24 May 2009

All's well that ends well

started the day in paris, ended in london.

woke up with n&b and we all got ready to head out (them to italy, me to london). we hit our bakery again...fresh, warm croissants and sandwiches for our days journeys (bakery: L'epi d'Or J.M. Leduc on 24 rue daguerre). we then ate our treats at a nearby café to enjoy the rest of our morning together.

by-and-by, a bizarre, yet typical, french woman sat down near us. elderly, totally clad in black, seriously funky cat-eye glasses, and interesting hair. i watched her drink an espresso and crunch croissant flakes all down her front, then order another espresso with a thin, sliced, heavily-buttered baguette...dunking the buttered bread in the coffee as she went about adding her to the pile of crumbs on her chest. strange.

afterward, we checked out of the hotel and bumbled to the métro station to embark on our travels. after ben bent his luggage handle in the subway turnstile...we hugged and took our tunnels in the opposite directions. i then headed up to the gare du nord to catch the eurostar (aka, the chunnel) to london. after standing around like an ass due to poor signage, i had to RUN to catch my train. on the top level of the gare du nord, through an airport check-in type area (electronic ticket reader machine, french border control, british border control, baggage security, and gate check-in lady), i finally came within sight of the tracks...with my train still on it.

there was an ancient couple in front of me afraid to step onto the steep, flat walking escalator. after the man finally shoved their bags on the conveyor belt and bravely jumped on i was left with the terrified wife still staring at the ramp. i offered her my hand and she and i rode the inclined ramp down, her jabbering in french to me the whole time.

anyway, i boarded the train (as one of the last people allowed on) and we started chugging toward the english channel. i visited the food car for the first time in my life...not as glamorous as the movies. its an empty car with a snack bar and a couple of poles and side shelves for leaning on if you happen to be crazy enough to want to eat there. so, got a drink and settled in for the 2 hour train ride.

we arrived in london, i disembarked, and headed for the Tube station area. asked for tube stop information to get to my hotel and forged ahead. i arrived at russell square and then got a bit lost. 15 minutes later i arrived at the hotel, nice and sweaty and ready to locate my mom. it was 2pm and there was mass chaos because it was the hotels check-in time.

i was told it was illegal to be given my mothers room number but that i could call the operator from the lobby and have my call transferred to her room. after one hour and no answer in her room, i asked the front desk if she ever actually checked in. thankfully they could give me this information, yes she had checked in. they tried calling her room again, no answer. i said i needed to get a note delivered that would physically go up to her room so i could better guarantee she had contact from me. they said okay, i filled out the note and waited. and called and waited. i tried so frequently i think the operator got annoyed with me.

then i started freaking out. what if she laid down for a nap and died in her sleep from a blood clot in her legs she got during the flight, what if she tried to take a shower and slipped and fell in the tub and died? all signs pointed to certain death and i became frantic for a plan. by the third hour of waiting (it was now 5pm) i spotted a woman who looked like my mom come out of the hotel and start walking away. i had set up my things in the courtyard in front of the hotel (where i said i would be in my note) and by the time i had packed up my things and ran after the woman she was nowhere to be found. shit. now i was hallucinating. i tried to calm down before i demanded a hotel staffer pound on her door and forcibly enter if need be, that, or call the police to file a missing persons report. while these new plans were formulating in my mind, my mom reappeared, i yelled "susan!" she turned and it was her! bingo!

elation at connecting across the ocean turned to anger (at the hotel) and hunger. we were also now pressed for time because we had theatre tickets at the Royal National Olivier Theater. we quickly changed, ate a shit dinner at the nearby pub, and jumped on the tube down to the waterloo stop. we walked up to the hungerford bridge and along the thames to the theatre.

we entered and rushed up the steps of the theatre to take our seats for the preview week of shakespeares "All's Well That Ends Well" (cuz you gotta see a shakespeare when in london). the play itself felt a bit long, but perhaps thats because we were sleepy. in general though, the production was nice: great costumes, lovely set, a bit of modern ambiance, and some magical style elements.

we rode the tube home and when we pushed open our hotel room door...my handwritten note, from hours before, was sitting on the carpet. good job guys. we also checked the phone...it was dead...nice. somehow the operator couldnt tell that the phone is the room was deceased? you are totally worthless. with no energy left for fighting, we fell asleep on the hotels crappy beds. *note: NEVER stay at the royal national hotel on 38-51 bedford way in london...even if its free!*

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