Part 3: Conclusion of London 2007
(For Part 1 – Click Here)
Wednesday July 4th: Happy Independence Day to my Yank colleagues.
Meetings are still on track. Our hosts take us out for supper at a local restaurant in Reigate on High Street.
Brasserie Chez Gérard menu draws on French influences from around the globe from Morocco, Montreal, Italy (particularly the borders that touch France!) to New Orleans utilizing spices and flavours, blending them to create a contemporary, lighter, more diverse menu.
I have no idea where the Montreal connection at Chez Gérard came from – I only noticed it on the web afterwards, oh well.
To get back to London, we take a long pleasant cab ride. The driver goes through country and secondary roads instead of the more direct highway route – I don’t ask why, as I’m too busy enjoying the journey.
We pass by Wimbledon where the famous Grand Slam Tennis tournament is underway, albeit with many rain delays – but we can’t see the stadium due to security restrictions. (Roger Federer will go on to win, beating Rafael Nadal in 5 sets).
I ask our driver if we can go by Harrods and he obliges – the famous department store takes up a whole block and is brightly lit.
We go through the Sloane shopping area of London which has a huge Burberrys as well as a full complement of Dior, Fendi, Armani, Cartier, Rolex, etc. They call the women shoppers the Sloane Rangers or Sloanies – young British aristocrats who love to buy their clothing for the “season.”
We also drive by the Thames and the beautifully illuminated Albert Bridge – “Genius!” as the Brits are fond of saying.
Shortly after that, our driver tells us we are going to pass by the restaurant of one of the most famous chefs in the UK. Before he can tell us who, I guess correctly – Gordon Ramsay – the man who put the “F-word” into cooking. Unfortunately I don’t know which of his restaurants. It was pretty small – from the outside, apparently it is new and located in the Sloane area.
Because of the rain I’ve only taken about 4 photos in London – all of them this morning.
Thursday July 5th: After work, my colleagues all want to see Mama Mia based on ABBA’s music but I would prefer to visit London since the rain has finally stopped. Had it been based on classic Hard Rock, not Swedish Pop, I might have reconsidered.
On our return to London, rather than cab it to the Radisson Mayfair Hotel from Victoria Station, we decide to go on foot. This will be my only chance to take photos – the sky is dark and overcast, the lighting is pathetic, but this is it – what a shame.
We pass Buckingham Palace and through Green Park where 3 workers clad in bright orange graciously allow me to photograph them, striking a great pose in the process.
As it turns out, only our 2 Dutch friends go to the show. The rest of us go for Italian – at Prezzo, close to the Spanish El Pirata where we had dined the first evening.
After a good meal, two colleagues retire to the Hotel, leaving two of us to enjoy the night life. We visit Piccadilly and then Trafalgar Square where they are preparing for some show – then past the Canadian House. It is a beautiful rain free evening, mild temperature, very lively, the streets are packed with both locals and tourists even though it is late at night.
The Brits are truly resilient – refusing to give in to terror. They certainly have had lots of experience – a legacy going back the merciless daily bombings of WWII followed by the random acts of IRA violence. Now this fundamentalist bullshit. My hat goes off to all the Londoners.
Friday July 6th: Back to Heathrow. Time to go home, of course now that we are leaving it is truly sunny for the first time this week.
At security, one of our colleagues is subjected to the rubber glove treatment – a strip search – the price he pays for trying to bring his umbrella on the flight – he is not a happy camper calling it one of the most humiliating moments of his life. Ok, I’m embellishing the story just a little, no cavity search.
Inside the airport I spot a tiny food concession called the Caffe Italia – very good Pizza Margarita which I bring to the Air Canada Lounge for consumption. I’ve noticed that they use the expression take away in Paris and London while North Americans tend to use take out.
Tidbit: when we ate Italian at Prezzo the staff were Polish and/or Russian. At the Irish Pub I think the waitress was Spanish, and at the French Restaurant they were probably from Croatia – but here at the Caffe (that’s how it’s spelled) the staff are real Italians. I say “grazie” and they respond correctly with “prego”.
On board our plane, we try to convince one of our colleagues that it would be quite funny if he would run around the cabin screaming. Wisely for all of us he does not agree.
The flight goes smoothly, I watch the movie Frequency (the third time I see it) and we land on time.
Good to be home again, good to take a shower with adequate pressure and a real bar of soap, not a dispenser.