February 9th, 2009
Today was a typical London day. I don’t think it has stopped raining since yesterday at 3pm. My umbrella had a great workout and of all the things I brought with me, I value that bright green, spring-loaded contraption the most. (Except on the days I lug it around and there’s not a cloud in sight; those days I consider chucking it.) All day I hopped over little puddles, skirted midsized ones, and merely trunked through the ones that simply couldn’t be avoided. In London there is no golden rule and on days such as this everyone’s the worst for it as pointed umbrella ends crowd the sidewalks, smashing into shoulders and taking out eyes. I especially love it when I’m leading the legally-blind-at-night girl and people merely shove you into the street in their harried attempt to get wherever they’re going seconds before anyone else. Love it.
I had big plans for the day, and while I mostly checked every box I still feel as though I spent most of my day in eating establishments. I probably feel that way because I actually did spend most of my day eating, or watching other people eating. It all started with a mad dash to AHA to recover my notebook, print up a coupon, and rush off to the tube again to meet Genevieve at the Museum of London by 12:30. Of course, I was late, but if we’re going by London train standards, I wasn’t; apparently a train isn’t considered late if it arrives within 10 minutes of its expected arrival time. Okay, actually, I was still technically late by even those standards. But, not because I didn’t give myself enough time, I just simply couldn’t figure out how to get into the blasted museum. I got off the tube, managed to take the right exit, miraculously saw the giant black roundabout with “London Museum” emblazoned on the side (I love when I don’t have to pull out my map) and I ever so ignorantly thought that I was home free. Um, not so much. Because while the sign is big enough, the entrance isn’t quite so obvious. I wandered around for a bit, feeling like an idiot because I couldn’t find an entrance, found one of those poles with the signs pointing every which way, and the stub which announced the museum had no arrow because apparently I was there. Well, yeah, I was there – I could see it and its massive presence taunted me as the entrance ever eluded me. Finally, I admitted defeat and called Gen who told me to take the escalator up, walk the sky bridge, and presto, I’d be there. Great, I had a route. Oh, but once again, I was foiled. The only escalator near me was owned by a private business complex and I sure-as-shooting wasn’t going to go in there and make a fool of myself in my quest to find the entrance, so this time I called Robin, hoping for more gentle directions. As I pleaded my case I happened upon a bright red sign tucked into a corner ( the words were certainly big enough, but not so helpful if people can’t see it when they walk around the museum) and figuring I’d found redemption at last, I followed the arrow and . . . walked into a parking garage. Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like more of a dolt in my life. Robin consented to come down and lead the idiot in (Oh, and by the way, Robin is the blind one. Ironic, isn’t it?). While I waited I went back to that big red sign and discovered that it wasn’t in fact pointing around the corner, but was serving its purpose quite well as it was actually announcing the entrance merely feet from where it was plastered to the wall. Brilliant. Maybe if the smokers hadn’t used it as a refuge to get their hourly dosage of cancer I would have realized that the clever inlet was in fact the means to the museum. Robin had by now sauntered around the corner and I gave her my you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-face, pointed towards the sign, and shook my head. So, I’m hopeless but I figure it out eventually. Usually. Mostly.
And then, after all that, we spent about 30 odd minutes in the building. Maybe. We went for our Tudor assignment, completed it, and while initially I had thought we’d do a bit of exploring, the call of the stomach was greater. And so we left. Once you’ve figured out how to enter a building exiting is that much easier.
Nearly everyone had a hankering for some bangers and mash, that would be sausages and mashed potatoes for all you less well-versed in the language of the Brits, and so we headed for one of the millions of local pubs. We shook out our umbrellas, wiped our shoes, looked at the menu and then we left. £8.95 for some bangers and mash? I think not. So, then we walked a ridiculous 5 minutes to the next pub (really, there should be more of those in London), went for the “credit crunch” deal at the Feathers and Hats, ordered our meal from the less than friendly server and sighed with the relief that we would soon be full. Foiled again. This was not my day. Three dismal sausages hardly larger than those frozen Jimmy Dean ones, and a squiggly squirt of taters beneath were all that graced our plate. First off, this could hardly be called substantial, and secondly, no self-respecting pub would ever desecrate potatoes in such a manner. Mashed potatoes are meant to be heaped, not squirted through a pastry bag like cake frosting. Their so-called deal was a bigger lie than our excuse of a meal and we left feeling hungry. Pizza Express had proved to have over-the-top delicious dessert and we made use of its close proximity to satisfy our persistent hunger and sweet tooth.
Again, we ordered and again we waited expectantly for our food. I don’t know why I continue to get my hopes up. Robin and Genevieve were served and then the waitress walked away without a word as to where my dessert was or when I could expect its presence. Wonderful restaurant etiquette. She was destined for a large tip. A couple minutes later she came up to me and in a barely audible whisper to match her equally indistinguishable accent she informed me that my chocolate cake was out – at 3pm, before the dinner rush had even started. I refrained from ordering anything else. Bad service doesn’t warrant any of my money. I can see why the Brits don’t tip, or if they do, tip horribly. Or maybe, since they don’t tip, service is bad. Whatever the case, I’ve yet to find stellar service on this little island, which is rather unfortunate. Anyway, while I watched the others eat their desserts (which, by the way, weren’t as large or as delectable as last time. We think this may be because previously we had a male server? It’s certainly probable) we made plans for the rest of the evening. With the ever pouring rain and driving wind only indoor pursuits were considered. The movie idea was thrown out, after all, we’d just spent a ridiculous amount of money on rather mediocre food and more money didn’t need to be spent. So, where else but the obvious coffee shop for a bit of reading and what else but more food – naturally that would be the answer.
Several thousand puddles and a squished tube ride later we were back at AHA to collect a book for Robin, and then onto the corner coffee shop. I love that the rest of the group is in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and other corners of Europe while I find myself back at school and the usual coffee shop on my week off. I suppose even 5,000 miles away I’m a creature of habit. I’m directionally challenged, I like my food, and I love my books. Okay, let’s be honest, food is pretty much on par with books, let’s not kid ourselves. So, for all the exotic tales people would like to hear I’m afraid the sum of my London adventures have more to do with rain, puddles, museums, food, and books. Thrilling, I know. I hope for many more of them…
But with better food, of course :O)