It's been at least a 12-hour day. My feet hurt. I'm tired. I feel like my stomach's about to burst - but it's all worth it. For today was our last full day of vacation. We're getting ready to pack and I'm about to do online check-in for our flight home, the least fun part of any vacation.
Just before mid-day we went for a full English breakfast at the Cafe la Ville in London's "Little Venice" neighborhood just north of our hotel. It's beautiful, it's peaceful, and above all, largely devoid of tourists.
Attempting to burn off the 32 million calories contained in a full English, we made our way along the Regents Canal toward Camden, a relaxing, quiet stroll occasionally punctuated by cyclists whizzing by or strange noises from the nearby London Zoo.
We walked up to the Camden Lock and it was like setting foot through some sort of magical portal. We went from a dimension of peace and quiet and idyllic sunshine into a world of tourist mobs, pushy vendors, and even more mobs. But then, that's Saturday at Camden Market for you and to be expected. One should also expect creepy guys selling dolls to little girls, ethnic food that's actually ethnic (i.e. not catering to the English palate), and - of course -the biggest f'ing paella in the world.
There's no point in trekking across London without stopping for beer, which is precisely what we did after blowing through the Camden Market crowd. Now Camden is also home to London's goths and metalheads, and that's a bit of the crowd I got to stare at at the World's End, which bills itself as "Possibly the largest pub in the world." I'm not sure about that, but it was big enough to accommodate the stalward beer-drinking crowd, the rugby-watching crowd, and dudes dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow listening to industrial metal crowd.
We chugged our beers and caught the tube down to the Tower Bridge... Our mission: To hit up M Manze, purportedly the oldest and best pie-and-mash (or jellied eels-and-mash) place in all of London. After our walk, we were hungry again, so even the three minute delay in the tube seemed like an eternity.
Eventually we made it to Manze and... they were closing up. Missed it by a minute. DAMN YOU, LONDON UNDERGROUND!!
So we went and consoled ourselves with more beer at Hartley's pub. A modern but cosy place - with free board games and Wi-Fi if you're ever in the neighborhood.
Of course, a day out in London can't be all about consuming beer and walking it off. Sometimes you have to pay homage to your own profession. (I am not a professional drunk, believe it or not.) Back toward the Tower Bridge, we checked out the Design Museum. At £7, it's more expensive than most museums in London - being that the others are generally, umm, free. But the quality of the work on display is well beyond any price tag. It's inspiring, well-presented, and almost makes me look forward to going back to work in a couple of days. Almost.
Speaking of returning to work, this is the last day of a vacation. Why not do it right and, say, do some shopping? And maybe have some champagne and oysters? What the hell! Let's do it! But wait, where can you do both of those things?
That's right. We went shopping and had champagne and oysters at Harrod's.
You see, this is why my gal loves me. This is why she tolerates my checking out other girls. This is why she tolerates my farting in her presence. This is why she tolerates... well, everything about me. Because I take her to do shit like this.
Of course, I'm shooting myself in the foot because she'll probably always expect this now, but she's grounded as well.
How do I know this? Because despite having champagne and motherfucking oysters at Harrod's, she was perfectly happy to cap the night off with a pint, fish & chips, and bringing some beer and multi-flavored crisps back to the hotel room.
Next time I'm going to suggest we bring beer, multi-flavored crisps, and Elizabeth Hurley back to the hotel room. But for the time being, baby steps... baby steps...