LONDON, THE GROSVENOR HOTEL AND A CEREAL KILLER

Well once again I have some time to kill in an airport departure lounge, so I thought I would catch you up.  In fact this morning I have more time than expected as our WestJet flight from Gatwick to Calgary is delayed for at least an hour and a half (or so we hope). I suppose I shouldn’t complain as it takes as long as it takes to keep these old WestJet planes in a condition that will hopefully keep us in the air longer than the Wright Brothers and home safer than Amelia Earhart.

I have been told that there are new WestJet planes on the way in the new year so for those with plans to travel abroad in the future you may be in for a treat. For now we are stacked up like cordwood in the North Terminal adjacent to WHSmith bookstore trying not to be overcome by the stale cigarette stench on the folks sporting the fake tans and bedazzled track suits sitting all about us.  And then as if all our prayers were answered the flight for Majorca was called and they all got to their good “foot” & gangster limped away to a gate with the promise of Thomas Cook Holidays in the Spanish Sun (ATOL Protected).

Then it was our turn. Our gate was called and we made our way to 571. Upon arrival at the gate we were lucky enough to witness a WestJet employee domestic dispute as the plane had apparently been ready for some time but there had been no ground staff to board the passengers. So while a grumpy bald WestJetter berated the first young lady in uniform to appear, she returned volley to who I would guess was her supervisor with a “who do you think you are”. That continued downward until cooler heads prevailed and another young lady arrived from her tea break to further assist.

So now we endure the apologies on behalf of WestJet for the delays and their efforts to now board the passengers ASAP and in sequence.  This is where it got entertaining as this was actually my first time witnessing six British Adult benefit cheats (Social Assistance Scammers in Canadian) and the child they had clearly borrowed from the local gypsies to make their way to the front of the line when the call went out for travellers with small children.  Nan as she was referred to by the middle female teenage cheat appeared to be in her early thirties and must have spawned young Vicki Pollard early in her “formative years”.

The four accompanying completely tattooed adult males (at the expense of the British tax payer) followed in behind like lambs to the slaughter or benefit cheats to the kabab shop, take your pick. Then it was time for a litany of regular guests of Disney’s theme parks who were obvious students of the how to get to the front of the line game. All of whom were clearly willing to try feigning all manner of injuries and every other trick in the book to go next.

Now it’s our turn to take our seats in WestJet Plus. We are in the 2nd row and I have the pleasure of sitting within earshot of a woman who requires a lot of help from the flight attendant to fully understand what Prosecco is. When the penny dropped another 30 seconds of thought was required to answer yes please or no thank you.

Aaron our flight attendant is a huge man with Michael Jackson’s voice & very small hands. They do however look strong enough to choke the next neck of the next passenger with the next stupid question. Aaron looks displeased. I understand that look. It gives me a warm feeling to know that someone may dislike people more than I do. I have a now retired former colleague that says without hesitation that there are 6 Billion people on this planet and he likes 3 of them. I’ll stretch to 20 (but that’s it and you know who you are). We are now up in the air and about 8 and a half hours from Calgary with fingers crossed.

Now it’s time to go over the last couple of days in London. We arrived nearly three days ago from Barcelona and I must admit we were shocked to be greeted with the hot and humid 29 degree sunshiny weather. It was a British bank holiday on Monday so everyone was out and about in the royal parks enjoying a wonderful family day or just relaxing with friends.

There was far less congestion as a result and the air quality was quite good. We were staying at the Grosvenor Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, next to Victoria Railway Station. This was super handy as the Gatwick Express leaves the airport every 15 minutes and arrives with no stops in between (hence the word express) at Victoria Station 30 minutes later with no muss and no fuss.

There is a small door to the left as you leave platform 13 that takes you into the lobby of the Grosvenor. The lobby of this grand old hotel is beautiful and Victorian in its design and decor. We were greeted by Hannah at the front desk and like clockwork we were shown to our suite.

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We promptly stowed our gear and headed to the lounge on our floor for complimentary appetizers and beverages. I must admit that the very short turn around the night before in Barcelona took what little energy I had left. This has been an awesome trip but I am really starting to feel it, so I headed for some sleep and the promise of an 06:00 start.

When the alarm sounded I got up feeling like a different man and ready to get out into London for a proper day out.  We headed down for breakfast in the hotel. Everything was coming up roses until we arrived at the restaurant doors. We were met by a swarthy and shifty looking Mediterranean waiter who spoke in riddles and in a very low tone. He was not happy to see us, greet us, seat us or serve us. He maintained a constant sneer and desdain for us and every other guest in the room as well.

After 20 minutes or so observing this man I began to pick out some similarities with gentlemen I have had the displeasure of speaking with in my professional capacities over the years.  A waiter by day and resident of Whitechapel by night I bet. Anyway, we left trying to see past this man and with a view to getting out and enjoying the sights around us and the back streets that will get us to them.

Suffice to say that sticking to our tactics of being out exploring as early in the morning as possible once again paid dividends. We were able to spend quality time at all the biggies before the locals were stirring for work and bus tours fired up their stinky diesel engines. We were the only ones in front of Buckingham Palace. St. James Park had a few joggers out on the paths, along with the ducks and pelicans. We wandered alone through Whitehall and Horseguard’s parade. Maybe 10 or so people at Trafalgar Square.

Once we began to encounter the beginnings of tourists we popped into the Crypt at St. Martins in the Fields Church for a snack and a quick chat with the staff. Real Londoners and that was awesome.  We walked from there through the West End and all it’s theatres. We ended at and later in St. Paul’s Church adjacent to Covent Garden. Not to be confused with St. Paul’s Cathedral, the church is a living memory of all the actors who once worked on British Stage and screen. Many a big name has had his or her funeral officiated here.

That was really interesting and then came Covent Garden and it’s stall after stall of unique items on display for sale. Dale bought another satchel for his things but this time it was really cool and dare I say heads above the pleather abomination from Spain.  We returned to St. Martins in the Fields for a free lunchtime classical concert that was really nice. I have made this place my lunchtime stop in London for years now. It’s my go to.

From there we meandered towards the Thames and thankfully made it just in time to witness a Victoria Cross medal presentation on the lawn in front of the Ministry of Defence building. We chatted there with a couple of constables from the MOD Police that were standing over watch.

Onwards past New Scotland Yard and then to pay our respects to the innocent lives lost on Westminster Bridge and Parliament Square last year.  A quick walk by Westminster Abbey and on to my London local for a couple of pints and dinner. The Buckingham Arms is in a great location and the food is quite good. From there back on our feet and straight to the Grosvenor to prepare for today.

Well that’s it really. That brings me back to the start. I think I speak for Dale when I say this trip has been incredible. Every stop, and there were many in the last 9 days was a real joy.

I hope you are inspired to visit some of the places I have written about over the past few years.  And if you have been one of the 18 thousand (WordPress stats) or so readers that have stopped by since I started, thank you!  As the lovely African lady working as a cleaner on our Gatwick Express train said to me a couple of days ago, “life is too short. Go places and do things”.  She spent some time at our table telling us how excited she was for her next journey. If my memory serves, she is probably on her way to Mauritius to visit a place she has seen before.  Safe travels my new friend!   Memories made are more important than stuff.

Cheers!
Mark

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