Wednesday, August 02, 2006


This is from my Tuesday, July 25th Moleskine entry:

"I was beginning to despair of ever being able to successfully flush an English toilet. From the time we arrived on Saturday morning until late Monday afternoon (yesterday), I could not flush any toilet, no matter where we were in London. Not at the hotel (although the hotel manager and Tomcat had no problem with it), not at the Tower, nor at any pub or restaurant.

"Finally yesterday afternoon I had my first success, due to my powers of deductive reasoning. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't applying enough force to the handle, so I ...

"No. That's not true. What happened was that in a pique of frustration, I used both hands to slam that handle down, and to my elation, that sucker flushed! I couldn't believe it. Brute force was the key, and no one had told me.

"Yessss! I shouted, and came out of the loo a champion at last."

I didn't have that problem when we were there three years ago. How stwange...

London was hot and humid until the last day, when the temp came down from the mid-90s to the mid-70s. July was the hottest month on record for them. They're having a serious drought, too. This just breaks my heart: the BBC said they are losing their oldest trees, and the Parks Service expects the London landscape to be substantially, and permanently, changed. Watering with hoses is banned, so if you want to water anything, you have to carry your watering can out to it. Obvy, there's no way the trees can be saved.

Another thing that was different this trip - seeing London policemen walking around with machine guns. I kid you not. Machine guns, and the police patrolled in pairs wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets. In that heat! Plus, Parliament is surrounded by ugly black barricades. You can't get near it. Ditto No. 10. It's all fenced off and heavily guarded - again, machine guns.

We got to the hotel and found that (1) the lift was broken, and (2) none of the rooms was air-conditioned. This, after having walked at least a mile from the "nearby" Tube station, arriving drenched in sweat and near collapse. Thank god we traveled light, with only carry-on luggage. Tomcat had called the hotel in advance to be sure they had air-conditioned rooms, and they said yes. Here's what happened: there are two Thistle Hotels in Bloomsbury - the Thistle Bloomsbury Park Hotel on Southhampton Row, and the Thistle Bloomsbury Hotel on Bloomsbury Way. I had made the reservations at the un-air-conditioned one, and Tomcat had called the other one. Yes, they let us switch, although we had to upgrade in order to get the A/C. Gawd!

They had power outages here and there - at some of the Tube stations, and a 48-hour one on the West End. Of course, the attractions and the pubs, restaurants, shops, Tube, buses, and cabs are not air-conditioned. Even though there's the drought, signs telling you to drink lots of water were everywhere. We heard many more ambulance sirens this time, and we assume the bulk of those were for heatstroke victims.

By Friday, my arthritis decided not to respond to pain meds anymore, so like last time, I missed out on some of the sights. (Last time, it was swollen legs.) I just wore my bod out walking so much, and we had to start taking cabs. Add that to the hotel room upgrade, and it got a little expensive. Oh, not to mention that this time, you had to pay almost two dollars for every Pound.

If you ask Tomcat how our trip was, he says, "Great!" because that's Tomcat - an optimist. Me? Not so much. I say our trip was "Pretty good, mostly. Considering." :)

He's uploaded the pics we took, and I'll start going through them to see what's blogworthy. I promise to be more focused on the good parts of the trip!