The final full day was a slightly more touristic version of the wandering. After lunch at a typical British pub, we made sure we made it to London Tower and the ubiquitous Tower Bridge. Somehow I never made it to that area in my previous two visits to London.
I was informed by EZ that there were ‘giant’ ravens inside London Tower. The next five minutes were dedicated to me first making sure these were actual, living ravens, and then to trying to ascertain their size. Being female, EZ was physically incapable of putting the size into concrete units of measure, so I had to run through most of the animal kingdom as comparisons to get a feel for size. We settled on larger than a normal raven, but smaller than a golden retriever.
Eventually we made it back to the hotel, with my feet, knees, and back reminding me that I’m older than I like to think I am. After another vacation-within-a-vacation in my bed, we finally set out for dinner just before 11pm. We agreed that cheap and fast was best at this point, and after seeing that McDonald’s had no seating area open, and the lobby looked something like an urban Lord of the Flies, we decided to go to Burger King. There are no Burger Kings in Paris [they may have recently opened one, maybe], so this had a small degree of novelty for both of us, also.
Shortly after walking in we noticed a smoky haze filled the building. I would assume the source of this was food-related, but given the clientele we could see inside, that’s not a given. Two young Brits were arguing with a security guard about being asked to move from their seat to another area of the dining lounge. Something loosely resembling “I paid for this fucking meal, and I’m going to sit here and fucking eat it, you wanker” was repeated about a half dozen times. Side note – say what you will about American violence in our culture, but unlike Paris and London, our fast food restaurants don’t need security guards.
Just prior to our visit to the King, we stopped at a tiny bodega to see if they had cold champagne, as that would be our celebratory final drink of the vacation, and doing so at minibar prices would require a second mortgage on my house. We weren’t entirely sure we wanted to buy it before dinner, but there wasn’t anyone else selling booze on our street, that we could see. After scanning the cooler section of the many beers and wines on display, the Indian gentleman working the register asked what we were looking for. I said I could see the champagne on the shelf, but did he have any cold champagne?
He quickly responded “oh yes! Wait!” and walked over to a beverage cooler that appeared to be only for soft drinks and milk. Before we could fully appreciate what was happening, he got down on the floor – not just kneeling, but actually lying on the floor – and started to move the milk on the bottom shelf out of the way. One by one, half-gallons of milk were displaced from the cooler as he mumbled “I know…we have….some back here… oh there’s one…. here’s a good one….there’s one…”
Of course, none of the bottles he was haphazardly setting on the floor next to him had any indication of price – so his appraisal of “nice one” could mean a $300 price, for all we know. As he continued to flail his legs about on the floor, reaching to unseen depths of the cooler to pull out yet more bottles of champagne, EZ and I exchanged glances confirming we just wanted this over as soon as possible, even though we didn’t even necessarily want to buy it now. I asked if he had any under twenty five pounds, since that’s all we had [total lie], and when he pointed to one, we could not wrap that transaction up fast enough. Perhaps that’s his sales strategy – make items seem extremely laborious to get to, so that people buy them out of guilt. Anyway, the champagne was decent. Good for the price, even.
Back at the hotel, we now had the issue of keeping the bubbly cold. We had a fridge in the room, but it was in the form of a minibar that was already full, and it was the high-tech kind that charged you as soon as you moved something – total bullshit when you’re trying to see what kind of wine it is, by the way.
After several minutes of thinking of overly elaborate ways to keep it cold – bathtub filled with cold water was the leader in the clubhouse – I remembered we were in a hotel, after all, and hotels had ice machines. I mentioned this to EZ, and excitedly recalled that door we walked past from the elevator to our room labeled “ICE” in blue letters on the door.
“Well,” she said, “that must be some sort of acronym for whatever is in that room. There was no key card sensor on the door.” While that was true, I thought that it must be an ice machine, I mean it’s a hotel, after all. She disagreed and actually thought the idea laughable at this point, so now it was on. I briskly walked barefoot to that door, turned the unlocked handle, and could not contain my glee as nothing stood behind that door – except a room containing a single, magnificent ice machine. It only elevated my happiness that the room – which would in most hotels also contain a soda or snack vending machine or two – actually contained only the ice machine.
Since we kept our food expenses to pub and Burger King the day before, we decided to splurge on the room service breakfast the next morning. I had the French Toast, in a twist of gastronomic irony, and EZ had the Continental Breakfast, the choices within which had tortured her the night before for what seemed like an hour; I mean, when you have multiple juices and cereals to choose from, you can’t rush your decisions.
Tired but anxious, I packed up, checked out, and headed out to the car the hotel arranged to take me to Heathrow. It seemed poetic that we passed by Wembley Stadium on the way to the airport. I came over the ocean to find my path to my Wembley moment, and I was sure I was on my way.