Saturday, July 3, 2010

I See London, I See France...

(but I see London more)

When commuting back and forth between The Iraq and the U.S. we have myriad options for a gateway city. Most of my coworkers take the convenient route to Istanbul and then home to whichever U.S. city they happen to hail from. Or you could fly to Vienna, or Frankfurt, then home. I want to take advantage of my American Airlines frequent flier miles, so I have been flying through London. I am also madly in love with London, so the choice for me is a no-brainer.

I. Love. London.

London has so many different personalities, it's like the Sybil of major cities. You can visit it a squillion times and never have the same vacation twice. A squillion is a lot. I have, so far, only had four London vacations, but am aiming for a squillion.

My London vacations in nutshell-form:

#1 - I stayed in Soho at the ridiculously chic Soho Hotel. The lobby is fuschia, and has an enormous sculpture of a black kitty cat, so I felt right at home. I did a few of the touristy things on this vacation, like watching the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, and photographing Big Ben.

That's right. I photographed Big Ben from an angle. I'm edgy.

#2 - I stayed in the most darling neighborhood, ever: Marylebone. At the Mandeville Hotel. I found a screaming deal on Expedia, which left me with extra mone
y to spend at Browns on South Molton Street. Wouldn't you know, they were having a shoe sale?

I bought the beige ones. Beige is practical. Ask your mom. I had actually seen these before, and felt very indifferent to them, and almost didn't really like them...but when I tried them on I thought "Hey, I can walk in these! They're really comfortable!" So I walked around the Marylebone neighborhood in my new shoes, and took in the Cabbages & Frocks flea market, and a few other places on the High Street.

#3 - The Theatah! I wanted to experience the West End, and so stayed at the Waldorf Hilton in the Theatah District. Normally I go to great lengths to avoid anything associated with Paris Hilton, but I had booked it on Hotwire and they wouldn't show me the hotel name until I had already paid. Blah. I had thought I was being all location-savvy, i.e. booking a Theatah District hotel, as I planned to go to the Theatah! Instead, I bought a ticket for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" which was being performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatah, the one theatah that was not exactly a hop, skip and a jump from the hotel. More like a hop, skip, jump, several javelin throws and a 400 meter sprint. The Theatah? Stunning. The show? Weeeeeell...let's just say it closed after a brief 6-month run.

#4 - Christmastime = Harrod's. I wanted to be as close to the Christmasness as possible, and really missed the chic of the Soho Hotel, so stayed at its sister property, the Knightsbridge Hotel. They upgraded me to this room:

I could see the Harrod's sign from my window. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy. This vacation was actually post-Christmas, but Christmasey-enough that the decorations were still up, and the sales were still in effect. I put on my raincoat and new Hunter Wellie boots, and stomped through the puddles in the rain to Harrod's. I had some sushi at the sushi bar, then trotted on over to the bakery section for a cheese scone, and finally concluded my eating bonanza with some fudge from the candy counter. I then waddled over to the "up" escalator to see what I could get with my Christmas Gift Card.

It's blue, it has feathers, and it is decidedly impractical like any good Christmas gift should be. It was 799 pounds, marked down to 99 pounds. Happy Christmas to all!

Vacation #5 is coming up in a few weeks, and will revolve around the almost-painfully charming Covent Garden neighborhood. Covent Garden resembles the inside of a snow-globe, it's that cute. Case in point; a cupcake shop:

Five vacations is still a ways away from a squillion, but there's still so much to see and do. Notting Hill, the London Eye, The Tower of London, double-decker buses, Westminster Abbey, any Gordon Ramsay restaurant, V&A Museum, Kensington Gardens, Royal Ascot, Elton John's White Tie & Tiara Ball...

One of my many personalities is pretty sure we'll be invited to that last one.