Monday and Tuesday, December 18 & 19, 2005 — This turned into one very long day that blended into itself. I still had my packing to do, but had already planned in my mind what I was going to take, so I managed to get it done in the morning. George had already mostly completed his preparations. We decided to leave my car in the University Circle garage near the Kelvin Smith Library, so that George could put his Volvo in our garage at home. I called my colleague at the library, Nathan Lambert, and asked him to take us to the Rapid Transit stop, but when it came time to do so, he just took us out directly to the airport.
As usual these days, our flight was put on a ground hold because of air traffic in Newark. We were scheduled for departure at 3:30, but didn’t actually leave until 4:15. The schedules are padded so much these days, that we basically still got to Newark “on time.” (Whatever that is.) We had about an hour and a half layover before the flight (Continental) to London Gatwick.
We had checked in online earlier in the morning and managed to score bulkhead seats, so there was a bit more legroom than usual in economy. It was a Boeing 777, so was a wide body. We did have a single mom with an infant next to us, but the child was relatively well-behaved. The flight was about 5 1/2 hours. I never really sleep on planes, but I think I did doze a bit. We got in to Gatwick about 7:00. Baggage claim, immigration and customs were all expeditious, and we caught a Thameslink train to King’s Cross. By shortly after 9:00 AM we were at the Hotel Montana in Argyle Square, just south of King’s Cross Station, where George was greeted by name and handed the key to his favorite room (No. 7).
After putting our things down, we made our way around the corner (sort of) to our favorite pastry/coffee shop, the Patisserie deux amis, where they have excellent bread, croissants, coffee and hot chocolate.
We spent the day walking around the city: through Bloomsbury to Oxford Street (a stop at the Virgin Megastore), down Bond Street to Trafalgar Square, and lunch at the Crypt at St.-Martin-in-the-Field. It was soup (celery and watercress), a piece of bread, and apple crumble with custard sauce ladled over the top. The soup was a bit bland, but the lunch is still a bargain by London standards. I was also able to buy Christmas cards at the charity “card aid” stand at the church. Since I had done nothing whatsoever about Christmas cards before we left, this was my practical task for the trip.
After lunch we started walking back towards the hotel, with a detour through Foyle’s Bookshop. We came back to the hotel, relaxed a bit, showered and changed clothes and went for dinner.
George had made reservations through a restaurant booking site toptable for dinner at Marcus Wareing at the Savoy Grill. The food and service were brilliant. We both started with a terrine of foie gras and vall vegetables. For my main course I had sea bass over a bed of braised spinach, surrounded by sliced small waxy potatoes with tiny bits of pancetta crumbled on top. The sauce was creamy, mildly flavored with horseradish. I had a chocolate dessert. The restaurant is very elegant, somewhat retro in design, with warm wood paneling, banquettes around the edge and tables in the center of the room. The service was superb. It was well worth the (considerable) cost.
After dinner satisfaction, we walked along the Strand to Somerset House, where there was an ice skating rink set up for the season. There was music, Christmas decor and general merriment.
The caffeine at dinner had overcome the fact that I was dead tired, so we walked all the way back to the hotel. I read for a bit before I turned out the light. I was sound asleep almost instantly.