Thursday, October 24, 2013

From London, with love

"Do you like London?" I asked my London-born hubby.
He shrugged helplessly. He doesn't know; he's never given it any thought. It's just London: though it keeps changing, it's familiar -- for better and for worse. He doesn't think of it as a tourist destination; he comes to see family and friends. If it were up to him, he probably wouldn't set foot in a single shop. He'd just buy a few staples in the duty-free on the way out. You know -- essential stuff like Cheddar, Stilton, Cadbury's, and good Irish whiskey.

But I go ga-ga over London, and over the UK in general.

We've always stayed with family or friends; or, in recent years -- in a small place in SE London. This time, for the first time ever, we actually booked a hotel in the center of town, and went gallavanting around for hours and hours. My head was spinning. There was a constant buzz all around me: the endless stream motor vehicle and human traffic; the sounds, sights, smells -- everything was overwhelming in a wonderful sort of way. After only 24 hours in town, I felt as if I'd accomplished a lot... a lot of window-shopping and people-gazing, that's for sure. The shops are full of a huge selection of everything I always want when I'm in London and everything I always try to convince myself not to want: alluring toiletries and cosmetics at Boots, clothes at Gap, shoes at Ecco, books & notebooks at WHSmith...

The hotel we stayed at was the Danibius Regents Park, overlooking Lord's Cricket Ground (which means a lot to some people). And we knew nothing about it when we booked. Imagine my surprise when, upon going down to breakfast, I found myself surrounded by Moslems. We live in Israel, a small country surrounded by Arab countries, and you'd think I'd be accustomed to being surrounded by Moslems. Well, I'm not. Mostly it was the burka-wearing, head-to-toe covered women who stood out. As we soon realized, the hotel was a stone's throw away from London's Central Mosque , and the time was a couple of days before a major Moslem holiday -- Eid Ul Adha. And indeed, on that special day hundreds of people flocked to the Mosque.

The hotel was pleasant and comfortable, falling short of "wonderful". But, to be fair, I think its target clientelle is business people, not vacationers. Among other travellers, it caters to airline personnel. Why, if it weren't for the hotel's affiliation with BA, and the fact that we could utilize our BA "points", we wouldn't have considered staying there.

The hotel's pride and joy, it seems, is its restaurant, called Minsky's New York Deli, which I took to be homage to a NYC establishment by that name. Can any New Yorker confirm?
I didn't care much for the subdued lighting, especially at breakfast time. But in the evening, and particularly on the evening of our wedding anniversary, it seemed very apt. Even apter was the musical trio, who played Cheek to Cheek  at my request, bless them;
Time to catch a train. Additional notes and musings about London, Devon, and Lancs in my next posts.

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