|Every week I receive email from Orbitz and Travelocity and American Airlines and other offering me the low fares of the week, and every week I scan them, indulge in a few quick fantasy trips, and delete the messages.
Until the second week of January, 2003.
I'd been thinking about London for a few weeks. Thinking that I haven't been there in more than a decade. Thinking that a visit there would be very comfortable for a lone woman traveler -- they speak English, after all. Thinking about the new Globe Theatre and the new Tate Modern and Harrods and pints in a pub and . . .
In the second week of January the fare to Heathrow was $226. Could I be the kind of person who decides on the spur of the moment to fly to London?
If three days is spur of the moment, then yes. I can be that person. I booked the flight on Thrusday. On Friday a co-worker came to my desk and announced that she, too had jumped on the fare for next weekend. Geez, and I thought I was being unique and daring!
London Bridge is falling down. . .
-- wait, no, that's the Tower Bridge.
But going from vague notion to landing at Heathrow requires some research. Time would be tight, sights must be seen. Where to stay? What museums to visit? What to avoid?
My research kept turning to gardens and parks and I kept having to remind myself it was January.
Bond, James Bond -- or his car anyway, at the Museum of Science (!)
Armed with my trusty Michelin Green (my favorite guide for most places) plus a couple secondary references, I disembarked at Heathrow and headed for the Tube. I'd booked a room in South Kensington, direct from Heathrow on the Piccadilly line. The hotel -- a B&B -- was a delightfully short walk from the tube stop. I was welcomed by the proprietress, but sent away until later when my room would be ready. So off I went to explore the neighborhood, which includes, of course, Harrods.
The day also included the Victoria and Albert Museum, a long walk, and, in the evening, the Tate Modern.
Painted houses along Portobello Road
Co-worker Tina and her boyfriend Matt at Vinopolis, City of Wine.
Astor House, with the orangerie on the left.
Call Patsy, there's a room available over Odd Bins, darling (it's an Ab Fab reference sweetie).
Call boxes and monuments, the essence of London.