First let me say I know I haven't been writing to you as often as I should have been. I've thought about you and have found myself saying 'Self, you really should send out a postcard'. To which I'd reply 'But self, I'm really not doing anything exciting. I've got nothing worth writing about. You know as well as I do, I've been staying in and catching up on work'. Then curtly I would add (much too curtly, might I add), 'Please don't pull that one on me. Even if you haven't been out and about very much, you've still had things going on. You know darn well there are things you could write about. You're just using the lack of Internet access as an excuse to take a vacation'. 'But I am on vacation'. 'Don't you start with me Young Lady!'.
So with two of my personalities dueling with themselves, I'd better step in and let you know what has been really going on. On Day 10 I checked out of the Park Lane Hilton. Before I left the hotel I had coffee with a real live English Baron. The 16th or 17th Baron of something or other. I had a hard time following the history line and there are English words that I just can't hear properly they seem to throw in extra vowels. I usually have to ask them to spell something so I can know what they are talking about. I didn't want to be rude and say let me write this all down; so what number are you and exactly what is your title, and how do you spell that. So I just nodded. (I'm being far to honest with all of you.) Anyway, it was fun, he regaled me with stories of the benefits and disadvantages of having a title.
At one point when I told him I'd had to extend my trip because of my airline ticket. (Oh by the way I had trouble with my airline reservation and have had to extend my trip for two days.) He asked me if there was anything I needed and I said I had one night that was open and I needed a place to stay. Could he perhaps get me a room at the palace, because I heard they had extra rooms. His eyes immediately lite up and he said just a minute and picked up his phone and proceeded to call the palace! Come to find out later he has a friend who works there and was asking about the possibility of taking me on a private tour. He let me know that it was contingent on many factors like who was currently in residence and security clearings, which had become very tight. His friend said he would have to get back to him.
Oh the joys of having connections. I had someone call the palace for me. I'll probably be having tea with the Queen soon and she'll of course fall in love with me and invite me to move in to one of the vacant apartments at the palace, probably Prince Charles' old digs, since he has moved out with Camilla and the rooms are just sitting their vacant gathering dust. (Heavy sigh) I'll have to let her know just how kind her offer is and of course I would love to stay. She'll understand I have a job and life in California and will be happy to let me use the private jet to commute back and forth, anytime I want. Oh and of course she will let me have all the guests I want to come and visit, so when you are in London you are invited. Just go up to a guard and tell them to let you in, that I said it was ok.
During coffee my friend the Baron and I were talking about fashion and I complimented his suit he said it was made by on of the Royal tailors. I said I would love to meet him and so he made arrangements for us to meet. After finishing coffee he said he would walk me to my next hotel. So he, I and two porters hauling my luggage headed for the Atheneaum, which is a short walk from the Hilton. We arrived and after making sure I was being looked after he took his leave.
I was a half hour early for check in and my apartment wasn't finished being cleaned. That's right I said Apartment, I had a one bedroom apartment booked for me. I was taken to the lounge and ordered a sparkling water while I waited. When I was finished I went in and they still weren't ready for me. I was desperate to get on the internet to post my Day 9 and so they took me to the business center where I could use my wireless. Content I set about working.
Just as an aside they are doing major renovations to the Athenaeum. The entire 1st floor, reception, restaurants etc are being redone. They should be reopening everything sometime in May. The construction never seemed to have little effect on their day to day operations and none on their service.
My apartment was ready and they took me to Apartment 4. Upon entering my first impression was oh how cute. Not my style a little modern but really cute. As I began to explore wandering from room to room I just felt happy. Something about the colors and scheme made me really happy. All I could think of was I wanted to throw a dinner party. It had the cutest little kitchenette with these fabulous tiles and I wanted to cook. Some of my favorite things were the kitchen tile, the entire bathroom, special emphasis on the sink which is a work of art and the chrome valet in the bedroom. The entire apartment is filled with fun and whimsy.
But I had to work so I plugged in the internet cable to my computer and tried to get comfortable. But the cable was to short and there wasn't anything in the bedroom. I prefer to write in bed propped up by lots of cushions. I tried to pull my laptop and cable over to the couch but the cable was pulled so tight I kept struggling with my laptop being pulled of my lap and onto the floor. I finally gave up and decided to head to a Marks & Spencer and get some food, so I could cook in my cute little kitchen.
I had a yummy dinner and tried to work again, finally I got frustrated and called reception. They said they could have the IT department call me in the morning and see what they could do for me. It was late so I went to bed. Oh by the way when I came back from my outing at Marks & Spencer I came into my apartment and there was classical music playing and a light, I hadn't left on, flowing in from the bedroom. It took me a minute to realize that the maid had been in for the turn down service. It was very nice and welcoming, coming home to music and a freshened room.
One thing I forgot to mention is that I kept playing around with the thermostat trying to get it warmer, figuring it was cold outside and might take a while to warm up. It never did so I put on a sweater and in the middle of the night I pulled on another blanket.
It's St Patricks Day today and I've got no plans. I am meeting with some people from the hotel for cocktails and nibbles at 5:30. The rest of the day I am planning on working. The It department called me and sent up a longer lead so I could take my laptop wherever I wanted. It works great as long as I don't get tangled in the mass of cord at my feet.
The kitchenette had this fancy looking espresso machine and so I attempted to make myself a cup of coffee. I couldn't figure out how to work the thing. At first it was cold and then after I tried to steam the milk I couldn't get the coffee to come out again. I gave up and headed to Starbucks.
When I came back the maid was in the room, I really wanted to take a shower so I figured I'd shower after she left. At which point I ended up spilling coffee down the front of me. The maid was cleaning in the bedroom so I stripped in the kitchen, put my shirt in the sink to soak and was pulling back on my sweater as she came into the kitchen. She apologized surprised to have someone dressing in the kitchen. I took the opportunity to ask about the heat. She showed me the thermostat and I told her I'd already tried turning it up, so she said she'd call maintenance. I grabbed my laptop and headed for what I've labeled as my creativity alcove.
Maintenance came and spent the rest of the day trying to fix the problem with the heating. I got hungry but the maintenance man had set up his ladder in the kitchen, so I couldn't reach my Marks & Spencer goodies. He'd pulled down the ceiling and the fridge was blocked. A few hours later reception called and said that the problem with the heating couldn't be solved with me occupying the room and so they apologized but would have to move me to another apartment.
I was sad to leave my happy Apartment 4, I really liked it. They said they could move me at 5 pm and would help me pack if I needed it. At 4:30 the maintenance man said there was nothing he could do and I told him that they were moving me he said he knew but had hoped he could fix it so I wouldn't have to move. He then packed up his tools and mercifully left me. I appreciated his help but I still hadn't been able to shower with people in my room all day. I jumped into the shower and was barley dressed and packed when reception called and said they were ready to move me and could they send someone up. I said yes and hurried to try and towel dry my hair.
I was moved into my new Apartment 3 directly across the hall from 4. I walked in and it was smaller than 4. The decor was completely different and I immediately decided I didn't like it. I wanted to be back in my happy Apartment 4. With little time to sulk I tried to dry and do my hair the best I could. I had a 5:30 appointment and was running out of time. I didn't have time to fix my hair or do makeup. I pulled on what I thought was a clean top and ran a brush through my hair, then headed off for my appointment.
When I arrived I of course was under dressed and would have blamed it on improper American manners except everyone else was an American so they wouldn't have believed me. We all went up to the Penthouse Suite which during the Athenaeums construction had been turned into an Executive Lounge. It had a fabulous view we could see lots of London's attractions. Tidbit - It turns out that Margaret Thatcher had lived in this penthouse for several months while she was having her home renovated. It was a fun outing and everyone was nice. The champagne flowed and nibbles gave us a taste of what the kitchen had to offer.
At one point I looked down at myself and saw an old spill on what I thought was a clean cardigan. I was just a mess. But at least I was on time.
One of the women was staying in an apartment here as well and so after many glasses of Champagne, we all had a tour of her flat. Again it was completely different from either of mine, the management had put a lot of effort into appealing to a wide variety of tastes when they decorated their apartments. When I got back to my Apartment 3 I was met with classical music and my bed turned down.
The lights were low and as I took a second look at the apartment, I decided it really was lovely, just different from the first. I didn't go out for any St. Patrick's Day festivities. Instead tired and Champagne hazy I went to bed. A few times in the night I was woken by drunken revelers and remember thinking did someone put a wooley sock on my tongue, as I longed for a glass of water but wouldn't get up to find one.
My last day at the Athenaeum and I haven't really been out exploring London in a couple of days.
I was tempted to stay in again but there was this bloody awful racket going on in the streets and I decided to investigate. It seemed there was another protest happening, and people were parading down Piccadilly. I haven't been in London two weeks and this is the 4th parade/protest I've seen. These people were against the war and there were a lot of Bush bashers and anti-Americans trodding along the route. I walked alongside deciding not to open my mouth because if I didn't speak they wouldn't know I was a hated American.
I ended up in my old stomping ground from Dukes Hotel and found Jermyn Street. I'd had enough protesting so I decided I should shop. I walked until Jermyn stopped and headed back to pick up a few more souvenirs at Fortnum & Masons. I passed a church on Jermyn, St. James Episcopal I believe, I heard music so I went inside and there was an orchestra rehearsing for a concert that night. People were going in and sitting quietly observing the rehearsal. I tiptoed in and listened in for a while. They were an amateur orchestra and very good. I decided to come back in the evening for the concert. After a peaceful respite in the quiet of the church and basking amongst swirls of the music, I left and went to gather a few more souvenirs.
I then headed back to my apartment and ended up making telephone calls all night so I didn't get back to hear the orchestra's concert.