Thursday, May 9, 2024

Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Meeting people.

 Exhausted from Tuesday, I ended up not needing the alarm in the morning. I got a good night's sleep, which is something I don't often get under the best of circumstances. I woke up, got dressed, and went scrounging again.

 I headed back to Queensway, since I knew I would have plenty of options for food and drink there. The Italian creperey I had seen on Monday, and thought I'd go to today, wasn't open yet. They didn't open for breakfast. I didn't want to be out walking for too long, so looked around on the first two blocks of the street near Bayswater. There is a chain fast-food place in England called Pret a Manger where you can buy ready-made sandwiches and coffee drinks. Like if the food section of Starbucks filled two walls instead of just one glass case near the register. Pret a Manger, or less formally "Pret," is a place you will have heard about if you watch a lot of panel shows or English stand-up comedy. I cannot think of the words "Pret a Manger" in anything other than Josh Widdicombe’s voice for this reason. I went to Pret to get breakfast to help add context to all the jokes.

(An emoji installation near the Tube station.)

 There were two lines in the shop, which was busy with commuters getting their morning coffee, using their club rewards. Just after I got in line, the computers went down and the shop suddenly became cash only. I was prepared, but the place cleared out! If you haven't been to London recently, it is nearly cashless. I had gotten quite a bit of cash from the bank before my trip, but still had, if not all of it still, then most of it. One woman who was in the middle of her transaction when the computers went down was still ahead of me in line, hoping to get her discounted coffee, but everyone else left. Her discount wouldn't go through, so her friend bought what looked like a cup of cottage cheese and they left, sans drinks. I got a chocolate croissant and a chocolate chunk cookie from the pastry case and ordered a berry lemonade drink for myself and an iced mocha for Cynthia. Or at least, I thought I did.

 I paid and stood aside while my drinks were prepared. My drink came out but then they stopped making drinks, as if they were completely done until the computers were working again. I asked about the mocha. They either didn’t hear me or forgot to charge me in the computer chaos. A woman threw her hands up and said, "Everything is free today!" She didn’t charge me, made the mocha, and I went back to the hotel.

This chocolate croissant was more to my taste than the pain or chocolate from before, but I only had a bite since that was for Cynthia. The cookie was for me and it was fine but undercooked. The raspberry lemonade was sweet, not very much like lemonade, and tiny! Like a 10 or 12 oz. cup for about $5! Worse than Starbucks for getting ripped off.

I had made arrangements to visit some of my unseen, email-only mysterious coworkers this day. The office was in Soho, so back on the Tube we found our connection and got off at Tottenham Court Road. We found the office, but the receptionist didn’t seem completely convinced we should have been there. But it was the right place! We were only in the waiting area for a few minutes before our guide for the office tour came downstairs and collected us.

 We got a quick tour of the office and then the coworkers suggested we come back at 1 to go to lunch. With a little over an hour to kill, we walked around and went to Primark again. Cynthia wanted to buy a few more things, but it was so crowded we left without getting anything. We would have been in line for too long to make it back for lunch.

 Back at the office a few minutes before one, the coworkers came downstairs and we walked to a nearby pub. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the pub. I'm not sure I even looked! My Google Map Timeline doesn’t show an accurate accounting of where I walked in that area, so it isn't helping. The pub served food upstairs, so we went upstairs and pulled a couple of tables together. I had a pineapple juice and nachos. Nachos! They were fine, a little salty, but not too exotic. Cynthia had a chicken Cesar salad, which had actual anchovies in it, which she didn't enjoy. After lunch, we parted ways with the coworkers and set off on foot for adventures in Soho. It was a treat to meet the coworkers in person!


(Around Soho.)

 I called Gail again just to check her and Charles availability for the afternoon. They were busy. They lead very active social lives! Gail suggested that while we were in SoHo we should go to Liberty, so that’s where we headed. Most of the shop was your standard Bloomingdale’s type store. High-end clothes divided by brand on several different sales floors. We headed up to the Haberdashery which turned out to be a great choice! They didn't sell hats there, they sold fabric and buttons and sewing supplies! I know you can buy Liberty fabrics at JoAnn's in the US, but this was the real place. My sister planned to buy me a birthday present on the trip, and Liberty had a sewing box I fell in love with. I also got some cute gifts/souvenirs for friends there. Perfect!


After Liberty we got back on the Tube and headed to Harrods. Diana sent me that gift card, so this was my chance to use it. We went into the food hall. Even though it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday, it was very crowded in the food hall. We walked around the pastry counter but then quickly diverted to the toilets. The elevator and stairs to the toilets led to an isolated area near the fine watches. You had to go back upstairs to go back downstairs to the giftshop area if that's where you wanted to go. Cynthia suggested we go to the giftshop before buying anything in the food hall, so we went back upstairs and got lost. Harrods is huge! It is also divided a lot like a Bloomingdale's, but with that food hall and a giftshop. We finally found an escalator down to the gift shop, but it appeared to be blocked, with a bollard in front of it. To us, that meant "do not use." We roamed around again and finally found another escalator that was also blocked. Culture shock! It was a barricade to prevent strollers, but you were allowed to walk around it, so we did.

(Harrods purchases.)

 The giftshop had everything we needed/wanted, so I spent my gift card and then some on tea and cookies. By now, the fancy shoes I’d worn to meet my coworkers were giving me blisters and my sister, as I mentioned, had a broken toe. She lost interest in getting any pastries, so we left. Since there is no direct Tube line from Harrods north to our hotel, we decided to walk through the park north. We walked a short distance away from Harrods toward Hyde Park and found a place to sit down to regroup. Another couple was already seated there, so it looked legit. After a couple of minutes, a man came out of the restaurant and told us sitting wasn’t allowed. We had to move on. So we continued toward the park. (Apparently there is no sitting in London.) 

(A chestnut tree in bloom in Hyde Park.)

We got to the park and I took my shoes off for a bit, walking through the grass. We had a fight/argument over which way the map said we should go, but did make it back to the hotel. We dropped off our purchases and went to the local pub, The Swan, for dinner. Two pubs in one day! I had Mature Cheddar Rarebit with chips, which is basically another variation of cheese on toast. I don’t remember what Cynthia ate. 

(Cute little weeds in the park.)

We had an unbelievable early morning the next day, so we went back to the room and tried to get to sleep early. I don’t either one of us got more than a couple hours of sleep, though. When you are under pressure to fall asleep, I know that I, at least, can't.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Cynthia's suitcase arrived! Hooray!

No comments:

Post a Comment