London Calling
(Wednesday, April 4)

Until now, my only European experience was 13 years ago, when I went with a group of Kentucky university theater students and faculty to England. We saw more theater productions in 10 days than is probably healthy for one person, went to Stonehenge, Bath, the White Cliffs of Dover and Stratford-upon-Avon, and drank in a lot of pubs. I'm not exactly sure when or if we slept.

I'm not the girl I was at 21, certainly. For this trip to London, I was coming from the Continent, rather than the U.S., and I went at a much slower pace. But certain things hadn't changed...

I arrived on Sunday. Louise met me at Heathrow and we both cried -- I wasn't expecting to cry! I think it was one of those moments when you realize how much has happened to you in the last decade, how far you've come, how different things are, blah blah blah.

Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, but it doesn't feel very big. Extremely crowded, but not very big. We had to stand in line for quite a while to get our tube ticket, and some stoggy old gent was upset that Louise stood in the "walk" lane on the moving walkway (she's such a rebel). We got to the tube at last and three trains and more than 30 stops and lots of gabbing later, we went straight to a pub that looked like a working class family's living room. I collapsed on a couch and a guy at he bar asked if I'd like a pillow. Everyone was watching a football (soccer) game on TV. I had a Guiness and Lou had a martini (she's given up all wheat products, so no beer for her). You know, the term "dieing for a fag" has a totally different meaning in England...

Then we went to my ever-so-posh hotel, with its Imperial Chinese statues everywhere, and ooo'd and ahhh'd over the 10th floor view. We could see the Millenium wheel far in the distance if we put ourselves up against the glass and looked as far to the right as possible. We went downstairs and asked the cocierage for a recommendation for an Indian restaurant. He called a reservation in for us, and we piled into a taxi and zipped over. We walked in and the manager said, "You must be Jayne."

The restaurant was completely empty.

Probably just as well, since Lou and I were very loud, took pictures, and generally made a spectacle of ourselves. The food was like manna from heaven -- I adore Indian food, and it was so great to be eating it again at LAST. Then we called Louise's 10 year old daughter. I told her I had a picture of her mummy changing her diaper when she was a baby and she screamed. Loudly. Yes, definitely, this is the child of Louise. She asked her mother who the strange-talking woman on the phone was.

After dinner, we walked around the Docklands abit. This place is getting a major facelift -- in five to 10 years, this is going to be a really happening place. But it was Sunday night, and everything seemed to be closed. Finally, walking down by the waterfront, we found "Gauchos", an Argentine restaurant and bar. The whole place is decorated in cow hide. Yee Haw. I drank that Brazilian drink with the crushed lime and sugar (what is that called again?) that I had for the first time here in Bad Godesberg at the local Brazilian bar, and gave Louise career searching advice. HA. If that's not a scream, I don't know what is.

Believe it or not, this was a business trip. The next day was my presentation, which I think went really well. Looking at the Docklands in the daylight, it resembled Wall Street to me -- brand new high rises and business men and construction workers. It doesn't look like London, really, but I must say that the buildings look a lot nicer than the buildings constructed in the 70s and 80s there, IMO. The docklands were connected to my hotel block via a large pedestrian bridge, and it was cool to walk across the water.

I saw a great bumper sticker on a piece of construction equipment, for some English football club: "No one likes us. We don't care." I think this should be adopted by Kentucky basketball fans.

After I was a grownup, Lou and I went out to dinner and for drinks in SoHo. There are soooooo many film companies in SoHo now! It was cool passing all of the snazzy, swanky offices with film posters in them. We also walked around the theater district, and I had some major flashbacks. I wondered if I would run into myself and Carmen, 13 years earlier, dressed in artsy black and reveling in everything around us.

Navigating London is not a piece of cake. The streets are clogged with traffic, the tubes are clogged with people. Not saying it's a bad experience -- just an intense one. As long as you have an idea of where you are going, and plenty of time to get there, and you like to people watch, you're fine. If you have to take a taxi, it's a good idea to take the big, classic-looking taxis, not the independent guys. The former are driven by people with all sorts of training -- they supposedly know every street in London by memory. The latter -- well, you just don't know what you are going to get, nor what they are going to charge.

I have to admit that I like the touristy parts of London the best. Yes, now you know -- I am just not reallly that hip.

After dinner, we stopped into this really beautiful but extremely expensive Soho bar and had a drink while listening to a standup bass and piano jazz combo. We still had some time before the movie, so we stopped in a few stores. And I pulled a repeat from being there 13 years ago -- I bought these incredible, huge, bulky black shoes!! They rock!! They are Doc Martens. Every hour I'd go, "Oh, Louise, look at my shoes!" and we'd both make loud adoring noises. I think we annoyed quite a number of people.

Then we went to see "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon." One of the 14 million commercials before the movie had Emmy Lou Harris's version of "If I could only win your love" as its theme music, and I sang along really loudly, and no one threw me out of the theater or threw anything at me. The movie, by the way, was as incredible as everyone said it was. Wow!!! Such a visual feast, but with a great story as well -- why couldn't "The Phantom Menace" have been this way?

Afterwards, we said "Wow" a lot over the movie, and went back to my hotel and totally crashed. In fact, we were in bed every night before midnight -- WHIMPS!!!

Tuesday, we had a couple of hours before my flight, so we shopped a little (I bought a great purple turtle neck sweater). We took the long, long tube ride to Heathrow, had some lunch, and then it was time for the tearful goodbye (sniff).

And then I came home! I was surprised that I didn't have to walk across the disinfectint pad next to our gate, and no one asked me if I'd been in the English countryside... Riding in the cab back from the Köln airport, my driver got chatty -- I think he was excited to talk in English. He just started gabbing -- told me about this ruin of a building on the highway that I've always wondered about (and I never asked him -- he just volunteered the info) and then we got on the subject of dogs. He has a lab/Boxer/Rottweiler mix. It's a girl. I asked what her name was. He laughed alot, and it took him a while to find all of his words, but, I finally got the whole story: his kids have always gotten the "honor" of naming the dogs. They always name them after characters in TV shows. They named the first one something like Milla. ("Do you know 'Milla'"? Ummmmmmmm..... no). Then they named the second one something I can't remember. The kids are now 18 and 20, and this dog....

This dog, they named Scully.

I almost fell in the floor laughing. He said it was because the dog was too beautiful and too smart to be named anything but Scully.

My dogs were so happy to see me! I could also tell they were very stressed out. They obviously hated the Hunde Hotel, particularly Wiley. They were panting way too much and pacing. Then they both went into a hard, deep sleep. It was obvious that Wiley hadn't slept the entire time. I'm sure the manager of the Hunde Hotel took excellent care of them, but I've just got to find someone to come to the apartment and care for them the next time I go out of town. This was too hard on them, and too hard on me.

More later...

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