Weekends are for relaxing. Leisure. Late day pajamas, Hanging on a Saturday Evening date, doing the Sunday puzzle, seeing if you can find all the hidden clues. 21 in total, I think.
Our turnaround day left us much more exhausted than anticipated. Although we got sleep on the overnight, by the time we fell into sleep after Roti around midnight, night-day-night of being Midnight Ramblers left us exhausted. So, we decided for the next day to wake up slowly without plans–a leisurely weekend for the last days of our vacation. Gary cooked breakfast (not “proper English,” because nobody in this house needs baked beans with their eggs) while we showered, folded laundry, and read leisurely. Around noon or so, we made our way to the Underground. Our goal–the Saatchi gallery. More art for the day, it seems. However, our plans were foiled as the regular exhibit had been shunned to the side like a bunch of dead flowers. Well, I guess you can’t always get what you want. In its stead was a pay exhibit–Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism. While I love the Stones, the Saatchi was not about to pry £20 from my sticky fingers. We were trying to play it cheap and easy for the last two days, and parting with more of our money can’t get us no satisfaction. So, we walked around the market outside the Duke of York square with all the other men of wealth and taste before we hopped back on the Tube to hit Tower Hill.
With no set schedule, Time was on our side. We passed back by the tower and over the Tower Bridge–rated the most popular selfie spot in London–to get to Tower Centre, where we would find a public viewing venue for Team GB in the Olympics We got some food and found front row seats. While Olympic fever may have had London under its thumb in 2012, the crowd seemed more a light afternoon party rather than a frenzied sports crowd. No dancing in the streets. No one stood to save the Queen when the music played. After eats and a Pimm’s Lemonade (a great summer drink), we wandered back down the Thames bank, down an back river alley where we stumbled into a bridal shoot. Nothing to see, we made our way back to the bridge.
There, a facsimile Mississippi riverboat-dredging water deep from the Delta across the Thames–made the Tower Bridge rise, so we had to wait. Foot traffic slowed to a halt. Across the bridge, the bridal shoot party had caught up with us and posed under the tower. A tourist mom asked if her children could take a photo with the bride. The bridge lowered.
Foot traffic began again, and soon were were on the Tube back to Tottenham Court where we could renew a weekend tradition British style–bookstore date. Only this time instead of our local B&N, we plopped at the 6-story Foyles In Westminster. To be fair, one floor is a meeting space and one is a full cafe’; nevertheless, it’s a pretty monstrous store. In our haste to find shoes, we had walked right by it on Day 1. It was not to be missed today.
We agreed to work our way down and meet on the ground floor. Nic gushed at the seven shelves of drama. She nearly wept at the sight. I started in on the fourth floor–esoteric knowledge–and worked my way down to history and politics. Nic found a number of humor writers making mint off Donald Trump’s expense. I moved over to philosophy to hear a dad and daughter discussing Camus while their mom tried to muscle in with a book about tidy living. They seemed to get the absurdity of it all. I then moved to the music-racks and racks and racks of Jazz, Blues, Avant-Garde, and Americana. Under a tapestry of Sarah Vaughn, I flipped through the names: Dylan, Cash, Waits, Davis, Coltrane, so, so many live Monk shows.
I made my way out with two discs and wandered under the traipsing voice to the film section, plopped on the floor and enjoyed the show. Soon, Nic was wondering “Has anybody seen my baby? We reconnected and eschewed the night life, reading the map without having to shine a light on it, heading back on the tube before the sun fell of the horizon.
There have been days where we felt like we had to see it all, when wild horses couldn’t drag us back home. But today, we were glad to have a slow day and an relaxing evening back in Ealing where we could get some shelter.
Sunday flowed at a similarly leisurely pace. We left the house around 11, starting at St. James Park wand working our way park. The park abuts Buckingham Palace, where we passed hundreds of tourists, huddled in queue to enter the building. Outside the gates, people waited turns to have their pics snapped in front of the large insignias. Not our cup of tea, so we made our way over to the Victorian Monument, also festooned with people tourists and Sunday morning park goers alike. We decided to make it a nice Sunday, grab some ice cream and amble through the park like it was our own lazy Sunday afternoon.
Signs are clearly posted throughout the park to not feed the birds, but far be that from an impediment to some tourists. You can asks them to have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste. But polite signs are oblivious to some little devils. Two young boys caused a traffic jam on one path by bringing an entire bag of uncooked rice to feed pigeons, drawing about thirty of them to fly at and away from every pedestrian who walked by. We crossed the bridge where the Eye could be seen over the river. Our walk took us near the parade grounds, near the back of Parliament, past the Churchill War Rooms. On the south side of the park, we found to boys playing “Pull the Bread from a family of swans. One pulled so hard that he lost balance and fell on his roly-poly behind, and I got the vibe that some people walking by were pulling for the swans to pull away his fingers But otherwise, morning was uneventful in its beautiful simplicity. From the park, we made our way to Earl’s court for a very specific purpose–to see the TARDIS. That moment in time accomplished, we got back into the station when a mysterious Inspector Sams was paged repeatedly, for a brief moment like it’s own surreal Dr. Who episode, we expected chaos to come. But none did, and the train took us away–right on time.
Our last stop of the day was the Notting Hill neighborhood and the Portobello Market. Known to most Yanks for a Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts rom-com (and yes, you can buy the t-shrit), Notting Hill was a photo destination for Nic, its pastoral rainbow row houses basking in the afternoon sun. The market held the streets with open air antique, clothing, jewelry, and knick-knack dealers. Knock-off pocket watches interspersed with fine China. Cat and Dog Pillow covers. Art prints (not the cheap Chinese crap copies, the stall assured us). A beer mug of Churchill’s head (Would I love it? Yes, but not for £250) The uniquely and stereotypically British to the strangely ubiquitous (it seems you can buy a poop emoji anywhere on earth, even a rainbow one like the Squatty Potty ads). Among it all, crepe makers raked at their discs of dough with the tranquility of sand in a Zen garden. We grabbed lunch at a deli, then hit the “Unofficial Banksy Shop”–pretty sure there’s not an official one, so I hope he got a cut of my quid–and caught the Central line–our last tube ride–to Shepherd’s Bush to meet Gary and Ashley at their church.
Later that evening, we settled down to watch the Olympics. Curious to how Britain–Ealing specifically–would be watching the Andy Murray gold medal match, I walked up to the corner store to get a beer, but stopped in at the Drayton Arms. The match was on, but there seemed little interest. There was a guy challenging some Honky-Tonk Woman–some bar-room Queen from Memphis–to her first Jaeger shot. Otherwise, the pub was tame. Apparently, gold medal tennis doesn’t inspire the same sort of street fighting man as football or rugby does. I walked back to Gary and Ashley’s house, staying up into the wee hours of the morning to watch Bolt win the semis and Murray take the gold. “Hope your boss is a sports fan tomorrow,” said the British announcer.
It’s now 10:30. I’ve been up since 6, which is 1 a.m. at home, where I’ll be in a few hours. We’re on the plane, but a bit behind the take off time, but hopefully I’ll get some sleep to start changing the jet lag clock. Time to close my eyes and paint it black for a bit.