This is just cool: about to go under the ocean floor.

It was amazing . . . ly anticlimactic. One moment there's countryside outside, and then there's not. The picture above is from the website that tells you where you are in your voyage, and when you think about it, that's amazing as well. There's a wireless signal throughout the train, and the train is going very fast. Yet your computational devices access the global information system. Okay, you can't stream HD, and they're sorry about that. I imagine there are actually people who get annoyed that the picture on their computer under the floor of the ocean is showing a movie in standard definition.

You have to give them an email to log on. This is the law, to prevent terrorists from using the internet nefariously. If you sign on as you're good to go - provided you accept the terms and conditions, which you might not, because you really wanted to use the internet to set up a mass murder but there's a paragraph that says that's a no-no.

LATER We survived the crushing pressure of the depths. Whew. The Eurostar left us at St. Pancras (Motto: one vowel away from being an organ!) and we walked the .8 mile to the hotel. Noise! Traffic! Old buildings! THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE! The hotel staff is well aware that we come from Minneapolis, aka, THE HOME OFFICE. (In a conversation with a desk clerk I learned that they're taught the chain's history and origins as part of their training.) Anyway it's a Radisson, so you know it's good. As we say in my part of the world.

Here's the neighborhood:



I don't think I've ever had this reaction to a city before. Some you admire; some are intriguing; some are alluring in their foreign qualities and disconcerting for the same. Some you dislike the moment your lungs take their first sample. Then there are those places that have an incomprehensible effect: it's not what you're seeing, because it's nothing spectacular. It's not the look or scent or tempo. It's something else, as if some great swirling spirit is shouting at you: WHAT DO YOU THINK, EH? MARVELOUS PLACE! CAPITAL PLACE! JUST YOU WAIT! THIS IS LONDON, LAD, AND YOU'RE HOME NOW.

Perhaps if I stayed longer and went to naff districts and had to live in a tiny expensive box I would feel differently, but these aren't the standards you bring to traveling. No, you're here to skim the cream and live off the accumulation of centuries, then skip to the next destination with the illusion of understanding tucked under your arm like a parcel from a chocolate shop. Oh, I love London! We went to Regent Street and the GAP was great, they all had English accents.

But that's not it. I think it was the visual style of the city, which explained itself quickly - and with poor examples - along the street where we trudged to get to our hotel. Coming from Paris, where an elegant uniformity pervades every main street - at least those in the Haussman style - London is (forgive me, Father, for I am about to make grand, ridiculous generalizations that will make some snort tea through their noses) a mixture of old, older, ancient, relatively old, horribly brutally modern, and attractive, confused, but confident modern. What is new here is better than what's new in Paris. Even the shite from the Sixties is interesting, either because it's so severe and makes you think you're in a Prisoner episode flashback, or because it's so squatty and horrid it's almost funny.


Note the tower - it's being reskinned, I think. The squat structure on the left has windows that look out at an angle - a different approach, but the cumulative effect is to make the front facade appear windowless - an enormous stubbly turtle's shell. Cities rarely profit from buildings that look as if they wish to protect themselves.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sorry; it's been a disorienting day. We walked to Regent Park, which was a lovely contrast to some of the Parisian places we've been.


It was originally intended for royal use, but what wasn't?

Behold the holy griffith-guarded palm:

It's known for its botanical gardens, to write the dullest thing I've never penned, but it's impressive even if you're not a flower enthusiast. Dozens of different kinds of roses with whimsical names. Waterfalls and swans:



We were staggering around in search of a restaurant, looking for that perfect Indian hole-in-the-wall or that perfect little English hole-in-the-wall, and it became apparent that such a thing was not to be had. This did not dissuade my wife, who believed one could be summoned if you looked down side streets hard enough. Eventually we found an restaurant off Carnaby, which provided the best Indian meal I have ever had in my lifetime. Delightful bubbly waitress, so happy we were there.

Didn't get those in Paris.

The restaurant had a niche I'd never seen before: Swinging Sixties Bombay. The intersection between the loosening of London and the Imperial influences. BOAC posters that showed elephants in love beads, that sort of thing. All the things that were supposed to be exotic and naughty are commonplace now, but there's an optimism to the imagery, as though the Jet Age will make it easier for all the clever folk to get around fast and do the right things. You also get a bit sad looking at it today, because the imagery would be condemned for all sorts of cultural sins.

Although I'm pretty sure the artists meant well.

Carnaby Street, by the way, was much more modest than I'd expected. Ever since I was a kid, I heard about Carnaby Street, the place of mod clothing - you know, London swings, pendulum do, Twiggy, all that. It's actually modest in dimensions. Picadilly Square was even more surprising; I expected Times Square. On the contrary. This gallery of then-and-now images says more than I could here.

We ended the night in the most British way possible - getting glassed by a yob in a pub, and off to the hospital for socialist-provided stitches! No. Went to a small theater to see "Absolutely Fabulous," which I enjoyed more than I thought. Not because I don't like the show - loved the original run, but found latter incarnations a bit strained. This was just right. Then the pub, of course. Around the corner from the hotel are two freehold pubs, not attached to any major brewery, and of course I broke my long-standing no-beer policy. Too many carbs, especially if you are inclined to have three, and I am thus inclined. Because I love beer. Well, there was nothing I'd ever tasted like a pint of IPA drawn to order. The day began in another country, in a France that had become quickly familiar - and now we were here in a place that felt instantly like home.

Short one today, but don't think this will set a pattern for the week. Tomorrow's the big one.

Tomorrow we hop on. And then we hop off.


Because the hotel is modern and concerned to the needs of the earth, you cannot turn on the lights without inserting your room key. This prevents you from leaving the lights on while you're gone, because you have to take your key. Unless the clerk gave you an extra one, without prompting, to control the lights. So let's say you want to read in bed, but your wife wishes to sleep. You can just click off the reading light on your side, right? No; there isn't one. Because the hotel is modern, the light over the bed is a 9000w flood in the ceiling, and it's not exactly directional. So you just give up figuring out the light configuration and take out the card.

Unfortunately, the card controls the bathroom lights. If you get up in the morning and wish to take a shower, you can put the card in, and turn on ALL THE LIGHTS IN THE ROOM and search for the off switches, or you can turn the switches off in advance, as you find them, hoping they've toggled to the off position, and the try the card again, and nope! Still one light on, waking up wife and daughter. So you end up showering by the phone's flashlight.

Why are you up early? Because the laundry delivery service truck docked right outside your door and its lift whined and the deliveryman knocked the containers together and generally behaved as if it wasn't 7:25, or rather it was and he was working and the rest of you can bloody well sod off. I got us moved to another floor.

Anyway: Hop on! Hop off! The bus that puts you in charge. Well, not literally; you're not licensed to drive, but you know what we mean. Just show up and pay up and off you go.

Because I planned in advance, I had tickets printed. They were in the envelope marked LONDON BUS, and were in the red ziploc envelope. Put them in the small travel . . . gawd, purse, I suppose; what else? and walked down to the bus stop. Here are my papers, my good man.

"You need another voucher," he said. "Actually you need two."

"But - but those are the tickets, with the bar code."

He shook his head. He needed the piece of paper that said I'd bought the tickets from Expedia, one for each of us. They gave the paper to Expedia as proof we'd taken the rides, and that's how Expedia paid them.

Imagine yourself on the other side of the globe, almost, needing some documents you printed off in your home weeks ago. How quickly could you lay your hands on them? I told wife and child that it was 10:32. I would be back, here, in one hour. Exactly.

Walked briskly to the hotel, which I knew took about 20 minutes. Up to the room; open the laptop, drill down to the Dropbox folder > Travel > Documents > Tickets. Put it on a flash drive; trot down to the Business Center. It's as far away from anything useful or fun as you can imagine. On the way I thought "I should've mailed that to myself in case of - ah, it'll work." Stuck the drive in the computer. Of course it was not recognized. No idea what this strange cold metal thing jammed in its side could possibly be. Back up to the room; email it to myself; head back down, print it all off, and back on the street. I arrived at the Bus Stop at 11:33.

One minute late. My reputation, in tatters.

Let me just pause. I am writing this in the room. The second room, not the first. The first had issues. We moved. You know what I'm looking at right now? The drawer with the nice kettle and tea bags. You know what's below the nice kettle? The safe. You know what the safe door is? Open. Because there's nothing in it. Because the items that would be in the safe are in the safe IN THE OLD ROOM.

Said items are:

To be con't.


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