Diane & Paul Return to the UK 2013: Days 1 & 2

We left Robbie in the hands and leash of Judy, the intrepid teen house- and dog- sitter and drove to the Akron-Canton Airport, where parking just went up $20 a week since I checked their website. But waiting and boarding were utterly uneventful, as were arriving in Chicago and getting to our second flight.

There, I was given less leg room than I have ever had in my five foot zero inch life for the 8 hour flight. All my plans to remove eye makeup and change into loose pants just disappeared, as I sat wedged in row 33, between Paul and a Londonian who was born and educated in Sierra Leone (in English and Sociology) and now works in IT for “The Home Office, sort of like your Homeland Security,” he said. He’d come back from visiting family in Ft. Wayne, IN and Fairfax, VA, with one stop in Ohio: “Defiance,” he said, not at all defiantly, but amused, like all of us who have been to Defiance.

At 9:30 am London time, they woke us up with melon and croissant. I took an Advil that headed off a migraine, and we landed around 11, as scheduled, amused our Immigration examiner who asked where we were going, and when we said, “Stoke Poges,” we learned she was from Slough, just 4 miles down the road. (Stayed tuned to day 9). We caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, then a taxi to our hotel, The Tavistock.

The Hotel was recommended by Millicent Accardi (of Wompo and LA) and Tamara Rooney (of Findlay), and we like it. “Not posh,” as Millicent said, but on the very grounds where Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s last house was before the Nazis blew it to ruins and she committed suicide. Across the way in the garden of Tavistock Square is a bust of her and a statue of Ghandi.

But we hadn’t seen it yet. We took off walking toward Byng Square, ended up in a lot of university buildings and cafes and ate in a Greek one called, I think, “Divine Goddess,” where we had great grape leaves with yogurt and olive oil and a bruschettiaon the hardest and tastiest of crostini (crostjon, really) Then we walked to Waterstone Bookstore. There I spotted a famous actor, but I’ll be damned if I know who. Sort of a blond Ben Affleck. Paul thought maybe Daniel Craig, but no. I’ll keep you posted because David Low and Robin Johnson will be interested if I can figure it out.too probably. We came upon the building where the Pre-Raphaelites first met and took a photo of Post-Raphaelite Paul there.    

Anyhow, I’ve noticed that bookstores and newspapers seem to be faring fine here. Maybe they are in all cities of 8 million, and it’s only in the hinterlands like Boston and Cleveland that they are threatened with extinction.

We walked back to the hotel for a nap, what with it being 10 am at home and 2 pm here and having had 3 hours sleep and feeling “like the wreck of the Hesperus” as we used to say.

We went out looking for food around 6 pm, tried “The Queen’s Larder,” where George III’s wife kept extra food and we could find none, though there was a charming list of great pub stuff on the wall and many happy imbibers about, “But we only serve food 11 am to 3 pm,” the bartender said, taking pity on us, waiting expectantly.

We went down the road to another pub, at the sign of a St Bernard's head. There I ordered a venison burger (of Scottish venison) and Paul ordered a vegetable pie, and we were dragged to the table of a pair of friends who work in fundraising at the nearby Children’s Hospital, a famous one which Dickens raised money for, as did Walt Disney, about whom they regaled us with stories, along with stories of the gentleman’s trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans and the woman’s stories of going to school with Angelica Houston and of her father’s restoration of Thor Ballylee. It is so great meeting strangers and hearing their stories, and we heard many more day 3, which I will tell you about when I get a good night’s sleep.

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