It was originally intended for royal use, but what wasn't?
Behold the holy griffith-guarded palm:
It's known for its botanical gardens, to write the dullest thing I've never penned, but it's impressive even if you're not a flower enthusiast. Dozens of different kinds of roses with whimsical names. Waterfalls and swans:
We were staggering around in search of a restaurant, looking for that perfect Indian hole-in-the-wall or that perfect little English hole-in-the-wall, and it became apparent that such a thing was not to be had. This did not dissuade my wife, who believed one could be summoned if you looked down side streets hard enough. Eventually we found an restaurant off Carnaby, which provided the best Indian meal I have ever had in my lifetime. Delightful bubbly waitress, so happy we were there.
Didn't get those in Paris.
The restaurant had a niche I'd never seen before: Swinging Sixties Bombay. The intersection between the loosening of London and the Imperial influences. BOAC posters that showed elephants in love beads, that sort of thing. All the things that were supposed to be exotic and naughty are commonplace now, but there's an optimism to the imagery, as though the Jet Age will make it easier for all the clever folk to get around fast and do the right things. You also get a bit sad looking at it today, because the imagery would be condemned for all sorts of cultural sins.
Although I'm pretty sure the artists meant well.
Carnaby Street, by the way, was much more modest than I'd expected. Ever since I was a kid, I heard about Carnaby Street, the place of mod clothing - you know, London swings, pendulum do, Twiggy, all that. It's actually modest in dimensions. Picadilly Square was even more surprising; I expected Times Square. On the contrary. This gallery of then-and-now images says more than I could here.
We ended the night in the most British way possible - getting glassed by a yob in a pub, and off to the hospital for socialist-provided stitches! No. Went to a small theater to see "Absolutely Fabulous," which I enjoyed more than I thought. Not because I don't like the show - loved the original run, but found latter incarnations a bit strained. This was just right. Then the pub, of course. Around the corner from the hotel are two freehold pubs, not attached to any major brewery, and of course I broke my long-standing no-beer policy. Too many carbs, especially if you are inclined to have three, and I am thus inclined. Because I love beer. Well, there was nothing I'd ever tasted like a pint of IPA drawn to order. The day began in another country, in a France that had become quickly familiar - and now we were here in a place that felt instantly like home.
Short one today, but don't think this will set a pattern for the week. Tomorrow's the big one.
Tomorrow we hop on. And then we hop off.
THE NEXT DAY
Because the hotel is modern and concerned to the needs of the earth, you cannot turn on the lights without inserting your room key. This prevents you from leaving the lights on while you're gone, because you have to take your key. Unless the clerk gave you an extra one, without prompting, to control the lights. So let's say you want to read in bed, but your wife wishes to sleep. You can just click off the reading light on your side, right? No; there isn't one. Because the hotel is modern, the light over the bed is a 9000w flood in the ceiling, and it's not exactly directional. So you just give up figuring out the light configuration and take out the card.
Unfortunately, the card controls the bathroom lights. If you get up in the morning and wish to take a shower, you can put the card in, and turn on ALL THE LIGHTS IN THE ROOM and search for the off switches, or you can turn the switches off in advance, as you find them, hoping they've toggled to the off position, and the try the card again, and nope! Still one light on, waking up wife and daughter. So you end up showering by the phone's flashlight.
Why are you up early? Because the laundry delivery service truck docked right outside your door and its lift whined and the deliveryman knocked the containers together and generally behaved as if it wasn't 7:25, or rather it was and he was working and the rest of you can bloody well sod off. I got us moved to another floor.
Anyway: Hop on! Hop off! The bus that puts you in charge. Well, not literally; you're not licensed to drive, but you know what we mean. Just show up and pay up and off you go.
Because I planned in advance, I had tickets printed. They were in the envelope marked LONDON BUS, and were in the red ziploc envelope. Put them in the small travel . . . gawd, purse, I suppose; what else? and walked down to the bus stop. Here are my papers, my good man.
"You need another voucher," he said. "Actually you need two."
"But - but those are the tickets, with the bar code."
He shook his head. He needed the piece of paper that said I'd bought the tickets from Expedia, one for each of us. They gave the paper to Expedia as proof we'd taken the rides, and that's how Expedia paid them.
Imagine yourself on the other side of the globe, almost, needing some documents you printed off in your home weeks ago. How quickly could you lay your hands on them? I told wife and child that it was 10:32. I would be back, here, in one hour. Exactly.
Walked briskly to the hotel, which I knew took about 20 minutes. Up to the room; open the laptop, drill down to the Dropbox folder > Travel > Documents > Tickets. Put it on a flash drive; trot down to the Business Center. It's as far away from anything useful or fun as you can imagine. On the way I thought "I should've mailed that to myself in case of - ah, it'll work." Stuck the drive in the computer. Of course it was not recognized. No idea what this strange cold metal thing jammed in its side could possibly be. Back up to the room; email it to myself; head back down, print it all off, and back on the street. I arrived at the Bus Stop at 11:33.
One minute late. My reputation, in tatters.
Let me just pause. I am writing this in the room. The second room, not the first. The first had issues. We moved. You know what I'm looking at right now? The drawer with the nice kettle and tea bags. You know what's below the nice kettle? The safe. You know what the safe door is? Open. Because there's nothing in it. Because the items that would be in the safe are in the safe IN THE OLD ROOM.
Said items are:
To be con't.