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December 16, 1995

Lying on my tummy on the twin bed in the Windermere Hotel at 142/144 Warwick Way, Victoria, London, SW1: James is taking a shower on the landing of the floor above.

We've just arrived in London at 7:05 this morning at Heathrow and were at the hotel by 8:40. The airport is long in the corridors but clean, efficient and expeditious in its formalities; the Tube was clean, fast & efficient too.

(Interrupted for a brief shower of my own once James came back: nice hot water even if it took me a while to figure how to turn it on. Feel clean now, but even drowsier.)

Anyway the little Pimlico hotel, with its white paint and columns and 19 rooms, is run by Nicholas & Sylvia Hambi, a youngish couple who have the reputation of being just plain nice people: they seem to be, alright.

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The Windermere Hotel: my first photograph of the trip.

We couldn't get into our room of course that early in the morning, so we went out by about 38‑40°F and a fair breeze: we wound up spending a fair amount of time at Victoria Station and its shopping complex, here and there various things: chapstick, deodorant, this notebook, a cheap map of London, some bike magazines for James, a tape measure for my waist (I left mine at home), a pair of gloves for James — and I'm probably missing something.

Anyway, back to the Windermere at about 11:10 to dump off the purchases, get warm, take a leak, and just maybe get our room. No such luck in fact (although we certainly took care not to ask), so we turned around and left again, on foot down Victoria from the station then on to Westminster Abbey, where we somewhat distractedly wandered through the nonpaying part, including the Great Cloister and the entrance to the beautiful, well-gardened Little Cloister, formerly an infirmary cloister, tucked away in a corner where no one went at all.

Surprised to see the tomb slab of Muzio Clementi in the larger cloister; other memorials much less surprising of course, but moving: Churchill and the Unknown British Warrior especially in the floor of the nave.

Surprised also to see that fan vaulting works, isn't too ugly; at least the moderate version in the nave of Westminster Abbey. Apparently there's an apsidal chapel in the church with the most convoluted fan vaulting; we'll be going back for a full visit of the church some other day when we're not jetlagged out.

Back to the hotel at 2, and despite the voice of reason, we both fell asleep for a couple of hours; but woke up and eventually opted for walking to Buckingham Palace in the rather cool dark before dinner back at the hotel, a question of staying awake. We spotted a few places we'll be coming back to — a "National Map Center" near Artillery Row which is probably in fact just a commercial store, but does carry all kinds of maps — Buckingham Palace was not flying the royal standard and looked a big bureaucratic hulk of a deserted building in the dark.

Back to the hotel, a simple meal in the basement restaurant: I had fried camembert with gooseberry sauce; a trout; small baked potatoes; corn, carrots and green beans à l'anglaise; crème brûlée although not brûlée, the sugar glaze still grainy and unburnt, but the whole thing good; and an armagnac — a good Graves with the meal: £33 TTC/SC, quite reasonable by travel standards.

And now in bed, very sleepy; weight unavailable but tape measure yields 30¾ʺ which is way too much: I hope this doesn't turn into a problem.

Tired, sleepy —


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Page updated: 30 Jun 03