Sunday, March 15, 2015


People have strong feelings about London. British people, old timers, new arrivals, visitors.

Except for me. I just tend to avoid it. Yes, I must sometimes pass through it (witness the two pass through trips recorded on Ocean), but most of my trips to the UK have entirely omitted this great big city from my consideration.

The reason for it? Well, you could say that I like other parts of the UK much better, so why waste a day here? And, London is so damn expensive! But, too, I think for me, London is a bit of a fairy tale. I passed through it as a kid (and promptly forgot it) but I really opened my eyes to it when my own children were very small, especially when my older girl was very small -- just turning three -- and she and I (pregnant with the second girl) had many wonderful weeks making day trips to the big city to see the museums while her dad worked in the libraries up in East Anglia (Cambridge). I walked that little girl to pieces then! Up and down, in and out of the Tube, in and out of museums, accompanied by wonderful kid books explaining everything from modern art at the Tate to the mummies in the British Museum.

So why touch a golden memory? Why go back at all?

Well, as always, I hate to form these rock solid opinions and not give cities a chance. When my younger daughter told me she wanted to visit Berlin with me a few years ago, I balked, but she, having the stamina to stick to her desires while I wilt and falter, insisted that we put Berlin on our travel map and I am so glad we went! (Even as I still don't regard that city as a chipper place to explore. Forgive me. My history is what it is. Perhaps I remember too well a visit to East Berlin when there still was an East and a West Berlin.)

When I planned this March trip to Europe, I was, of course, looking for decent weather. This is tricky: you can hit glorious skies in many parts of Europe now, but some hold a greater likelihood of rain -- day in, day out rain, the kind that drips down your collar and chills you inside and out -- it's best to avoid it. I picked two regions that hold the promise of a lesser likelihood of rain and the first is right here in England (yes, I'm serious!) and the second? Well, that's next week's story (and a rather predictable one, so don't go making wild guesses -- it's south and it's in France).

I could have gone straight to my English destination today, but London tempted me just a tiny bit. For a Sunday afternoon. Why not? (Even though it took me forever to find a hotel I might actually enjoy rather than just tolerate, given my budget.)

So after a terribly ordinary and very late flight from Detroit to London, I hopped on a train to Paddington Station in city center (or should I affect the British and write centre) and from there, walked, marveling how when you alight from the airport train in Paris, you immediately know you're in Paris and when you alight from the airport train in London, you immediately know you're in London.


 My hotel is a mere twenty minute walk from Paddington and I have two comments on that short trudge: first of all, I was delighted to see that England already has this to offer:


But secondly, the good weather I am slated to have (according to the weather maps) does not begin until Tuesday. It is in the mid forties now and the skies are pouty and bleak and I am cold. 

Never mind. As I check in to my small (but expensive for me, though okay with a prepaid special rate) hotel, which is very close to the Marble Arch, hence its name -- the Arch, not to be confused with the Marble Arch hotel next door, where I first went, to be greeted with blank stares! -- I am served a warm cup of peppery ginger tea and immediately I am reminded how the British solve many of life's crises with a cup of tea.

The hotel room is small, but warm and cozy...


... and the views are, well, very U.K.! Note, too, that it has started to drizzle and my optimism told me to leave the umbrella at home, as the forecast only spoke of a drizzly day today and tomorrow.


Oh, I shall go out, I must go out, I want to go out -- eventually. But Hyde Park -- a mere two blocks away, is at the moment uninviting and I just made myself a cup of coffee and opened my laptop.

Maybe later, when the drizzle gives a pause. For now, I'm enjoying my first hours in England from the warm quiet of my hotel room.