Brrr: London, Day Seven

I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. When you read this in the US it’ll be well past New Year’s here. Five-hour time difference after all. The promised cold weather has arrived, and the temperatures are in the upper 30s already and continuing to fall with snow expected in the small hours. It should be in the 20s overnight but sunny on Saturday though still in the 30s.

We woke up and went to The Stockpot for breakfast, somewhere I first went with Maury many years ago, because we were desperate for something different. It’s chain of London eateries that’s inexpensive (for London) with decent food at least for breakfast. Nobody would call it “good” but it was different. I had eggs, bacon, and baked beans with toast. Karen had a bacon and egg sandwich. With two coffees and tip it was about £13 total.

We then walked to the National Portrait Gallery (near St Martin in The Fields) and killed some time at the Costa Coffee waiting for it to open. We went in and did the “Beatles to Bowie: 60s exposed” exhibit which had some fantastic photos, a great backing soundtrack, but all-in-all didn’t actually teach me much new. Nice time, though it only killed an hour. We looked around the gallery and found an exhibit on Twiggy which had some fantastic photos. After that, we walked to the British Museum (check a map — it’s not so close) as the temperature dropped.

We arrived and realized it was packed. Gamely, we trudged in and made it to the Rosetta Stone, one of the most famous archaeological pieces ever. If you’ve ever seen the Mona Lisa at Musée de Louvre you will know what i mean. You know it’s there, you’re quite certain in fact, only through the throng of people you can’t actually see it. I’ve seen it before, so I stood back and let Karen work her way in to see it. From there we went to see the Parthenon and then the Portland Vase before going off to see the mummies, including Cleopatra. (She would have said “hi” if she were alive.) We wanted to get to the Samurai exhibit, but due to issues with Karen’s knee and the lift, we couldn’t get to the fifth floor. Instead we went to the money exhibit on the third before finally leaving.

We took the tube to Knightsbridge so Karen could stop at Burberry. We then took a quick stop at the Harrod’s writing department — way too crowded for me. I was just a bystander at these two stops before we walked back to our hotel, eschewing the overcrowded tube. Once again, the tube is free from 1130pm to 430am this year.

I came back, checked email and had a call from Rules trying to confirm our dinner reservation, which I called and did. We left around 445 for Little Italy (Frith Street, not the chain) for our New Year’s Eve dinner. We passed the theatre on the way and collected our tickets. Dinner was superb, and nobody I know has ever had a mad meal here. I had Fettuccine (homemade pasta) with Scotch Fillet Ragu. Karen had spinach gnocchi. We skipped desert and walked around as the temperature plummeted. We went into the play (Les Misérables) and it was fantastic. The first play afforded a standing ovation since we got here. In London, a standing ovation is rare unlike the states where they are handed out so often, they become meaningless. They did a special final bow and wished us happy new year before the lights went up.

As we exited, all streets were closed to traffic and the mobs were phenomenal and if anything like last year, there will be a quarter million people. The tube stops in the Westminster, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden box, are all closed as is Embankment, and all other stops along the Thames (some are open as exit only or transfer only). I wanted to walk through to Holborn but Covent Garden was impassible due to the mobs, so we walked up Charing Cross Road (to be specific, right down the middle of the street) to Tottenham Court Road.
We then backtracked one stop to Holborn and changed for our line. The tube was mobbed through Piccadilly before it opened up. We were able to sit the rest of the way. Part of our journey included a number of pissed people (some locals trying to get to a party before 11 — good luck and some Slovenians) who we chatted with. Very nice camaraderie and such. It’s 1136pm here, and I’m ending this post here so we can go have our own celebration.

Happy New Year! (and good riddance to 2009)

ADD-ON 826AM BST: We had our little celebration with lemonade, scones, and clotted cream to ring in the new year. Following we watched the news reports of various celebrations around the world on Sky and BBC1. Here’s a report on London’s New Year’s Eve

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