A couple of days in London
November 13th I took another early flight to London. It was very sad to miss the breakfast at the Sofitel in Warsaw, because they are usually quite good. But at 4am no hotel has the breakfast buffet open.
I also slept like a baby on my flight to London.
When I arrived in the hotel, the nice Regency, near Hyde Park, it was cold and raining. They did not have my room ready, and would not have it until 14:00h, although they let me know that I would receive a complementary upgrade to a “triple room with a balcony”. Great! So I left my luggage there, had a cuppa’ tea at the Elysium Lounge, and since my first meeting in IBM South Bank, next to the National Theater and the London Eye, was not until later, I decided to take a little walk.
I went past the Natural History Museum, and decided to spend a few minutes at the lovely Albert and Victoria Museum. There I run into a very nice surprise: the “Disobedient Objects” exhibition. It was quite small, but so nice I bought the catalogue. It definitely offered extensive “food for thought”. What is an exhibition like that doing in a museum? Why now? What does it represent? Is it “good” or “bad”? For what or whom? Is there such a thing as “good” or “bad” in that context?
My “revolutionary” inclination and plans wanted to come out.
– Don’t delay it!, do it now! – they kept screaming when exposed to such inspirational examples.
– Not yet – I replied – not yet. There is a time and a place, a plan, method, and resources, for everything. The time will come. But the time now is “time to go to the next meeting, to keep playing a part that will allow the next step”.
On my way to the meeting I went by stores, restaurants, palaces, and monuments. I walked by the giant blue rooster sculpture at the entrance of the National Portrait Gallery, the Department of Energy & Climate Change (hey, climate change deniers, why does the UK need a Department of Climate Change if there is no such a thing?), the London Bridge (with its “Big Ben”), the Houses of Parliament, and many other landmarks. I even had an unexpected lunch at The Frenchie, a stall at the Winter Festival, which served pulled duck with goat cheese on a whole wheat bun with arugula, caramelized onions, mustard and honey. Finger lickin’ good.
The meeting went as expected, and ended quickly, so I had no problem making it to the next meeting, in Pall Mall. As a matter of fact, I had time to stop at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, to inquire about membership (given the prices of hotels in London, it may not be a bad idea, and being an Oxon, I qualify). It turns out you need the recommendation of other members to join. I should have figured. Good Ol’ Boys Club. How I hate this stratified society and mentality! I guess I did not “learn my lesson” in Oxford.
My second meeting, with a partner in an Investment Firm, was quite interesting. Besides talking about technology, a potential investment, and more, it turns out she is from Ibiza (Spanish Balearic Islands), the world is small, indeed.
After that meeting, I decided to walk back. All those airplanes, meetings, taxis, buses, and hotels without swimming pool, are not good for your health. My wereable said I walked 20,000 steps. Good!
It was too late to try a gallery or museum, so I decided to “go green”. First through Green Park and then Hyde Park, I made my way to the hotel.
It was cold, it was raining, the ground was covered with leaves, muddy and wet. But there is definitely something alluring in an old park in the dark. Everybody seemed to be going somewhere, but not in a hurry like in New York. There is something more civilized about “Old” Europe. Money and time may be important, we may need it as much as anyone else, but it seems it is not the only thing in our heads, while that is not the impression I get walking the streets of New York, where time, speed, productivity, money, appearance, and attitude are way too prevalent.
I finally got to the hotel, went to my room after figuring out the strange elevator buttons (LG, 12, 4, G, 3, 5, 6, arranged in two rows except the 6, for a single building hotel), and then it hit me: London is one of those places where you are lucky if both you and your suitcase can fit in the same room. So my “triple” was a small room with a small one-person couch. And, while the balcony was such, there was not a door to access it, just a window with a lower fixed glass pane. Oh, well. The poor lad sleeping in an underground station surely would not mind, so neither was I going to.
Before going to sleep I needed to have some dinner. So I walked towards South Kensington station because I remembered seeing an excellent French cheese shop and restaurant on the way. But it was closed for a private function. So I headed to a very nice Japanese restaurant. Completely full. Then I headed to another nice Japanese restaurant that had a single opening. And I had a delicious eel donburi, and matcha cake. I was finally ready to catch some Zzzs.
The next morning I had a very decent breakfast at the Elysium Lounge before checking out and taking my luggage with me to my next meetings (tight schedule and a flight I did not want to miss).
The first two meeting in IBM went well. Luckily the third one was in a nearby cafe, where I had lunch, before walking along the Thames to Blackfriars to catch a train to the airport. It is amazing how much has that area improved. There is no other city in the world, not even Paris, that has been able to unite “old” and “new” so graciously and coherently. Too bad I had no time to pay a quick visit to my beloved Tate Modern. Hopefully next time, which may be as early as December.