Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Street where the riches of ages are stowed

A technical note first: blogger is being a pain in the arse about photos, so those will have to wait until I'm home and on my own computer.

So, this is my 7th trip to London. And every time I've come (with the exception of the last time we were here, which was just a one night stopover on our way home from our honeymoon) I have had Portobello Road on my list of things to see, and I've never made it there. I wanted to go there for only one reason -- because of the song in Disney's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." On Saturdays Portobello Road is a huge antiques market, but during the week the shops are still open and you can still get a sense of the atmosphere. We didn't make it there on Saturday (we were navigating the mudpits, er, I mean, footpaths of Hever that day) but PetDoc and I finally made it there yesterday. We wandered the length of the street and had lunch (and our first glass of Strongbow of the day!) in a pub. Unfortunately, while my meal was fine (nothing special, but fine) PetDoc's was nearly inedible due to the amount of pepper that had been added ... and little did we know that it was merely setting the stage for our pub experiences for the day.

After lunch PetDoc and I headed over to Kensington Palace. I had been there before, several years ago, but thought I would enjoy a return visit and PetDoc had never been, and then we decided we would treat ourselves to afternoon tea in the Orangery. I had seen on the palace's website the night before that the state rooms are currently hosting a modern art exhibit that sounded like it could either be really interesting or really wierd -- with the idea being that you search through the different rooms to find clues about seven different princesses who have lived in the palace. When we arrived at the palace we didn't think it was a good sign that we were greeted by a volunteer who explained the installation and warned us that we would see no historical information whatsoever about the state rooms (you couldn't even buy a guidebook with information about the rooms). He seemed extremely apologetic and spent several minutes making sure we knew what we would be seeing. After we went through the palace I hovered in the entry/exit hall waiting for PetDoc to visit the loo and overheard this poor man have several groups turn away because they wanted to "really see a palace" (he was sending them to Hampton Court) and when he asked people coming out what they had thought, to a person they expressed disappointment in not "really getting to see a palace." So I would say this experimental installation is not a smashing success.

What did we think? Well, the installation was interesting, but we would rather have gotten to see the palace. And we thought the 13 pound entry fee was a little steep for half a dozen rooms where you couldn't even see the rooms.

Tea in the Orangery, on the other hand, was worth every penny, and absolutely delightful. We enjoyed it immensely. Finger sandwiches, eclairs, and, of course, a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. I had an Indian Breakfast tea, which was delicious -- light and flavourful.

Continuing on the tea theme, we needed to make the usual pilgrimage to the Twinings tea shop on the Strand, so we took a bus down Kensington High Street, past Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, and down the Strand to the tea shop. Having made our purchases we had about an hour to kill before meeting Noise for dinner, so we decided to find a pub and have a pint and then order dinner when he got there. Well, the best laid plans and all that. We did have our pint, and a bit of entertainment as we watched an episode of Law and Order: UK being filmed outside the pub (the leading actress apparently used to be on Dr. Who, and she drew quite a crowd of admirers as filming went on). And then Noise arrived. And while I don't like to blame him, that's when things started to go downhill. ;-)

We ordered our meals at the bar, as you do, and I guess we threw the waitress off when we placed two different orders for the same table (something we have done before in many other pubs with no problem). We were chatting and watching the filming and didn't realize how long it was taking to get our food until half an hour had passed. We were just getting ready to ask someone about our food (we had theatre tickets and were starting to worry about the time) when the manager must have noticed our unhappy expressions and he came over. He promised to take care of it and bustled off, and came back several minutes later to assure us that our food was "in the lift" and would be "right up." Five minutes later (so much for "right up") two of our three meals were delivered to our table (PetDoc and Noise's) ... cold and congealed. We waited a few more minutes for mine (in case the lift could only handle two meals at a time) but when nothing appeared Noise went looking for the manager. And caused a scene. The manager insisted it was our fault, as we hadn't told him there were two different orders at the table (from which we deduce that our order had never made it to the kitchen and he had resubmitted it, but he missed the second part of the order). He had no good reason for why what was delivered was cold. Noise insisted on a refund (we had prepaid for our meals, which is standard in British pubs) and was told no, as we had received food and were going to eat it. Noise returned to our table and we decided we didn't have time to go elsewhere (we were now about 20 minutes from curtain, although the theatre was just down the street) so we started to share out the two meals between the three of us. A minute later the manager appeared at our table with a third plate and put it down in front of me with a flourish ... too bad it was the wrong dish (fish and chips -- I had ordered bangers and mash). But on the plus side, it was hot, so I told him to leave it. He ended up refunding my meal and PetDoc's (continuing to claim there was nothing wrong with Noise's), and we gulped down the edible parts of the food in front of us and dashed down the street to the theatre.

We had tickets for Love Never Dies, the Andrew Lloyd Webber penned sequel to Phantom of the Opera, but my review of that is a blog entry all its own, and this one is already long enough. To be continued ...

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