Sunday. It took my almost an hour to write up my last post, which I foolishly did while connected to the WiFi at 4.50 pounds an hour. That's about $8.10 on my credit card. An expensive lesson; it turns out there's an Internet Caffe (the E is silent, "Internet Caff" is how they pronounce it) around the corner from the Belgrove where you can use their computers, or plug in your own, for 1 pound an hour. And even though I'm composing this on the clock again, I don't feel nearly so stupid. Besides, library_lynn has gone to sleep and there's no lobby in the hotel or other room that I can sit in. So it's worth it to me just to have a place to hang out. Besides, I'm checking my e-mail in the other window, and checking my facts. So here we go.
library_lynn is, of course, interested in books. (Aren't we all.) After she checked out what she could see at the British Library -- which is more of a museum than a regular public library, and she didn't present her credentials to get logged in to the Reading Rooms. It didn't take her long to exhaust the possiblities open to her on a Sunday. She wanted to check out the bookshops in Charing Cross Road, as she'd heard there were many interesting new and used bookstores there.
We went back to take the Underground, got a pack of 1-way zone-1 tickets, and went to Charing Cross. Which, we quickly learned, is near Trafalgar Square. Okay, I had to see Trafalgar Square. Having read about it in books it was time to see it for real. She dropped me off there and went shopping.
Trafalgar Square is a concrete park. No, that's not fair. It's a beautiful plaza with fountains and memorial statues and some huge lion statues. The National Gallery faces the square, St.-Martin-in-the-Fields is at one corner, and the embassies for Canada, South Africa, and Uganda all face the square. Plus various shops and stuff. And today the steel bands played.
Stardust Mas and Pan were the first ones I noticed, as I came down the steps. One of the songs they played was the Anne Murray classic "Thinking about the things we used to do." I heard "Dancing Queen" playing during one of Stardust's breaks -- and found the rest of the story, where four more bands were set up in the square. (At any given time, you usually had two steel bands playing.) There was the Fantasia Steel Band, Ebony Steel Orchestra (which played a medley which included a number of Elvis songs including the one I quoted for my subject line, Perfidia, and Red Red Wine), Southside Harmonics Steel Band (South Side refers to south side of London; they say most of the steel bands are on the west side, so that's something that sets them apart), and, incredibly, the large Croydon Steel Orchestra. In everything I'd heard about Croydon fandom, nobody ever told me the place hosted a steel band!
I thought I'd brought a book, but I hadn't. I had my laptop (and some picture-gathering software work I wanted to puzzle out) but had difficulty concentrating. So I just wandered back and forth and eventually parked myself next to one of the fountains to listen. (It was hard to find a place to stand that stayed smoke-free.)
About five o'clock, library_lynn and I reunited, and I learned that she hadn't found a single bookstore in Charing Cross Road. She spent a happy afternoon shopping, and bought one or two things, but nary a book. We looked around for a place to eat. She'd found a street full of places to eat, and we strolled along seeing if any were non-smoking establishments that would suit. Eventually we made it down to the Embankment; it would be foolish to come this far and not look at the Thames, so we looked at it. Yup. It's a river. We opened up a tourist map the hotel had given us, and learned that "Ed's Easy diner" had four or five London locations, and they claimed to be an American diner. Well, it was a bit of cop-out; but I didn't want to eat at Subway or McDonalds or TGI Friday's or Rainforest Cafe, I can do that at home. Seeing how the Brits interpret American diner food, though, that might be interesting. The closest one's in (or rather, near) Piccadilly Circus, so we take the Tube to get there. The direct route would have been to take the Piccadilly Line, of course, but that's the line that's closed for reconstruction...
Did we mention that the tunnels in the Underground have big posters advertising "The Algebraist" in paperback?"
We went to Ed's. Hmmm. Mostly your basic average retro diner place. It took me a minute to realize the menu said "Fries" instead of "Chips" -- a nice touch, I give them points for that -- but they lost half those points by using the local spelling "Chilli." I think this is the only place I've ever seen advertise "Chilli Fries." The burgers were good. One odd note: I ordered a side order of onion rings, and they came first. Like a starter, I guess. Maybe they didn't grasp that "side order" meant "bring it along side the entree?" A minor nit to pick, of course. They have a bunch of little signs next to each other hanging from the ceiling with things you can order; the ones closest to the door as you come in say "BEERS" and "SALADS." Two nitpicks: (1) the American old-fashioned burgers and malt shops (even Johnny Rockets today) probably wouldn't feature them quite so prominently, and (2) if they did, it would say "BEER." Or "COLD BEER," probably.
Back home, Ruby's is a 1940's style diner (sort of); most of the other retro diners have a 50's theme. This place was decorated like those, but with 60's rock and roll playing... and a little 70's. Well, whatever, they're trying to brand it as an "American" style establshment. We enjoyed our dinner and that's really all we asked for.
The bill was 18 pounds, after the discount our tourist map gave us. I told library_lynn that meant it was about $32 american, whereupon she gasped; but everything's expensive, we just have to revise our budget upward. And eat more take-away food. Like those pasties -- there's another West Cornwall Pasty Co. in King's Cross station. I'll get a meat pie of some sort, or maybe some fish and chips, and we'll go to a sit down place where Lynn can order a salad and a jacket potato.
I was tired, my ankle's slowing me down. We got back to the hotel, I took a nap until about 9 pm, when library_lynn was ready to turn in... So here I am, around the corner. Tomorrow morning we take the train to Birmingham and connect to the Bournville line to get to Cadbury World. Adventure awaits.