Arrived in good spirits. Plane trip seemed rather a breeze, not the ordeal I remembered. Enjoyed talking to my seat-mate, a law professor from Tulane (Jean…) with a passion for Shakespeare and a tidy fund of things she’s always wanted to know about Virginia.
Gatwick not at all crowed—the usual endless walk down cavernous, sloping corridors, but no lines at immigration and customs a walk-through. Emerging into baggage claim we were met with a gloriously sunny day, almost too bright to bear. Spectacular. Loaded into train for Victoria and we were off. Seems rather an in-between time florally: Wisteria fading (or maybe just coming in), May also just beginning to show, a panicle or two of laburnum dangling in a suburban back yard, and once we were swirling through London traffic, spear s of chestnut blossoms glimpsed in parks.
We managed to pile all six of us and our luggage into a cab, piloted by a gruff but twinkly cockney who wedged the last couple of bags into the boot at the back and urged us to watch them to make sure they didn’t fall out as we dove into the sea of London traffic with one purple and one red suitcase popping out like bright canvas boils. Hilarious trip; he told the girls they had brought the sun from South Carolina-- first they’d seen in six weeks. They all wanted to adopt him as their grandfather.
Hotel centrally located just off the Italian Fountains at the north edge of Kensington Gardens. We walked in and the desk was waiting for us. (Three Kandinsky’s plus two O’Keeffe’s in the lobby—including my favorite, the tiny Dark Iris. I take it as a sign of good karma). Brief delay in getting to girls’ room left us time to crowd into the lounge (only place where there is wi fi) to e-mail everyone’s parents to say we’d arrived. Hotel rooms palatially big for London. All are at the top of the building, 5th floor, but there’s a (very slow) lift to the 4th floor. Rooms have attic feel, with dormer windows looking out over the backs of many apartments towards a spire.
The empty floor space in my room is as big as some rooms I’ve stayed in. Very large, new TV sets and an acceptable ranger of channels too. Our main problem is lack of wireless. It’s a pain constantly having to drag laptops down to the lobby. Turns out my iPhone –not being the latest model—won’t/can’t do International data, even if I wanted to pay for it. Sale person should have tried to talk me into a new one. Fortunately we have one student on her dad’s corporate account, so she has unlimited international data; she’s a wiz too—has figured out how to use google maps to tell us which buses to take and where to catch them.
We made a brief foray up to Paddington (about 4 blocks away) to stock some groceries, and took a couple of hours for everyone to shower and unpack. After a bit of settling in, we got together and went to catch the Big Bus tour, which took us ALL around London for what turned out to be nearly 4 hours, By this time, lack of sleep was getting to everyone. I don’t know about the girls, but I crashed and wound up sleeping twelve hours—from 7:30 to 7:30.