Trees were swaying in the heavy rain and the strong wind. I was having breakfast at the hotel, looking out of the window. Has my luck run out finally? I had not needed to use an umbrella until the previous day since I arrived at London on March 18 in spite of the chance of precipitation being more than 90 % during the week. (The former episodes on my trip are here: My Travel in London 1, My Travel in London 2, My Travel in London 3, My Travel in London 4, My Travel in London 5, My Travel in London 6, My Travel in London 7, My Travel in London 8, and My Travel in London 9) That was my last morning in London. I was supposed to leave for Japan that evening on March 22. The weather forecaster was warning of the worsening weather repeatedly on TV on the wall.
After finishing my last breakfast at the hotel, I dragged myself back to my room to do my packing. I had nearly four hours until the check-out. I did not want to hang around in the heavy rain, but I decided to go out. I wanted to shop in a local supermarket. I would be able to come back to my room and to put the things I bought in the store in my pack in four hours.
My luck was still lasting! Amazingly, it was just drizzling when I went out. It was only necessary to pull up the hood of my jacket. Before going shopping, I decided to drop by an old house of George Orwell, the author famous for Animal Farm and 1984. I walked to West Brompton Station and took the underground to Notting Hill Gate. Nathan, an English teacher in Japan, had mentioned the place before I left Japan. Notting Hill Gate is just the third station from West Brompton.
It was snowing when I came out from the North Exit of Notting Hill Gate Station. But it was not so bad. I pulled over the hood and began walking in the powdery snow. I walked along Pembridge Road and then turned left at the second corner to Portbello Road. Then soon I found on the right side the round-shaped blue plaque, which is a historical marker set up at the places of famous people in U.K. Young George Orwell lived there in 1927 after coming back from Burma to become a writer after resigning as an officer of the Indian Imperial Police.
I was able to locate the old house easily but I could not find “The Travel Book Shop” or “The Blue Door” eventually because I had not researched beforehand. But I was happy to be in Notting Hill as if I were in a filmic scene. All of the shops and most of the stalls had not opened yet. I walked back to the tube station.
I got off the underground at Gloucester Road station. It had stopped raining and snowing. I walked toward the north and turned left at the first crossing. It was about a 10-minute walk along Cromwell Road to Sainsbury’s, the supermarket. When I was browsing through the shop, an elderly woman spoke to me, “Excuse me, but could you read this for me? I forgot my glasses!” She pointed at the bottom of a box of tea.
“Um…it says 10 sachets.”
“Yes, 10 sachets.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
It was just a small interaction, but I was happy because it was my first time to communicate with a local person apart from clerks in London. I enjoyed the slow and peaceful atmosphere in the store on a weekday morning. I bought some snacks, sweets, and bread there, and went back to my hotel.
When I turned on the TV, a reporter was talking about the terrible snow storm in the northern part of U.K. I worried about Yuko, who was going to Wales that day, and was about to text her, when I noticed a message from her had arrived in my phone. She was concerned about my condition and prayed for my safe return. Yes, I had to leave this room. I also wished her a safe and enjoyable trip, and then hoisted my pack with lots of souvenirs. Ugh! Heavy!
After checking out, I asked a clerk to keep my baggage for a while. It was only at 10:30. My travel agent was supposed to pick me up at 5:00. I had much time left. I went to West Brompton Station again and took the underground to South Kensington Station. Walking through the underground passage, I entered the Victoria and Albert Museum.
More than 100 people were queuing inside. I wondered what exhibit was ahead. I passed them walking along the line and went to the room. It was an exhibition of David Bowie! Unfortunately it would start next day. Those people were supporting members of the museum and were able to see the exhibition the previous day. I might be able to see it if I became a member on the spot. But I would have to wait in the line for more than two hours. So, I gave up seeing David Bowie’s costumes, and went to see other treasures.
Ah…I should have decided what to see ahead…I got tired soon because I walked around at random. Actually, I had already been exhausted before coming to the museum. I had been occupying a bench before one of Raphael’s big paintings for a long time, but I was not only appreciating it but also having a rest. Raphael’s works were indeed therapeutic, but not enough for me. So, I went to the café on the ground floor.
Wow! There were many kinds of food, sweets, and drinks in the cafe! It was around 11:30. Many people were enjoying their breakfast, brunch, or lunch. I decided to have early lunch there. I ordered smoke salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. The clerk asked me smilingly, “Would you like salad?” So, I replied, “Oh, yes. Well…some green salad and that carrot’s one, please.” Then I was very surprised at the amounts of the salads she served. In addition, I was astonished at the weight when I received the tray from her. I wobbled to an empty table.
The sandwiches and the salads were excellent! If I had a much bigger stomach, I could eat them up…I enjoyed my lunch, reading a book. I had dropped by a book shop in the museum before coming to the café and had bought a copy of Walk London. It is a guide book for walking tours with beautiful illustrated maps. It may sound strange to buy a travel guide book several hours before leaving the place. But I had sworn to myself to come back to London! So, I was planning my next visit…
Actually it is tiring to keep sitting at the same place for a long time. So, I explored in the museum again, and then went out for some fresh air. It had completely stopped raining and snowing. I decided to go to see Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace. I walked on Exhibition Road and came to Kensington Road, when I felt really exhausted. I did not have that stamina to keep walking. So, I turned back and went to the Science Museum, across from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was not for seeing the exhibits, but for taking a rest at a café.
The Science Museum was filled with little kids! More than 100 pupils were lining up to buy souvenirs at the shop. They were holding something small such as erasers and excited. How noisy! And how cute! I got a pot of tea and was seated against the wall on the first floor. I was able to see the ground floor because the walls were made of clear acrylic boards. There was a big wheel in the air, and it responded to the sound when an attendant clapped her hands and flashed red lights. She was trying to attract children’s attentions. I was watching her and school kids absent-mindedly for a while. It was time to leave…
I went back to the hotel and talked to the clerk who I had asked to keep my bag in the morning. He looked at me coldly and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “What?! Wh, where should I…?” I was surprised and stammered. Then he produced a big smile and slapped my back saying, “Ha ha! Don’t worry! Follow me!” He was just pulling my leg! Oh, London! I did not want to leave…In the back seat of the car where I was committing myself to come back to this wonderful city, hearing the driver talking to my travel agent in the passenger seat that he really liked to see planes. Heathrow Airport loomed in front of us…