London

Traveling from Portland to Seattle was as easy as you would expect. Seattle to London on the other hand, that was another story entirely. As people began queueing up to board, the desk agent clicked on the overhead PA to make an unfortunate announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to say that this flight is now delayed. Apparently the luggage conveyer truck crashed into the plane.” Question: How bad can it be? Three hours later, the captain came out to share that the flight had been canceled due to the considerable structural damage to the plane. Answer: Very bad, indeed.

The lot of us squeezed into the airport tram, all heading for the same destination. The line at the ticketing counter was monstrous. Every single inch of space was filled with people and their luggage. At least no one had to worry about losing their bag because they had never made it onto the plane in the first place.  

After waiting in line for three hours, I gave up and went to find a hotel for the night. After I checked in, I called the airliner to see what could be done about my cancelled flight. After an hour on the phone, everything was sorted out. I would be leaving for Dallas Fort Worth the following morning then connecting to London later in the evening. I also extended my return flight by one day. The lesson here is that you should never wait in line.

Thanks to the heavy tailwinds, the flight from Dallas to London took just 9 hours. I smiled to myself as I walked out of the airport and across a square to the Underground station. When I was in the states I had planned to take an Uber to my hotel from the airport. Unfortunately, my cell phone was not functioning so I threw that idea out and tried my luck with public transit instead. In three minutes flat, I put 20 pounds on an Oyster card and hopped on a train towards the city. Since my cell wasn’t working, I was forced to use the most archaic of Babylonian technology, a map. Why they even make maps still is a query for another time. For now I was focused on finding my hotel so I could wash off the film of international travel.

Now that I was cleansed, it was time to find lunch. I walked through the streets and parks near my hotel and found a small tent where two men were serving up falafels to a small line of business people. The duo that operated the establishment were perfect opposites. The man who took my order was bright and cheerful, while the head chef was quick and gruff. I watched through the plexiglass as he used both hands to pull ingredients from various bowls. He didn’t look away from the pita laying flat on the counter in front of him. 20 seconds later I walked away with a hot falafel in my hand. If every person at Chipotle worked that fast, there would never be a line to get a far inferior chicken burrito with guacamole.

I looked at my map and found that Buckingham Palace was just down the road, and that seemed as good a place as any to sit down and enjoy my lunch. A park bench across the street from the palace presented itself to me. Upon sitting down, fat pigeons swooped in and surrounded me. Two of them had the gull to sit next to me on the bench. I’m certain I looked like the bird lady from Home Alone 2. Three woman walked passed my seat and then one of them turned around and came back to sit next to me. I paid little attention because I was in the middle of biting into my delicious lunch. To my surprise, she leaned over and asked if I could get up so that she could have her photo taken on the bench alone. I’m not normally caught off guard by women talking to me, but I guess I was so engaged with my food that I started to choke on a piece of lettuce. Food went flying, and in response, there was a flurry of wings trying to hoist fat pigeon bodies from the ground. At least 6 pigeons dived for the food. The woman screamed and jumped up from the bench to escape! Her friends and I laughed at her expense.

 
 

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I have really been looking forward to the food that I find while on this trip. I apologize in advance if my stories become repetitive.

Where was I? Oh! Right, I just finished lunch. After briefly checking out the palace, I decided to travel northeast towards Shoreditch. My friend Ali had sent me a list of things to do while in London, and I thought it best to try at least one of the places on that list so I’d be able to thank her when I got back. First up was a restaurant called Book Club. Normally, I like to let the bartender or waiter/waitress surprise me with their choice of food and drink when I go to a new place. When I got to the counter and said “Surprise me.”, the woman just stared at me for a few seconds before explaining that it was her first day on the job and I was literally her first customer. She didn’t know the menu or the drinks yet. I felt bad, but she did a great job. Recognizing the fact that I was American she went straight for the only IPA they had on tap, and recognizing that I was not a simpleton, she set me up with a vegan mushroom burger.

 
 

As I found a seat near the window, I noticed the artwork that adorned the walls. There seemed to be a theme going on, almost as if this was a gallery. I took a drink of my IPA and looked out the window. That’s when I read the three words that would make everything oh so clear. “einnyL .Z oiduts” I quickly decrypting the mysterious message, and realized this was the opening night of @Lynnie.Z’s exhibit. As I ate my food, people started filing in. A rambunctious game of ping pong broke out. The staff moved chairs and tables away from the walls so people could get a closer look at the art. I just sat and enjoyed my food and the sights and sounds.

Early the next morning, I checked out of my hotel and found a small breakfast café a few blocks away. Having spent less than 24 hours in the city, thanks to my unfortunate travel situation, it was time to leave for Paris. Thankfully, I was able to rearrange my schedule so that I could return to London for 2 more days before heading back to the states.