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 Mediterranean Cruise 2008 - 9/28 - London

Cruise Pictures

Sunday 9/28 - London
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My trip did not start off as well as I had hoped it would. First, they wouldn't let me check my big bag all the way to Athens because the layover was too long so I would have to pick it up in London. The 7 hour flight itself was fine for the most part. I seat 31B which is an exit row that has lots of leg room. Note that 31A has the emergency slide blocking it so if you want to stretch out you have to sit at a funny angle and then you feel lopsided for the rest of the day.

The AA 777s now have pseudo on-demand movies. Basically each title restarts every 15-20 minutes so you can start a movie almost whenever you want. You can choose to wait for the next one or start the one that is in progress. The one problem is that the controller is docked in the side of the arm rest. If you remove it, there's no problem but if you leave it you can accidentally hit a button and exit out of the movie. I did this and had to restart Hancock, then I did it again, and had to restart it again so I ended up losing about 45 minutes of movie watching time. Hancock was good overall, nothing all that special, but pretty entertaining. I also watched Swing Vote which was decent but lacked a lot of depth that I think it could have gone into. I wanted to watch Get Smart as well but b/c of my Hancock blunder, I didn't have time.

Food on the flight was decent. The choices were barbecue chicken and beef lasagna. I chose the latter which was fairly tasty, (almost as good as a Stouffer's frozen dinner, which are some of the tastiest ones out there since they're not geared as dieting dinners). The salad, dressing and bread were the exact same kinds that AA always uses that are fairly blah. Dessert was a little different though, it was an Oatmeal Chewie. It had a consistency like a brownie crossed with an oatmeal cookie and was pretty tasty in it's manufactured and shrink wrapped goodness.

Breakfast was a pretty simple continental breakfast: a single croissant. The croissant was actually pretty good: it was toasted and had a nice tender center with a flakey outside and was served with butter and strawberry jam. Airline water always tastes funky even though it's in a sealed container, maybe it's the container that tastes funky but it's been that way on AA for as long as I can remember. The strawberry yogurt was run of the mill pre-mixed which is slightly ironic since Britons and Europeans are more picky about their yogurt. For instance, I prefer Danon fruit on the bottom yogurt and one reason they make yogurt that way is to keep the sugars from the fruit separate from the active cultures so as not to interfere. Well in Europe, even fruit on the bottom yogurt causes too much interference so they actually sell yogurt that has the fruit flavors in a separate compartment so you can mix them just when you're ready to eat it.

After we finally landed in London, I picked up my bag and went to British Airways to see if I could check in the bag for the next morning and they said they only allow check-ins three hours before the flight. So I accepted the fact that I would need to lug around my big bag as well as my small bag and backpack. This is the first time I used my cheap new 25" bag and I didn't pack it all that full. In fact it weighed about the same as my small bag (which was extra heavy b/c of my laptop). So in preparation for the walk to the London Underground (Tube) I latched my small bag onto my big bag started walking. All of you who said I should invest in a good set of luggage instead of a cheap set, you were right. After walking through the terminal and through the hallways for about 10 minutes, I lost a wheel.

So now I have to carry the big bag on top of the little bag (a Samsonite) which seems to be holding the weight of both bags without a problem. Darn that ghetto generic Embark brand from target! Having to lug around a big bag was bad enough but to not have wheels for it has really made my plans to travel easily by subway and foot a big pain in the butt. Even my hands are feeling a bit raw from wrassling with the bag. I considered buying a new one but being in London, that's not a good idea as a decent bag could easily cost $200. I may try to buy a new one in Athens (or maybe Egypt where it would be cheap, but probably not any higher in quality).

So anyway, I finally checked in at my hotel and set out for Arbutus, a fairly fancy restaurant that has a cheap prix fixe lunch set. Of course, I wanted to be daring so I went a la carte. For my starter, I had Braised Pig's Head, Potato Puree and Caramelized Onions (see pics). There was a block of meat on the left of the plate (reminiscent of head cheese) which was tasty and reminded me of the ham hocks my mom used to make. The potatoes were very smooth and creamy. However, on the right side of the plate there was something on top of the caramelized onions. My guess is brains which I kind of had to choke down as the taste was as little too offal (pun intended).

For my main course I had the Plat du Jour (dish of the day): Elway Valley Lamb, Hot Pot "Breast and Sweetbreads." This was very tasty and had some fatty pieces of lamb and a whole sweetbread (referred to as a neck gland, haven't had a chance to look up which one it is) topped with gratin potatoes. The dish was a bit lamby plus some offal flavor, but pretty good overall. Unfortunately, I suddenly got really full halfway through and decided to stop. It was odd because 30 minutes prior my stomach had been growling like crazy. I think it was because my body considered it breakfast time and simply didn't want that much food.

After the main I had treacle tart for dessert which was simply the best I've ever had (ok, I've only had it once before, but it was absolutely delicious). I also had the house Apertif to drink which was Prosecco and pear puree.

Now, being extremely full and jet-lagged don't go together so well because I become extremely tired. I wandered around, checked out Chinatown a bit and then sat to rest in Hyde Park where I saw joggers, skateboarders, in-line skaters, horse riders and even a roller-skater (see below). Then things went downhill.

I was so full and exhausted that even though it was only 3:30, I went to my hotel room and plopped on the bed. I set my alarm for 4:30 so I could venture out to find La Fromagerie, a well known cheese shop. Well I woke up and was still very tired and very full, so I thought I'd sleep for another hour. The same thing happened an hour later, and every hour until 9:30pm. I finally made myself get up and despite the rest, I stumbled out of the hotel with bleary eyes. My mission was to find The Golden Hind, one of the best places in London for Fish and Chips. I wandered the area for an hour and never found it and by that time, all the restaurants I had passed started to close.

I headed back to the hotel and saw that Hard Rock Cafe was open but decided that wasn't worth going to. So I went to the concierge and asked who was open late and they told me what area to look in. However, by the time I found them, they too were closed. I headed back again and even Hard Rock was closed. So even worse, I ended up eating at Trader Vic's, one of the hotel's restaurants and I believe an American chain. I decided not to get too much and ended up with Singapore Noodles which were decent but a little light on the curry. I ordered my first European diet coke notied that it was much less fizzy than in the US. I also ordered Phoenix Beer which was smooth and crisp and doesn't seem very strong since I didn't have much problem finishing it.

I considered asking the cute Asian hostess to join me at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in three weeks, but decided against it. Then I returned to my room and of course I couldn't sleep. Luckily Gordon Ramsay kept me entertained with Kitchen Nightmares and The last episode of The F Word season 3 (he raised and slaughtered sheep this time). I finally went to bed at 4AM, just in time to get some shut eye before I had to get up at 5:30.

9/28 pictures are here.
Posted 10/01/2008 06:35 AM in Food, Ramblings, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel, United Kingdom | Total Comments: (12)
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i think its thymus gland. tash and i had this discussion once...
Submitted by caroline on 10/01/2008 09:32 AM

Value luggage
I couldn't quite remember what I recommended about the luggage last time, so I looked it up. www.filtsai.com/blargh_comments.php?blarghId=1841 Reliability differs from brand to brand, so I guess that going by your last three-year experience wasn't a guarantee of repeat durability. (Did you get the Embark brand last time, too?) Surprisingly enough, Consumer Reports rated a dozen travel bags in their October 2008 issue, and there were some good deals to be found (like the $77 Delsey Helium Fusion [22274] which rated higher in capacity than the similarly Good-rated-in-durability $180 Samsonite X'ion 2 [21" 18571]). As much as I love buying cheap, I've learned that the value of generic brands is really a crapshoot without accurate reviews to back 'em up. Hope you manage getting around well on three wheels anyway, dude.
Submitted by Dan on 10/01/2008 03:23 PM

The term sweetbread can be used for a couple different parts, but thymus sounds plausible.
Submitted by filbert on 10/07/2008 07:26 AM

Very true! Makes a cghane to see someone spell it out like that. :)
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Here I am in seat 31B on an American Airlines 777. It feels good to stretch your legs.   I didn't have my camera so I couldn't take a picture of my beef lasagna dinner but here's my dessert, an Oatmeal Chewie.   Airline continental breakfast. The croissant was toasted and had a nice tender center with a flakey outside.   I wonder if people in the UK can actually recognize this as Chicago.

A couple pictures from the plane.   The London Undergraound, AKA the Tube

An oyster, which is a pre-paid discount card for the Tube, sponsored by Ikea.   The view from my room at the London Hilton on Park Lane. I wish I had been on the side overlooking Hyde but Big Ben ain't bad.

My bathroom   My bedroom   Arbutus Restaurant   They have a decent prix fixe lunch for about 16£ but I opted for the more expensive a la carte menu.

Bread and butter. The butter was at room temperature (as it should be) so it was easy to spread.   Braised Pig's Head, Potato Puree, Caramelized Onions.   Elway Valley Lamb, Hot Pot "Breast and Sweetbreads"   An amazing Treacle Tart with vanilla ice cream. Wonderfully caramelicious.

Arbutus Apertif, Prosecco and pear puree   Just a few blocks from Arbutus I discovered Chinatown   Relaxing in Hyde Park I saw this guy having a fun day on his roller skates (note that they are not in-line skates)

Statue of the Duke of Wellington in Hyde Park. I never actually read the inscription so I don't know why he has a statue.   After much searching for a decent restaurant that was open late, I ended up eating at Trader Vic's in the hotel.


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