Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Think You My Friend



Day one of this UK Road Trip has gone well. For probably the first time I can remember, I slept for most of the flight. Not a dreamy deep sleep or anything but generally for most of the flight I had my eyes closed. 

Finding the hotel wasn't too hard either though carrying two bags even for a short walk seemed rough. Once checked in (upgraded to a double no less) I immediately had a two hour-ish nap. Then I headed out to walk through Hyde Park on route to Oxford Street. I figured I could find a department store where I could pick up some wrapping paper and a card for Catherine and Andrew. I was soooo close to getting a condolences card but fought the urge and found something nice at John Lewis. Traveller note - most department stores have fine and clean washrooms. Just saying. Then I continued my needlessly consumerist ways and found a simple white shirt at Zara (Globalism comment here) to wear for the wedding. My theory is it will be grossly hot and a white shirt may disguise the huge damp spots better than a blue shirt. 

On my way I figured I'd need some walking-around-money so I hit a cash machine then consulted a map to find my way back to the hotel. Whilst crossing the street I realized I was heading the wrong direction and turned quickly back. That's when this burly salt-and-peppered headed stranger slapped my shoulder. When I looked at him he says, in accented English, "Sorry, guy, I think you my friend."  Just then I got the feeling I had been "marked" so I double backed to the curb, removed my jacket and tucked it under my arm. The paranoia that I was about to be pick-pocketed only worsened so I crossed the street in an erratic and unpredictable pattern until I tucked and rolled behind a waste bin - drew my revolver and quickly shot dead the sneaky looking Serb who had begun tailing me. 

Okay. That didn't happen but I felt pretty sure I hadn't been mistaken for someone's buddy and it did give a good excuse to try one of London's Barclay Bike hires - aka Boris Bikes to make a speedy getaway. I had tried to rent one on my way to Oxford Street but both kiosks failed to either accept my card or print a release code to unlock a bike. Third time lucky I guess. Even having a code it took me a couple of bikes before I could find one that had a working base station that would unlock a bike. 

It was quite a thrill to finally get on a bike in London and … stop and correct the seat height (two more times). I rode as leisurely as I could down Bayswater along the North edge of Hyde Park. It was also very satisfying as I was just getting plain annoyed by the rate of walking as so many people on bikes went by. Also - it gave me an excuse to talk to a rather fetching female cyclist when I was getting near my hotel but had no idea where the next bike hire station was so I could drop the thing off. She told me to follow her and she would point out where the next one was. Black Lion Gate I think was the location. She rode on like a ship passing in the night/bike passing on the tarmac. These are the stories you find on your way through a foreign city (or insert some Graham Greene-esque quote here as you wish). 

In another spy novel twist - the hotel's fire alarm just sounded - 1am by the way.  I immediately jumped up; put on a shirt and pants and grabbed my wallet, two phones and passport and walked to the front desk. Fortunately there was no emergency and myself and many other pajama'd patrons went back to our rooms. 

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