Christmas in London (Trip Day One)

We left Miami Christmas Eve, 20 minutes early because everyone was checked in and on board. We waited in Club America after breezing through security ZERO people in line. Club America really sucks but it’s where Virgin Atlantic sends you in Miami, since they only offer one flight per day.

There were 113 on board including all passengers and crew — this on a stretch A340. Lots of room on VS006. We taxied down for takeoff and there were over a dozen emergency vehicles lining the runway along 836 lights flashing — not sure what that was about. The flight was uneventful — the best kind. Food was decent for airline food. We were talking to the flight attendant and it turns out she was the same one we had on our last trip, though we didn’t remember each other, we were on the same flight.

Didn’t sleep (what’s new?) and watched Pirate Radio akaBoat That Rocked. You will remember from a previous post we met one of the guys this film was based on. It’s a fictionalized account but based on a true story about Radio Caroline. See previous post for details. This movie was absolutely awesome. I was sure I’d fall asleep, but it was so good.  I recommend this film to everyone. The soundtrack rocks too.

We arrived Christmas morning (nearly an hour early) — we had FastTrack to speed through customs, but it was pointless as there were three agents and ZERO people in line. Our luggage came off almost as soon as we got to the carousel. We exited baggage claim and we went to the Virgin service desk and our driver was waiting. As there is no public transport on Christmas in the UK, we used frequent flier miles to hire a car and driver to take us to the hotel. Owing to deserted roads it was a quick trip. We landed a little before 9 and were at the hotel before 10am. That’s got to be a world record.

Our rooms were ready, another shocker, so we checked in. My heat was broken (dear lord was it cold in my room). Unlike last time, my room was a proper size and all was well. I unpacked, and posted a Happy Christmas on Facebook and my message board. I should have been tired and jet lagged but wasn’t and neither was Karen, so we decided to go eat. There’s a nice little café run by some Pakistanis near our hotel, and we knew they’d be open. They were and it was crowded, but we had a nice proper breakfast. We then walked towards Lord’s (24/7/365 convenience store) to get some supplies and were crushed to learn, as we passed by, Patisserie Valerie has closed its Brompton Road location.

So very, very sad. There are plenty more but this one was near the hotel. After securing provisions (water and chocolate) we returned to the hotel and unloaded. The room was still sub-zero and called for maintenance and prayed it would be taken care of. We then cruised the neighbourhood to look for restaurants that were open for dinner Christmas night. We found about a dozen within a 1/2 kilometer walking distance of our hotel: Italian, Indian, Lebanese. We decided we’d try one of the Italian ones when we got hungry. We were going to do the Dickens walk at 2pm but there was a scarcity of cabs and by the time we saw any empty ones, it was too late to make it to Trafalgar square. We then walked to Hyde Park — which was crowded as hell. We saw the Princess Diana Memorial because Karen had never seen it. We made it back to the hotel just in time to watch Her Majesty’s annual address to her people which she has done every single year of her reign on Christmas Day. Seeing it live isn’t quite the same as seeing it on YouTube. She’s a great speaker, very regal, etc. The room is warmer — still cooler than I like but liveable. I take a 30 minute nap as the jet lag hits full force. We then take another walk, exploring the back area of Gloucester Road to South Kensington Tube stations. Uneventful as should be expected. We went to the Italian row (3 restaurants on one block) and we picked one. The waitress — who we suspect was one of the owners — was less than pleasant and less than efficient, but being London, we expected the latter but not the former. The soup arrived and was fantastic, giving us great hope for the rest of the meal. My food was okay, but not what you’d expect from a homemade Italian meal. Karen’s wasn’t so good at all: lasagna and neither of us liked it. We took a short walk, came back to the hotel and are calling it a night.

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