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Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part IV

“I get really nervous about anniversaries and holidays,” Megan told about a month and a half ago. “You always come up with these big, extravagant, amazing things and I feel like all I have to offer is just some dumb little daisy.”

“That may be how you see it,” I said, “but to me it’s the most beautiful daisy I’ve ever seen.”

Thus it was that, on our Valentine’s Day in England, Megan was on a quest for daisies.

We finally found ourselves up and about around 11:30am; we were to meet Emily and her husband Frank at 3:30pm, so we had some time to kill. We set to finding real coffee (since the room was outfitted only with Nescafé and an electric kettle) and food; thankfully, we found both at the Caffé Strand just around the corner from our hotel. There we had excellent coffee, in fact, as well as terrific grilled croissants. I think we got out of there for around £11 — do note that they are cash only, if you are inspired to go. Also, I hadn’t realized before that if you’re just ordering coffee (rather than an espresso drink), the convention is to specify black or “white” (with cream added). If you just ask for coffee, they’ll ask you what kind.

We still had about three hours to kill and breakfast to walk off, so off we went.

It was a chilly but clear day; chilly enough that when we walked by the street vendor selling fresh roasted chestnuts that we got some, and nice enough for the obligatory hi-we’re-tourists-let’s-pose-with-Lord-Nelson’s-lions photos. (By the way, it’s a little harder to climb up there, as well as a farther jump down, than it immediately appears.)

From Trafalgar Square we walked to Westminster Abbey, passing a demonstration in the vicinity of Downing Street regarding an issue in Sri Lanka. I have to plead ignorance on what the exact issue was; a group called the Tamil Tigers was being protested as terrorists, with the British government having some involvement. For some reason I am not sure I can explain, I found the whole thing fascinating and am curious to know more.

From Westminster Abbey (we didn’t go in; I have something of an aversion to paying to go into churches) we walked to Westminster Cathedral. Now, when I was here a year and a half ago, I had no idea where I was going and walked from Victoria Station to Westminster Cathedral back to Victoria Station via a route so convoluted I don’t think I could reproduce it even if stinking drunk, blindfolded, and forced to walk backwards. Turns out it’s a straight shot along Victoria Street. That made me feel quite dumb.

Anyway — every time I’m in Westminster Cathedral I think to myself, “You know, you’re not actually using all of these beautiful Byzantine chapels… can I just take one back with me for my church?” There was a wedding going on while we were there; I suppose having one’s wedding at a landmark like that necessarily entails the presence of tourists. The one time I’ve been in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York there was also a wedding going on. We spent probably about an hour there; Megan’s souvenir was a bottle of holy water which she is going to send to her father.

We strolled back in the direction of Leicester Square, and met Frank and Emily at the Pret A Manger (“Ready to Eat”) in Leicester Square. “The Pret”‘s concept is, more or or less, organic and healthy fast food; it’s very good and more-or-less reasonably priced (although if somebody can explain to me the logic behind London’s quirk of charging extra sales tax if something is eaten in, that’d be most appreciated). We caught up for awhile, then decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery for a bit before Emily’s 5pm call.

Beforehand, however, Emily decided to drop some things off in her dressing room at the theatre, so we all followed her backstage. Virtually every backstage area of every theatre I’ve ever been in has been identical; this managed to cause my stomach to clench up a bit walking around back there, but I just reminded myself it wasn’t IU’s Musical Arts Center and I was fine. One way or the other, it was worth it to get to see, um, “Madam”.

“Bride of Frankenstein?” I asked. “You’re not the first person to say that,” said Emily.

The Gallery was cool to see, but as Megan and I both noted, it’s very odd when anything after 1400 A.D. just strikes you as too modern for your interests. On the other hand, the banter between Frank and me about some of the individuals depicted, such as a person named “Alcock,” reminded me that I have actually missed the two of them a good deal.

Then Emily was off to her call; Frank followed Megan and me back to the hotel so we could change into our opera clothes; then it was a full-on hunt for daisies.

See, we had seen a number places throughout the day where daisies might be procured, but each time Megan had deferred, not wanting to carry them around all day or just have to take them back to the hotel. We figured, what the heck, surely there’s an obvious place to get flowers in the theatre district?

Well, eventually, yes, there was — initially, however, there was not a florist as far as the eye could see. I even stopped somebody I saw carrying flowers and asked where they had bought them; “Nowhere near here, sorry,” was the answer. Finally we noticed the grocery store Tesco, which is where Megan was able to find her Valentine’s Day daisies to give to me at long last.

Then it was off to the opera.

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5 Responses to “Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part IV”


  1. 1 pesh 24 February 2009 at 10:29 pm

    First of all, it’s “Pret Manager”
    B) where are the pictures of me, dammit

  2. 3 Anna 25 February 2009 at 5:53 am

    Dem’s sure mighty fine daisies.

  3. 4 james w 26 February 2009 at 2:26 pm

    The tax paid is the national ‘value added tax’. It is charged on nearly all goods and services. Food is exempt if sold to take away but if eaten in a restaurant, cafe and so forth a service is provided and tax is charged.


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