<— Day 3
Day 4 was a designated laundry day. On a two-week trip like this with multiple hotels, laundry days have to be carefully staged. One needs enough time in a hotel to wash the laundry in the sink and allow it to hang dry. After everything that needed washing was hung, I gathered myself for the day and walked over to my sister’s house. We hung out, laughed and listened to the radio while chatting about this and that. One topic of discussion was an article I read in the Financial Times that morning about how Londoners are getting priced out of the city. My brother-in-law explained how on the block they live on, several foreign families have come in over the years and just bought up the houses around them. I noted the concern he had around how many foreigners and are moving to the UK and having multiple children. My brother-in-law foresees a day in the next 20 years where the Prime Minister would not be Christian.
I showed my sister the pictures from the Rijksmuseum from the day before and she thought it would be a good idea to go to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and see a painting of Madam de Pompadour. So we called up my cousin and made arrangements to meet later on that day.
It took 3 trains to get from my sister’s house into London. Despite my knee, I decided to take the stairs rather than the escalator to get out to the surface. Stairs, I do them.
My sister and I had quite a bit of time to kill, so went on a bit of a walk about. We walked by Big Ben and took pictures along the Thames by Queen Boadicea’s statue. We stopped at a coffee house and had a quick snack along with some tea.
Further down the road we came across 10 Downing Street, home of the Prime Minister. I remember going by there as a small boy with my grandmother. I distinctly remember the police stationed on the street entering Downing street. Now there are iron gates and barricades to prevent entry. It reminded me of the first time I saw the street in front of the White House blocked off and concrete k rails. The world has changed since the early 70s. It’s now a much more safe place for the powerful.
We met my cousin at the appointed hour and for the third time, the three of us journeyed into the National Gallery. Much like the day before at the Rijks, we quickly found our way to the exquisitely painting of Reinette Poisson, Madame de Pompadour. It was a beautifully detailed peace that represented all her remarkable skills. Unlike the Rijksmuseum, the National Gallery has a no photography policy. Guards are posted in each room to prevent picture-taking. Before our arrival, someone had touched the painting next to Madam de Pompadour and security was all over closely investigating the incident and inspecting that work. I watched the guards and I waited while walking the room patiently for the moment that was clearly coming any moment now. The guards completed their investigation, in unison, they turned their back on Madam de Pompadour. I was ready to steal a half dozen picture on my iPhone. I felt so scofflaw Jack Bauer.
From the museum, we walked back to Covent Garden. When my cousin was a teenager, he walked so very quickly down the streets of London that it was hard to keep up with him. Now he is older and slower and needs to take a break every once in a while. It’s so very strange to see a life cohort slowed by age and infirmity. Now writing this, I think back to seeing my father in New York just 3 days earlier and how he too needed to sit down and take the occasional breather. This life is getting real people. My chief people are old. Maybe that’s why I climb the stairs when an escalator is nearby.
When we arrived at Covent Garden, we found a little outdoor restaurant. We ordered pizza and caught up. At one point, after the food arrived, I opened FourSquare, my major social media vice. I checked in the place we were eating and then my jaw dropped when I realized that on the list of places immediately near by, was New York’s own Shake Shack!
I passed on the pizza and excused myself from relatives to find the Shake Shack. I queued up ahead of an English investment banker who was wearing a New York Marathon shirt. He had run the race two years earlier when he was on assignment in New York. Both of us were wearing knee braces due to running injuries, so we had a great chat while waiting to place our order. When I got to the front I ordered a ‘shroom burger, a hamburger not served with mushrooms, but made from a huge Portobello mushroom. And I ordered a chocolate shake as well.
I took my order back to my sister and cousin who were still working on the pizza. I had a slice, but there was a lot left. I asked the waiter if we could get a to go box and he said in an interesting way that would not be possible. My instincts told me to play this one carefully as I knew I was being lied to. I turned my head to the side a little bit, maintained a steady tone and inquired why they didn’t have to go boxes. He explained that it was not their policy to let people take food home. I smiled and went along with his story, deciding not to push and I thanked him. About a minute later the waiter came out with a box for us. He explained that he was not supposed to do this, but because I was nice about it, they could make an exception. My sister figured that most people would have made a fuss. Had I done so, he never would have made the extra effort to get us a non-existent box.
The pizza went home with my cousin. We walked to the nearest bus station and we hugged and said our good-byes. Then my sister and I made our way back to the Tube and three trains later we were home. Cups of tea followed and then my brother-in-law dropped me off at my hotel.
My room was clean and the laundry mostly dry. I had seen two of the relatives most beloved by my mother and closest to me on that side of the family. I crawled into bed and turned out the lights. Thus ended my last day on this trip without any work colleagues. The next day was Monday and it would be time to go to work.
|Friends/Family Visited||6 + 1 statue|