post as I have them, along with a few photos. The problem will be choosing which of the hundreds of photos to post. You will note there will not be a lot of photos of the traditional (expected) landmarks. I skipped most of the tourist attractions and dove into what I love - history, gardening, rambling, absorbing the city & its sense of place.
I will make several installments, so please be patient. On that note:
Day 1 - arrival
The flight was crazy - delays out of DFW set us back 20 min or so, then 2 couples who had been cross-booked from other airlines became fairly belligerent & stayed that way for 5,000 miles. Every seat on our plane was full. 398 passengers/crew... several infants & 2 wheelchairs. Turbulence the entire way.
I had been very anxious about customs... but it was a breeze. My enthusiasm earned a grin from the Passport Control agent & many good tips from my cabbie. It was slogging down rain, I was exhausted & disoriented... I sprang for it.
My hotel (Darlington Hyde Park) is old, charming, quirky & there are tiny twisting staircases everywhere. Thank God there is a lift (elevator). I was exploring, got lost & was instructed to just take the lift. G for ground floor reception. B for basement laundry & breakfast room.
|Darlington Hyde Park - Sussex Gardens|
There are no washrags in my room.
My room is a tuck-away in a corner at the back of the "house" - the minuscule shower is on the same level w/ bedroom, and there are 5 steps up and around the corner for the toilet. Separate spigot for hot & cold water. I fear I will tumble right down (or up) those steps & break my neck.
There is no ice. I knew this going in, but was stunned to find that - quite literally - I could not get ice.
I will be forever grateful to the person who invented WetOnes. Don't ask.
The power converter/adapter I was so proud of & was assured was correct for the UK.... has the wrong plug. The reception desk had a loaner, thank goodness.
There is a charming American couple staying here w/ their 2 quite small children & an abundance of luggage. I have visions of it all spilling down the narrow twisting staircases & causing a blockage.
|Tiny twisting staircase|
The staff here are all displaced Serbs or Croats or Czechs.
The sirens on emergency vehicles sound just like American sirens. Contrary to what you might see in the movies. I was disappointed.
Initial impressions: Charming! Busy! Overwhelming!
Even the casual types here look better than any American. Because of their posture. And their shoes.
Everyone walks very FAST while staring at their phones.
Surrounded by elegant decay
Most men wear suit-jackets, even with jeans.
It's wet & rainy, but everyone ignores it & carries on about their business
Backpacks instead of briefcases - with suits
Crossing the street is an act of defiance against the Gods & should be classified as an Olympic sport.
People will not meet your eye on the street.
Everyone here is from somewhere else & they all carry on speaking their own languages & still understand each other
I rode the Heathrow Express and in a Black Cab and walked along Hyde Park. All on my 1st day!!!
Trains - Very smooth. Very fast
Paddington Station: Controlled chaos
Even in the rain, no umbrellas! Then suddenly... 4 umbrellas in polka dots & flowers & hot pink... and one somber in black.
Everyone seems to wear a lanyard with their ID.
I stood in line (queued) at passport control with an Imam, a retired French burlesque dancer (proudly showing pictures) & a Hassidic couple. Everyone is everyone!!!
Every building has a foyer. Why?
Wrought iron railings and gates to basement flats (apartments) everywhere.
The food at ASK Italian restaurant was delicious, but there was no bread or salad with the meal. Fettuccine Bolognese (meat / tomato sauce) - I was so exhausted & light headed I became drunk on pasta alone.
There are tiny, lovely gardens - all private of course - everywhere.
|Lovely random garden|