Thursday, March 15, 2012

London: Day Zero - March 13, 2012

Ladbroke Square Park, Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington, Notting Hill

London. The city of our dreams. The setting of three of my five novels and two of my short stories. As avid anglophiles, we have obsessed over researched the city with passionate ferocity. We've perfected our British accents through hours and hours of practice watching BBC America. And now we've arrived.

First, and this invariably happens, no matter how careful we think we are with directions – the cab driver took us from the train station to the wrong address. He thought I said
Northumberland Drive
; I’d actually said
Northumberland Place
. Apparently, there are a number of Northumberlands in London. The cab driver apologized, but honestly, we were excited to have had a brief tour through the city. We got to see
Trafalgar Square
, the London Eye, Big Ben, and the House of Commons, one of the City Gates, the National Gallery, and the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant and Pub, which we never would have found on our own. The little amble was a lovely pre-amble to what was to come. Oh yeah, and while we drove by Buckingham Palace, we got to see Princess Ann.

The cab driver delivered us to Notting Hill. He was very kind and didn’t charge us to full fare because he claimed responsibility for the lengthened trip. We came in, got settled into our flat, and met the flat-cat, Francis (so christened by us, as he is a British male version of our cat, Sunday). Then we napped. This happened somewhat unexpectedly. We both flopped down into our very, very soft beds and went out like candles. We were wakened by our landlady, Ms. Petch, who told us we absolutely must get up or we’d be awake all night (she wasn’t wrong). We got into a great conversation about books, and she answered many of the questions we had regarding transportation, internet, and how to work the radiator. She provided hand-drawn maps (very helpful) and directions to local shops in Notting Hill. Mr. Petch came down for a while, but Katrina said something odd, possibly about zombies, and he went away.

We ventured out to get the layout of the neighborhood, stopping by to split a sandwich at Illy’s on the corner of Chepstow and Pembridge. One thing about London in the spring after the sun has set – it’s cold. Bitingly cold. I wished often for gloves. We’d dressed suitably in all other respects, but my hands froze. Katya’s were fine, though, so that’s good. I wore my brown pinstripe pants, black wool sweater, black leggings, argyle socks, my Doctor Converse (TARDIS blue!), fancy shiny brown tassel-y scarf, and my white leather jacket. Katya wore her Jack Skellington striped stockings (which, unfortunately, ripped, before we made it out of Texas), her kicky grey skirt, purple shirt, and House Griffindor jacket.

After a quick dinner, we went shopping at a Marks & Spencer grocery store. It’s a bit like our grocery stores, but smaller, and they have a lot of fresh packaged food. We got fresh fruit, an Indian dinner for me, a Chinese dinner for Katya, caramel pudding (flan), hot cross buns, and chocolate yogurt parfaits. I also picked up coffee, but it seems I’ve broken the coffee maker (more on that later).

We spent the evening in, watching American television – re-runs of Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. We also watched a show about two Norwegian baker bikers. Lots of fun. They kept calling each other ‘troll’ and ‘dude’.

At about 2 a.m. London time, I awoke to the sound of birdsong in our garden. It was so sweet and so beautiful, I lay in bed a long time listening to it. Then, I found I wasn’t remotely tired. Ms. Petch had warned me. I stayed up until 4, which led to me sleeping well past Ziggy’s alarm the next morning. We didn’t get up until after ten on Wednesday morning.

But still, as first days go, this was good. The trip from the airport to the flat did not result in tears, as it had in France, when no one would help us figure out the building and our landlord was unreachable by phone. Sure, we got lost, but sometimes getting lost is part of the journey. And getting lost in London? Not so shabby a prospect if you ask me.

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