The trip from Paris to London was via the channel tunnel train — fast, quiet, and comfortable. The tunnel itself was perhaps 30 minutes of darkness and high cabin pressure. To be honest, I was watching Breaking Bad the whole time we were underground.

In the push to get out of the train station, we forgot to stop for British Pounds, or maybe we just didn’t see an ATM. At any rate, the taxi we selected had a bunch of credit card brands printed on the door, so we figured we were fine. The driver couldn’t actually accept any cards, it turned out, because he was just renting the cab. The driver was very nice, though, and he defused what could have been stressful for a couple of tired travelers: he agreed to accept euros on the condition that we agree upon the current exchange rate. (It’s not that he was trying to bargain so much as that none of us knew the day’s rate.) We ended up paying 30 euros to cover a £22 fare, figuring that included a nice tip for being flexible.

Our room in the Luna-Simone hotel room exceptionally small, even more so than the room in Paris, and the doors all required a linebacker to open, a side-effect of the automatic closer devices they used. On the plus side, we didn’t have to listen to noisy scooters and trash collection all night long, and we were only up one half-flight of stairs. And on the down side, the hotel breakfast only ran from 7:00-8:30, so we never even saw what was offered. The breakfast in Paris ran ’til 11:00, which is entirely more civilized.

On Sunday morning, we met up with Peg’s friend Nikki at the hotel, then walked (with me navigating) 1.5 miles to Tom’s Kitchen, which sounded and looked great and was utterly full. Lacking a reservation at Tom’s, we ate nearby and had the fanciest eggs-on-toast (with smoked salmon) ever. (Defying the American stereotype of dreadful English food, the eggs were utterly perfect.) Peg and I then had a second breakfast at Tomtom Coffee House (no relation to Tom’s), since the fancy place portions were a bit small.

Hot chocolate at Tomtom Coffee House

Peg was off soon to watch tennis, so I handled laundry, which was almost too easy. I dropped off a duffel of clothes at 16:30, paid £9.20, and picked everything up folded and back in the bag at 17:30. In the meantime I went on a random walk that accidentally took me past Westminster Abbey and Big Ben and half a million (other) tourists.

Peg got home at 02:30 after three hours of hassling with post-tennis transport mismanagement. No trains (they’d shut down before the tennis promoters had promised), and far too few buses, taxis, and boats. I suspect all the hire bikes (rental bicycles) within a wide radius were taken, too.

On Monday morning, Peg went straight for more tennis, so I reassembled the Bike Friday and taught myself London traffic for a while. I didn’t ride very far, so perhaps I didn’t give myself enough time, but overall I felt it was a lot trickier than Paris traffic. It’s possible I just didn’t have enough time to switch my brain to riding on the left side. To my credit, perhaps, I managed not to get honked or sworn at by anyone, and I didn’t violate any traffic signals, at least not by accident. London’s signals are far better placed and more visible than Paris’. Better yet, they have the brilliant innovation of the red-plus-yellow signal that warns you they’re about to turn green. Essentially, this is the “rev your engines now so you can get a fast start” signal, and I really wish everyone would adopt it.

I’d had three museums in mind, but I spent so much time at Science Museum that to see another museum would have risked collapsing. I spent the most time sorting out old steam pumps and engines designed by people like Watt and Boyle; then propellers, feathering paddlewheels, and steam engines for ships; then WWII aircraft engines. All that was over perhaps three hours, and I doubt I saw even 25% of the total museum. It’s a free, no-guilt-trip museum, although I did donate £5 on the way in. Oh, and they had possibly the best mathematics-driven artwork I’ve ever seen:

Hyperbolic Swarf Drawing

Dinner that night was a 12 minute walk from the hotel, at the Thomas Cubitt in Chelsea. (I think it was Chelsea, but the neighborhoods are very small and basically borderless, so don’t quote me on that.) This was with Carrie, an old friend of the family (Nashville 1980-1990), and her beau, Mike. I last caught up with her in Paris three years ago; this time Peg got to meet her, too. The best moment during our chat was when Mike commented, on seeing how we spell “Duthie,” that it’s definitely pronounced “DOOTH-ee” and is Scottish. This corroborated our Scottish tour guide’s theory, three years ago, that someone before grandad’s grandad emigrated from Scotland to England, then changed the pronunciation so as to avoid discrimination for being a wretched Scottish immigrant. I’m fond of that theory, but I’m not changing the pronunciation back.

Tuesday’s lunch was at the almost entirely empty Slug and Lettuce with an online friend of Peg’s, a bit of wandering in the Islington Green area, first dinner at Le Pain Quotidien near Victoria Station, break down the Bike Friday again (the third time in 11 days goes pretty smoothly), and second dinner at Grumbles, the French restaurant around the corner from the hotel. Grumbles has been there since 1964, and another diner mentioned that he’d been going there since 1981 and it had always been consistent and good. I’d eaten there on my own Sunday night, and I had to agree with him. Plus I just love the name of the place. (This should surprise no one.) Had I heard about it before opening the repair shop, I might have used a different name…

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