London Calling

My goodness, London was absolutely gorgeous last week when I arrived for a short visit before embarking on a trans-Atlantic cruise. St. James and Green Parks were indeed green and lush, the sun was shining and the flowers around Queen Victoria's statue were in full bloom. The city has been enjoying a long, lingering summer. The rains will come soon enough, but for now London is looking her best. It was a great visit, even if it seemed to cost me $80 every time I stepped out of my hotel room, given that the pound is trading at nearly half to a dollar. Which makes a nice, reasonably priced five-pound sandwich a hefty ten bucks, a fifteen-pound cab ride suddenly whooshes up to thirty smackers, theater tickets and hotel rooms are doubled, and so on.

The Queen and her court were on their usual summer holidays in Scotland, so I joined about 75,000 other people and toured Buckingham Palace's State rooms, which were in fact quite regal and enjoyable to see. The Palace is only open to tours in August and September when the Windsors are out of town. The hit was seeing the Royal dining room set for dinner for 170 people, with gilt everything and beautiful flower arrangements and the thought of President Bush leaning past the Queen to whisper to the Duke of Edinburgh, "Hey, Phil, which fork do you use for the salad?"

I didn't venture far. I wandered around Westminster, bought tea for my own Queen Mother at Fortnum & Mason, had a couple pints of British bitter and allowed the jetlag to run its course. People were actually sunbathing and playing Frisbee in the parks. I've been to London six or seven times, but I don't think I've ever seen it so lovely.