Oh to be in London, now that Winter’s here…okay, so I’ve badly butchered Robert Browning’s poem which focuses on all of England in the spring (specifically, April) but I love London in the winter. We arrived last night around 10:45 and by the time we got through Customs, picked up our luggage, got cash, and caught a cab to the airport, it was midnight. Our hotel is the Grosvenor House (a JW Marriott property), a hotel with a lot of history. If you’ve seen “Last Chance Harvey”, you've seen some scenes of this hotel. We checked in, dumped everything in the room and went downstairs to the lounge for, believe it or not…tea. Johnny has had a cold and chamomile tea has been a great help in soothing his throat. We enjoyed our pot of tea, served in exquisitely delicate china, and whiled away the time chatting and watching the many men walking about in tuxedos who’d obviously come from some formal function and were ending the evening with a nightcap. Finally, we headed up to the room, collapsing at about 2am after a very long day.
This morning we woke up at 9, when the maid was knocking. We managed to get ourselves up, showered and ready to meet the day…we were only about 10 minutes late meeting my colleague for breakfast. It was snowing, which was somewhat unexpected. Not hard, but the streets were slick and I had to make my way carefully through the slush to keep my boots from slipping. We went to Richoux, which is actually a tea shop but over the years we’ve learned they serve good meals no matter what the hour. I had my customary poached eggs and toast (brown…bread is always brown or white, not wheat or white). I love poached eggs but only seem to eat them in England.
Our next stop was the train station where we’d planned to buy train tickets for the next two days to save ourselves the hassle of standing in line. But the ticket issuer suggested we wait as many trains were being canceled and even though I believe tomorrow will be just fine, we agreed to wait. Gatwick airport was still closed last I heard and Heathrow had a number of flights canceled. It seemed odd to me since the snow we’ve seen has been very light and not accumulating but perhaps it’s heavier in outlying areas.
It’s very cold and my toes were freezing in my boots…the train station is open to the outside and it felt even colder inside so I decided I needed to supplement my inadequate footgear and get some thicker socks. We caught a cab to Selfridges department store. Selfridges & Co. isn’t quite Harrods, but it’s pretty impressive. Department stores are representative of a bygone era in the US; I remember my parents taking me to Philadelphia at Christmas when I was a child and I was always amazed at the size of the stores. I’m sure they still exist in places like NY but they still seem like yesteryear to me. Selfridges is 6 floors of everything you can think of – here’s a link to the floor plan if you’d like to check it out: http://www.selfridges.co.uk/index.cfm?page=1312&articleID=10043&artname=Lower%20ground
We were directed to the third floor for women’s socks which turned out to be an absurd collection of wafer thin socks that wouldn’t keep the bitter chill off my toes. The men’s department might have a better selection, I thought, so we headed back down to the first floor. There was a very nice pair of socks for 15 pounds, which is about $24 and I thought, pass. That was better than the cashmere socks which would have set me back about $122 – for ONE pair of socks. Um, I don’t think so. Who has money like this? They must get paid well in London. I finally found a package of 3 pairs of socks, athletic style, but black, and they were only 19 pounds for the 3 so that was something I could live with. They’re a little big but I think they’ll be fine – my boots have lots of room in the toes for the excess! We walked through the food and wine shop, one of our favorite areas of the store and finally headed over towards the hotel, stopping to buy water and cokes on the way.
Tonight we’ll find a cozy, warm pub and have some fish and chips – Winter in London – I love it!