Monday, January 01, 2001


Well, it is a New Year in London, too! Happy New Year to you!

Sometimes it rains in London -- did you know that?

I arrived at our London apartment safe and late around noon on 30 JAN. My flight out of JFK had been delayed by two plus hours and I got out of the States just before that lovely storm. After a nap, I settled in front of the television (well, OK, the telly) with my lovely bride and tuned into CNN for news about the storm. Lo and behold, the first report about the snow was from Herald Square and the video clip was of our apartment building before they panned around to show Macy's! I think that the moon must be in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, because little things like this keep happening to us.

It was 50F on New Year's Eve, and the little bit of snow that had fallen in Southern England was gone before I got to enjoy it.

Sometimes it rains in London -- did you know that?

Anne had made dinner reservations for us at Asia de Cuba, a restaurant at Ian Schraeger's St. Martin Hotel, in the West End. We ate from 7pm - 9pm and the feast was: Salmon and Citrus Cocktail, Beef Carpaccio Szechuan Salad, Braised Duck with Bok Choy and Apple-y fruit Compote, and Chocolate Sushi on Baked Pineapple with Passion Fruit Creme Fraiche. Remarkable!

We then retired to the champagne bar with three friends who also had dinner in the same room. The five of us carried on until 11pm, when they retired to some trendy disco for an overnight of dancing. Anne and I relaxed alone until it got to be midnight, then we joined up for champagne and/or seltzer (depending on your allergies) with a group of five Brits and Americans until about 130am.

It seemed like a sensible time to get home, so we left the hotel, made our way to Leicester Square just on time to see the tube station shutdown and a line of bobbies force the rather rowdy crowd back in the direction of the hotel. If you are moved one way or the other about Times Square on New Year's Eve, then you should (or shouldn't) see Leicester Square that night! We did not know that the entire West End would be barricaded and the tube shut -- hence, we had no means of transportation home. Although we live only about a mile from the West End (maybe less), I really had no idea which streets would take us to Strand, then Fleet Street, then St. Paul's Churchyard to home. So, back to the hotel we went.

Sometimes it rains in London -- did you know that?

The doorman remembered us, which is further proof that formal attire makes you stand out in a crowd, and he allowed us back in. His estimation was that the roads would be re-opened at 230am, and we could get home then.

We rejoined our little group in the champagne bar and continued our New York vs. London conversation about real estate, and salaries, and culture, and manners, and child rearing.

At 230am, I called the car service and they regretted to inform me that the roads would be closed until 4am!!! So, we decided to stay at the hotel. The room was not as grossly over-priced as I expected; unless you view it from the perspective that we used it for only five hours!

The St. Martin is a wonderful hotel in the vein of Morgan's at Madison and 39th, in NYC. Very hip, well appointed, contemporary and moderne. Comfortable -- perfect for a couple of big babies.

I called housekeeping for toothbrushes and toothpaste, and they admitted that they did not expect such a crowd overnight and they had run out of toothbrushes, I should call back in the morning. When I called back a few hours later therer were still no toothbrushes; but, housekeeping could transfer me to the gift shop to see if they had any. Now, I have stayed in many hotels in many different cities. Some have been dramatically inferior to the St. Martin and many have been far superior; some of my hotel stays have been drop-of-the-hat overnighters, others were business trips or vacations. At every hotel, I have been able to get basic toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrush, and the like) with no difficulty and at no cost. Though I was a bit surprised that a hotel of this calibre would run out of toothbrushes on New Year's Eve, I was relieved that the gift shop said they would sent two toothbrushes and a tube of MacLeans (how sixties!) right up for us!

Imagine my surprise when I had to sign a receipt for £13! This hotel was now charging me $20.00 for toothbrushes after we'd just dropped £1,000 celebrating New Year's with them! I am still a bit peeved about it, and a letter is already in draft form. I mean, I do not mind paying my fair share for goods and services, but there is something really dirty and vulgar about charging twenty bucks for toothbrushes. Generally, I do not complain to an establishment about policies and services, but I made my feelings known to the girl who checked us out and she was more embarrassed than I was angry -- but, she was not sophisticated enough to remove it from the bill.

It has been more than 20 years since I had to make my way home in the morning wearing the same clothes as the night before. It is a sensation that I will never enjoy. The only thing that made is palatable on 01/01/01 was that the quality of my clothes has improved so much over the decades! If you must be seen in public the next morning, trying to make your way home from the night before, I definitely recommend a tuxedo; people are much nicer to you!

So, I am settling in for a couple months in London. It's really a wonderful place.

Did you watch "2001: A Space Odyssey" yet?

God Save The Queen (we mean it, man!)