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25 March 2005 @ 12:37 pm
London, Day One: More like 1/2 a day, really..  
Getting through customs and retrieving our luggage took about an hour. We hurried over to take the train to Paddington Station, but it turned out that route was closed for the day. (Turns out it is a hobby of London's transportation system to close whatever path you want to take.) This was rather annoying, because it had now been at least a good thirty hours since my last shower and felt absolutely filthy, which means that all I was thinking about was hot baths and hotter showers. Carrying two heavy luggage bags on the Tube because your mother has decided she's too tired to do anything ain't no picnic, but there were no other options to get to Aunt Bonny's so off through the Underground we went.
(I spent most of the ride on the Tube feeling quite juvenile and continuously giggling at the sign proclaiming "THIS TRAIN TERMINATES AT COCKFOSTERS." Hee hee. Cock. Fosters. Cockfosters. You may commence giggling at any time.) After we arrived at the Baker Street exit (which is completely decorated in a Sherlock Holmes motif, including the walls being tiled with mosiacs of his famous profile) we walked the remaining blocks to Bonny's house in the early evening. I think it was around four-thirty? Mom took a shower andc I zombied out (I was practically a professional at this point)and daydreamed about Cadbury cream eggs, the adverts for which dotted nearly every shop window.
After Mom's shower she felt refreshed and alert, while I remained dirty and competely in a fog. Mom thought a good walk to invigorate the appetite would be an excellent way to introduce me to London, so we took off for Regent's Park. To help me remember how to get to Aunt Bonny's, I made up a silly story about "I go with the Detective (Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes worked in Doyle's fiction) to find the Phantom!" (Crawford Street, as in Micheal Crawford, who originally played the Phantom of the Opera in Webber's musical.)

Regent's Park is full of absolutely gorgeous flowers. Im sure you've all heard of the intricacy of English gardens - these ones were simply bursting with blooms. Pansies and daffodils were CRAMMED into the flower beds, providing thematic color schemes to match the gardeners' whims. Here would be a bed full of flowers in shades of lilac and violet; another ebd would be yellow daffodils and orange marigolds.
We walked from the outside of the park to Queen Mary's rose garden in the inner circle. It was a bit disappointing, because the roses had been groomed recently and naught a bud or flower remained amongst the naked thorns and snipped branches. All the varieties were labeled and it was amazing to me just how many breeds and variations on the rose exist.

Uncle Jerry was to meet us at a fish & chips restaurant called 'The Fish Place' (Creative eh?) but when we arrived there after our walk it was closed for the Easter holiday - after a little debate we agreed to wander until a restaurant that suited our fancy appeared. As we walked Bonny and Jerry pointed out local bits of interest, like the Marlybone church, a vintage resale store, Jerry's favorite pub, etc.
As we wandered down an alley filled with restaurants, waiters from the different establishments tried to lure us in. When one fellow handed us a menu with cheap prices, we decided he was the one and followed him intot he dark interior of The Bistro. (Man, these names. So creative!)
Now, when you live in California as I have, you are used to the ban on smoking in public places such as restaurants, so it was a real culture shock to walk into The Bistro and see a pair of women puffing away on Virginia Slims. It had been so long since I'd had to be in close quarters with a smoker for longer than a few seconds (Raul, I'm looking at you when I write that) that I had completely forgotten how dominating the smoke is, and how the scent gets into your hair, clothes, and lungs. Damaging or not (two women were debating that on the television that morning) it is positively nauseating when you aren't used to it.
Another culture shock was the portion size. back home, an appetizer at the Olive Garden is meal enough for me. At The Bistro, I had a claamari appetizer, fish cake main dish with salad and vegetables, and still had enough room to contemplate dessert. It tasted infinitely better than American counterparts too - definitely an instance of quality over quantity. What's more, the food was satisfying and filling, so there was little to complain about. Some of the dishes were quite creative for the price point, like Mom's duck salad with cranberry sauce salad.
When the four of us were heading home we walked along Oxford Street, and Bonny pointed out many prime shopping stops. By the time we got back to the house, I was so far gone I had barely heard a word of what she'd said. The whole of my concentration was getting to the bathroom (the lack of available toilets in London can be quite irritating.) and then into bed.