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david and carol

Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 1
Europe 1999
London, Paris, Venice, Florence


David and Carol




Day 12


Early risers today, we enjoyed another "perfectly typical" English breakfast (see Monday) and then set out once again for Covent Gardens.
A few shops were open already, and the stalls in the Covent Garden Market were being prepared for the day. We discovered the unbelievably fragrant "Lush," which we both fell in love with - handmade soaps, masks, facial treatments, foot lotions, everything with which to pamper one's self. The marketing was amazing - the theme was "food," and there were large colorful loaves and wheels of many different kinds of soaps, some with banana scents, some with seaweed - a veritable smorgasbord for the senses. Lush's three floors were set up with wonderful samples and eye-catching signs, and some of their products were displayed in salad bar types of arrangements, with silver bowls of masks and cremes set upon large bins of ice. Masterful marketing. Many products did smell edible. Tried a few samples and bought some banana soap and some bath bombs and a container of a facial mask.
Exploring the Market, I found a cigar store that would ship Cuban cigars to me by removing the Cuban bands, mailing them separately, and replacing them on the cigars with Nicaraguan bands. Tempting…
Went into a shop containing complex animated wooden and paper "models." Strolled among the many stalls, and wished we had more time to spend here. This was to be the last day of our magnificent journey, our last full day in London and Europe. Sigh… Already the depression was setting in with a vengeance.
It was an unusually gorgeous, sunny, warm day (no Florentine black leather jackets today,) and we decided to take the Tube to Kensingston. We got off the Tube and rested beneath some ancient shade trees near an old stone church, then began to climb up towards Notting Hill.
We found a café that was opening up, and sat outside and had a coke and coffee. As we sat there people-watching, our favorite pastime, a woman came by carrying a basket and tripped and went flying, face first, seemingly in slow motion, to the pavement. I rushed over to help her up, and she was alright, although very much embarrassed. Fortunately she had no cuts or wounds, only slightly damaged pride. She thanked me and continued on her way. Carol had been stumbling the whole trip, and just that day had counted four near-falls, and had taken to hanging securely onto my arm. We had seen an older woman in Firenze take a similar fall, and she had bruises on her face.
We (carefully) walked up to Bayswater Road and went east to the Kensington Park Gardens, strolled leisurely amongst the tall old shady oak trees, watched the people playing with their dogs (no goddam leash laws in Europe it seems,) saw lovers embracing on the grass in the sun, and slowly made our way to adjacent Hyde Park, with its serene Serpentine Lake and grassy knolls.
We sat in the shade by the lake and watched the world go slowly by. A group near us was toasting plastic glasses of white wine. People were paddle-boating out on the calm lake. It was very serene, peaceful, pastoral, and beautiful, and we just sat on the cool grass, soaking it all in, for about half an hour.
Then we walked to Speaker's Corner, at the northeast corner of Hyde Park where, on Sundays, all are welcome to get up on soapboxes and speak their minds and suffer the reactions of the crowds. On the way, however, I stopped at a public W.C. where I saw yet another poster warning of the dangers of suspicious packages and offering suggestions of actions to take if such a "package" is discovered. I thought a clever anti-bombing slogan would be "Bombs Away…"
We took the pedestrian walkway under Bayswater Road, where I snapped a photo of a sign saying "Beware of Pickpockets," and we laughed, remembering our episode in Paris.
Entering onto busy, bustling Oxford Street, we saw that we were close to Selfridges, so we went into the food court there and immediately knew that we were in Culinary Heaven. The entire section was enormous and dotted with wine sections, beer sections, ale sections, cheese sections, olive sections, herring sections, meat sections, seafood sections, each section having more selections than the eye could behold. We sampled as much as we could, and ended up buying fresh bread, English Stilton cheese, a Welsh mustard and fennel cheese, different kinds of olives, herrings and a bottle of Beaujolais wine which a wonderfully delightful gentleman offered to chill and uncork for us. We were going to have our picnic after all!
Hauling our picnic tidbits out of vast Selfridges (it is hard to decide which we liked more - Harrod's or Selfridges - Selfridges seemed just a notch below Harrod's in its class and clientele,) we strolled to a nearby park. We walked around the entire block of the park, but each gate was locked, so we walked a few blocks across Oxford Street to a nice shady park near the American Embassy. Near us was a statue of Franklin Roosevelt and we had the company of dozens of pigeons and quite a few people, some obviously workers on their lunch break. Had a marvelously relaxing hour-long picnic, and Carol was happy. We fed the pigeons, even though it is not encouraged, and in short, totally enjoyed ourselves under a large shady oak tree.
Apres-picnic we walked back over to Oxford Street and took the Bond Street Tube Central Line to Holston, where we switched to the Picadilly Line Tube to Russell Square. We bought boxes of Scottish shortbread cookies to take home, then walked the few last blocks to the Hotel Bloomsbury, where we rested for a while.
The last day of our Magnificent Journey - Europe 1999 was winding down and we were quite sad, reflecting on the magic days we had enjoyed. After resting we dressed and went out say our farewells to the wonderful, historical, beautifully majestic city that is London. Is it still my favorite city on the planet? Perhaps, but Paris is a close second…
Had one last pint of ale at our neighboring Swan, and traded email addresses with Darshana, the sweet young South African barmaid. Wished her well in her endeavors, then walked around the corner to another quaint and oh-so-English pub called "Friend At Hand" - the sign above the entrance was a picture of a man trapped in the snow being rescued by a faithful St. Bernard. Here we had our last Guinness and joked with Chris, the young bartender, who took a fashion to two young ladies sitting near us. Carol acted as the "yenta," and made introductions. It turns out that poor young Chris has recently broken up with his "bird," and was "sniffing about." We took pictures of Chris, and he took one of us, then we said our cheerios and walked back towards the hotel.
Stopped at the Indian restaurant Chambeli (146 Southampton Row,) where we had an excellent spicy dinner ($52 U.S.) of very generous portions too large for us to finish. After the delicious dinner, we walked the remaining block back to the hotel and fell into our soft, short, cozy bed. A loud thunderstorm in the middle of the night was refreshing, and I could hear the echoes of the thunder reverberating off ancient English walls throughout the sleeping city.

Previous Day

Next Day

Day 1 London/Paris | Day 2 Paris | Day 3 Paris

Days 4 and 5 Paris/Venice | Day 6 Venice/Florence

Day 7 Florence | Day 8 Florence | Day 9 Florence

Day 10 London | Day 11 London | Day 12 London

Day 13 Home | Reflections

 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved

 email david@davidandcarol.com