London October 25th-26th

Take heart, Dear Reader! The journey is not completely over! We might have left Turkey with the longing and intent of returning some day, but we had some days to spend in London and "reacclimate to Western society." I have no pictures to share from these days as my camera died, but no matter. someday Kirsty will post her pictures and I'll be able to filch them For Your Consideration (get it?).
British Airways fluttered us across the European continent with as much charm and class as Brits can (i.e. alot). Halfway through the flight it became a little choppy and Kirsty got this look in the eyes that forcibly reminded me of a nervous horse (sorry, Kirsty).
"Probably just choppy air currents over the Alps," I said.
She sighed.
We landed in Heathrow airport, exhausted and with the vaguely uncomfortable notion that we couldn't remember what our hotel was called. Kirsty had a rough idea where it was, sort of. We collected our baggage, braved the UK customs and immigration officials (who, reportedly, asked Kirsty in a very nasty manner what she was doing here), and boarded the express train for Paddington station. I always find it funny how these airport trains have dim lighting and these calming, almost hypnotic, videos that play scenes of uniformed, smiling individuals indicating where luggage should go, what you can expect from first class seating (a table, on this train), all the while soothing music plays in the background. I don't think these videos are meant to be informative. I think they are to help lull the weary traveler to sleep, or at least assist them in forgetting just how bone sore and stiff they are.
We arrived at Paddington Station, and then dragged our bags around the majority of the station looking for a phone book. Kirsty felt confident that if she could look it up, the hotel was called something like Caesar's Palace, or The Caesar Hotel, then we'd have an address to give a taxi driver.
Sadly, phone books, like rotary phones, have gone the way of the dinosaur. It might be that someday they will make a come-back in shops like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie (both of whom sell rotary phones and SLR cameras from Japan). Interestingly enough there were about three pay phones dotted about the station, playing a weird technical, "Where's Waldo," I guess. Or they were there for parents to point out to their children, "Look, Sally! Years ago you had to stand in one spot if you needed to talk to someone on the phone."
But they came without phonebooks.
I was deposited at one of these antiques, with the bags, swaying gently on the spot while Kirsty performed a more rigorous search for information. She's a doctor, she's used to keeping herself going on 20 minutes of sleep. I, as I may have mentioned, love to sleep, and only the butt of Chairman Mao's rifle prodding my back to continue with the death march would keep me going.
I swayed for what seemed like an incredible length of time before Kirsty came back. She had more information and with it, the Black Maria taxi was able to drive us to our hotel.
We were in Queens Gardens, our tube stop being Bayswater and surrounded by the upper class white edifices that always make me think of Mary Poppins. Caesar Hotel was... streamlined, really is the word for it. With locations in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and, of course, London, this is a hotel geared towards the weary Romantic traveler. I say romantic in terms of region, as in Roman Empire (which, I suppose, includes London when you think about it). There were a lot of tanned Italians and Spaniards with *snort* Caesar haircuts and nice luggage sets; shark skin suits; that kind of thing. The friendly staff who checked us in wore name tags that said, "Carlos, from Seville". The lobby was decorated with green palm fronds and large slabs of mosaics that tried to appear as though they had just been excavated from the real Caesar's Palace (that is one of my favourite lines from The Hangover).
Our room was still streamlined but artfully combined with comfort. There were white slippers, bathrobes, sachets of tea. The room was split between two levels. On the upper one was our gleaming bathroom, and a pristine white bed against which loomed a huge black headboard.
The lower level had a grey couch that could clearly be converted into another sleeping space, a desk on top of which stretched a large flat screen tv, and beside that a black computer keyboard just in case you wanted to completely sell your soul and/or progeny and use the hotel Internet at a whopping 2 pounds a minute. We went for a pint and a bite to eat at a pub nearby, getting two delicious p[ies. Over hot mouthfuls Kirsty remarked, "The British know what they're doing with pies." I nodded, my mouth too full to really respond. I noticed a sign board that advertised a roast beef dinner the following Sunday: "Roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes and veg. 10.00 (pounds, but I don't know how to get the little "L" symbol)."
We attempted to watch a little tv and then promptly passed out before the commercial interlude.
Bright and early the next morning Kirsty's iphone, once again, woke us up with the chiming of church bells. We showered, and feeling a bit dazed and disoriented (at least I was) set off in search of breakfast.
Kirsty, on her many transcontinental/transatlantic jaunts, has discovered a fantastic boulangerie called Le Pain Quotidien.
I want to emphasize that I am not a picky eater. There are certain cuisines I may not consume with gusto or relish, but I'll partake just the same. I also want to underscore the fact that I really did enjoy a Turkish breakfast. True, I stayed a little farther away from the cold cut, salami portion of it. But how many people can really eat olives at 8:00AM and appreciate them? Yeah.
This is not to say, however, that I don't have any preferences. I love a good Western breakfast of, say pancakes, bacon, eggs, and/or hash browns. At home my standard breakfast is scrambled eggs with toast and good hot strong coffee. And one of my most satisfying meals is a soft boiled egg with heavily buttered toast dipped in the yolk (I'm drooling as I type).
Le Pain Quotidien offered, among other things, two soft boiled eggs with soldiers (strips of bread with the explicit purpose of being dipped into the yolk), and scones with clotted cream, and bowls of delicious, strong coffee. We ate there every morning during our stay in London, alternating between fruit bowls, the scones, and/or the eggs. Almost a year later Kirsty and I tried Le Pain Quotidien in NYC, and it wasn't nearly as satisfying. Maybe if we had been eating feta for a week straight.


  1. It's alt #, if you're using a Mac. Now you can write £10.00 all day, if you like.


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