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Day 8

Saturday, June 26, 2004

  As beautiful as Friday was, Saturday was as ugly as the day we arrived. During the night we could hear the rain and wind and it continued right into the morning. Our flight back to London was scheduled for 8:30am and we caught a cab early. Our driver was very friendly and talkative. He seemed to like Americans. With Bush in the country he was interested in talking politics - not issues, just the subject of politics. Like Karen's Irish suitor, our cabbie reiterated the love the Irish have for JFK. To listen to them speak, you would think he was still alive. JFK was obviously a point of pride for the Irish. Our cabbie was 41, and I do not think he held JFK in reverence, having no real memory of him, but he described his mother having a picture of Kennedy next to the Pope.  
  We got to the airport in plenty of time, checked in and then waited for our flight. The flight itself was more full than our flight out, but was still comfortable and quick.  
  Arriving at London City, the weather was cloudy, a little rainy, but much warmer than Ireland. We caught the shuttle bus back to the Canning Town tube station. What I discovered on the ride back is the shuttle cost 3 pounds each. I thought Karen had paid 1 pound. This seemed ridiculously expensive, and since we had waited for the bus, seemed like we could have caught a cab right away and spent no more.  
  Things got worse. I should mention that we had our large blue luggage weighed down with stuff, as well as our computers, backpack etc. So carrying this stuff was a pain. When we got to Canning Town station, we discovered that the Jubilee Line was closed from Stratford to Canary Town. Our options were to take a shuttle bus or take the Docklands line into town and then switch to another line.  What made this discovery more painful is that we could have caught a shuttle or cab from the airport to Canary Town and jumped right on the Jubilee Line. Anyways, we took the Docklands to the Tower Gateway station. The problem with this is it meant that we would have to take 2 more Underground lines to get to the hotel. If there had been a Docklands to Monument train that day, we would have only to switch to the Central Line.  
  Getting even uglier, we discovered that Tower Gateway did not connect with the Tower Hill tube station, so we had to walk outside, into the rain and under a couple of busy streets via Pedestrian walkway to get to the Tower Hill station. Once in the station we made our way to the Circle/District line train. These were packed and we waited for the first one to go by and then positioned ourselves where the cars seemed less busy. We caught that train and took it to Monument, where I figured we would catch the Central Line. I thought the Central Line would be better because the Jubilee Line was deeper in the Bond Street station. What a mistake! To transfer from the Circle to the Central line was an unbelievably long walk, up and down stairs lugging our bags. The fact that one of us did not expire on that excursion was amazing.  
  We did arrive at our hotel before noon, somehow. Before checking out of the London Marriott Grosvenor Square on Wednesday, Karen had asked that a complete and corrected statement be run from our stay. The desk promised to have this for us when we returned on Saturday. Well when we got there, they did not have it and did not seem to know what Karen was looking for. Karen was getting a bit testy (perhaps our travails of the morning exasperating her) and we even told the desk of our experience. Further, they did not have a room for ready us. We checked our bags, and went in search of a badly needed beer!  
  The Barley Mow next door was not yet open, so we took a little walk and discovered a pub a couple of blocks away, just off of Oxford Street, a Halloween themed pub. We then returned to the hotel and they had a room ready for us. In fact, the staff apparently took pity on us, and gave us an executive room! This room was easily 50% larger than our last, had a coach, a little office area and a very nice bathroom. Karen began to unpack and I got on the laptop to check emails.  
  While sitting there, around 1 pm, the fire alarm in the hall began to beep intermittently. Given the time of day, and the on again, off again nature of the alarm, we figured the hotel was running a test. After about 10 minutes, the alarm no longer was going on and off, but remained on. Karen asked if I thought she should check to see if this was a real alarm. She stuck her head out the door and discovered a woman placing wet towels in front of each hotel room. Obviously the alarm was real! We grabbed up our computers and other necessities and headed down to the lobby. There the staff was organized guests and then led us down the street to a nearby hotel, Claridges, a very upscale hotel. As the staff confirmed, this was part of the emergency plan for the Marriott. We further learned that the source of the alarm was the freight elevator, which had a drive motor that was putting out smoke.  
  At Claridges, we decided we would check our stuff, and go on with our plans for the day, with the idea we would pick up our stuff later. We walked back past the Marriott. There were 3 fire trucks there, but already the firemen were leaving exiting the hotel and packing up their stuff. The alarm turned out not to be a serious problem.  
  Our plan was to visit Covent Garden and if time allowed visit Harrods. Since the weather was not bad, warm with on and off light rain, we decided to walk to Covent Gardens. Oxford Street was packed and though Covent Garden is not even 2 miles away, it took some time to get there. Once there, we walked around the square and through the Arcade. The two pubs which were favorites of ours, The Nag's Head and The White Lion were packed, so we went in search of an alternate and found The Essex Serpent. We then completed our search around Covent Garden and made our way to Leicester Square. On the way there, we spied the Salisbury Pub, another favorite of ours and popped in there for a quick beer. We had also stopped by Henry Bar & Café, a place we had dined at on past trips and promised ourselves to go to next time in London.  
  We then hopped on the tube and took it to Knightsbridge and Harrods. Department stores give me hives, and Harrods is no different, especially when Karen goes in search of the Diana memorial. Nonetheless, the place is impressive with the shear variety of stuff, including a pet store with kittens for sale (no we did not get one) and of course the food store. One item of note, Krispy Kreme had a shop there and at 4pm the place was packed.  
  We walked out of Harrod's and made our way across Hyde Park and back to our hotel. On the way back to the Marriott, within a couple of blocks of our hotel we discovered a truly impressive pub, The Audley. This is a landmark pub in the Mayfair area and very near Grosvenor Square. We returned there for dinner I had my last Bangers and Mash in England, delicious!  
  Back at the hotel, we packed ourselves up and ready ourselves the trip home.  

Day 9