I think the heat just knows how much I hate it and follows me everywhere I go, in this case across the Atlantic to London. Ah well, at least the humidity stayed home and, besides, this warmth is making the folks here very happy indeed.
So arrived early yesterday, dropped off my luggage at my hotel near the Imperial College (where I will be in a few days for the IBBY conference) and strode off to Hyde Park. There I saw a huge sports thing being disassembled (enormous ramps et al) and excitedly asked if it was an Olympic remainder. But no such luck — it was some sort of winter sports demo with skating, ski jumping, and so on. Saw tons of off-leashed dogs. Since in NYC the dogs can only be off-leash in parks before 9 AM I was very jealous of the freedom these dogs had.
Ambled on along Kensington High Street where I was dismayed to see so many more US places than ever. I mean, TJ Maxx? (Showing my age, but when I was a kid on one of our visits to London my mom took us to the original Biba which was in the area I was in yesterday and where I bought some very cool red tights.) Tweeted yesterday that I heard a Staples ad on the radio at my hotel when I was checking in. I hate to be a whiner, but I grew up spending a lot of time overseas and I liked that these places did not look just like the one I left. Ah well, so it goes.
Then on to the Leighton House Museum which was splendid. It is the house of Frederic Leighton, a Victorian artist, and according to the website, “one of the most remarkable buildings of the 19th century.” It is certainly an exemplar of its period and I enjoyed it very much. If you like house museums (my favorite kind of museum) and the Aesthetic art movement (I do) I suggest a visit. By then I was shattered and headed back to my hotel for a sleep (I’m going to go all British on you language-wise:).
I’d unexpectedly met some old friends early and we later met for dinner. First we went to Fleet Street and I had so much fun looking at all those Dickens’ references. (I’ve just started re-listening to Bleak House and this is its locale). We then found Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, took a peek inside, and then went back out to wait for the Chop Room to open for dinner. (There is a small bar on the right when you come in and many more pub rooms down the stairs in a sort of crypt-like area.) There was a very amusing stag party going on outside, the bridegroom very buff in some sort of female slip with his sideman wearing a fox mask. They were all taking photos and being very laddish.
The Chop Room was lovely and you could just imagine Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens there by the fire (which, fortunately, was not in use). I could totally see all the various places The Cheshire Cheese Cat took place. Best of the meal was the cheese plate we started with and the desserts we couldn’t resist: a ginger and butterscotch steamed pudding, a summer pudding of berries, and a lemon tart.
We ended the evening strolling along the Thames. Absolutely lovely.