"Stranded" in London not all that bad...Jim's deals of the day
LONDON - It's not so bad. Yet.
I'm quite lucky to be stranded (temporarily located) in such a great city. I'd love to get home and help put out the Star's Travel section, but there are other folks who can pick up the slack. And I have great neighbours to look after the house. So all's fine. Still, nobody who's supposed to finish a vacation on a certain day, or not many of us, wants to be forced to extend their stay.
I've got a great room at a nice hotel called the City Inn Westminster. It's in the Pimlico area; a fairly quiet
spot maybe five minutes walk from the Houses of Parliament. Nice folks here and a good set up, with a Mac computer in the bedroom and another in the living room area, plus free CD's and DVD's and free wi-fi and a comfortable bed. There's no clock radio, which is common anywhere I've travelled outside North America, so it's impossible to know what time it is without turning on a light and checking your watch. Bizarre. On the other hand, once you wake up there's a great breakfast.
Others, of course, aren't so fortunate. People have babies or loved ones at home. People are missing valuable work. One guy I spoke with today at Canada House (see photo of one fellow looking for help there today) was supposed to help perform surgery in India on people with cleft lips and palettes. It's possible nobody was able to fill in for him, which means someone in India might be continuing to suffer.
It's frustrating, one woman told me. "I'd try to get a train to Paris but maybe by the time I got there the ash would be flying over France and not at Heathrow. So I think I'll just stay here."
One guy who walked into Canada House, a lovely building next to Trafalgar Square, started talking loudly about his relatives having lived in Canada for 400 years. "I've been paying taxes 78 years," he said. As he walked toward the metal detector he joked, "Hey, where I do
put my gun? Ha, ha."
Not funny, pal. Especially not these days, and not in London. He's lucky he's Canadian; I bet the
Americans wouldn't have laughed it off.
There were reports late Tuesday about air restrictions being lifted in the UK. I'll believe it when I see it. And fly it.
I attended a Visit Britain function Tuesday night at the fashionable Rubens Hotel, not far from Buckingham Palace. They felt obliged to hold a dinner to thank media and tourism operators from such far-flung places as Brazil, Mexico, China and Japan, as many officials from those countries attended a Scotland Expo tourism event last week in Glasgow and ended up getting stuck in the U.K.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive for Visit Britain, told me the European delegates to the event got home fine.
"The Norwegians, I'm told, had a Shell oil supply vessel take them from Aberdeen. The Hungarians got buses from Luton Airport."
Dawe said the delay in getting folks home had some advantages.
"The Koreans and Japanese went to the Cotswolds and Stratford, and they really loved it."
Dawe, echoing the thoughts of a woman I spoke with outside Canada House on Tuesday, said some folks undoubtedly will think about taking trains in the future instead of trains. But I don't know; we all respond with a knee-jerk reaction to high-profile incidents, but inevitably move to our old habits. Some folks might opt for trains from London to Glasgow or Paris instead of the train, but for those of us in North America intent on visiting Europe there's no "chunnel" to get from St. John's to Southampton, so air service will have to suffice.
Anyway, if you have to be "stranded" anywhere in the world this is a pretty fine place for it to happen. London has so many great attractions and so many small pleasures: the look of a great pub, a small park near Bond St., a wonderful deli, the plays of the west end, the free museums. It's all a bit much at times.
I remember being here a year and-a-bit ago, after a major snowstorm. It was quiet and wonderful. It's kinda quiet this time, too, but for a different reason. I enjoyed taking a photo of a snowman in front of the Houses of Parliament when I was here in the winter of 2009, and I couldn't resist taking a similar shot in the lovely spring-time weather today.
Quite the contrast, isn't it? A year ago, things were grey and cold but quite pretty. 14 months later there are daffodils in bloom and buds on the trees and people wearing shirt sleeves - or no shirt at all - as they lie on the grass.
The first time I came here was 1979. It was a warm, sunny day and I remember seeing women in Green Park lying in their pants and a bra, seeking a little sun on their chests. I thought that wasn't bad, actually. I didn't see anything like that today, but it was nice to see folks enjoying themselves at Trafalgar Square, sitting in the sun and soaking up the rays. Similarly, they were playing soccer/football in front of Houses of Parliament today and lying on the grass and necking. Nice.
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