So late at night. I will be brief. I do feel obliged to note that this column has gone from a picture every once in a while to several per day. But then, it's never been written from London before.
Turned up at Victoria Station at 10:15 for an 11 am checkin. There was an amazing crowd for a Saturday morning. It was like New York's Grand Central at the peak of Friday rush hour. Nearly everyone there knew what they were doing, and was involved in an intricate dance from one space to another. It was a dance whose music I could not hear. Plus, I had no idea if they were line dancing, waltzing or doing the polka. As a result, while most of the people around me were purposefully striding, I was standing still, gumming up traffic. Eventually, I found the reception room for the British Pullman tour.
The Pullman tour people were offering free tea and coffee. Because of their dress code for passengers (sports coat for men, tie preferred, no tennis shoes--or trainers as they are known in British English) we were a pretty classy looking bunch. We were boarding a train to match. Ten Pullman cars, lovingly restored to the splendor they knew when they entered service in the 20s and 30s. The people across from me--husband wife and child--were celebrating the man's 60th birthday. They talked to me for much of the journey, across the aisle in my single seat, with my custom China plates in the Pullman blue and white livery, and the crystal sporting delicately etched Pullman symbols.
The scenery was amazing, and the food was first-rate. And while I got to blow the whistle on the Tillamook tourist train last year, that route was much shorter (one hour instead of five), and the British Pullman food was amazing, while the prime rib in Tillamook was.. almost edible. The Pullman served interesting crudities, followed by hake wrapped in ham and finished off with raspberries on unflavored gelatin.
I did discover that the otherwise incredibly tidy British have one crack in their neatness armor: it is apparently possible to do quite a bit of graffiti on the sides of buildings that back directly onto railroad tracks. I never saw graffiti anywhere else. The excursion took us to the English Channel in Kent. It was definitely the most luxurious and interesting five hours I have ever spent on a train. I can't wait for the private car excursion to Portland on September 8.
Upon return to Victoria Station, I met with D, a former CMP colleague I had not seen in perhaps 20 years. She looked great, and caught me up with what she had been doing over a cup of hot chocolate in a hotel bar across the street from the station. Then it was back to Ping Pong for dimsum, before toddling off to the National Theater to catch Great Britain, a thinly disguised Roman a clef about the phone hacking scandal that opened the day after the trial ended. The play was funny and clever, and marked the second performance in two days which I attended in the face of mediocre reviews, yet found that I thoroughly enjoyed. The play ran 2.5 hours, so I decided to try my first taxi ride. After all, wouldn't it be shorter? There was no traffic on Saturday night. Well, the answer is, "no, it wasn't." With the speed and frequency of both the underground and the incredible bus service, I saved, perhaps, five minutes, and spent 40 pounds on a trip that was "free" with my Oyster card (equivalent to the BART Clipper Card).
Me next to the sign at the lounge
My Pullman Car
Who goes to the trouble of putting elaborate tile on a train bathroom floor? Pullman!
My plush velvet seat--a chair, really
My table setting; china, crytal, linen, fresh flower
Me in my seat, crudely photoshopped to compensate for bright sun through window.
The most photogenic course: dessert. I drank impressively tiny portions of rose' and champagne.