We ate lunch at a pub called The Clarence. It was named for the Duke of Clarence and there has been a pub on the site for the last 400 hundred years. It had good reviews in our guide book but we were disappointed in the food. We had fish and chips (of course!) but the fish was bland and the chips utterly boring and Joni was right - they serve peas with EVERYTHING! What is that?! On the other hand, the building itself was great - lots of old dark timber and a narrow, winding staircase - and our drinks were good: Tim had Guiness and I had a shandy. And really, isn't good beer the point at a pub?
After lunch we walked around and saw more sights. We stopped in front of No. 10 Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives). Thanks to all Tony Blair's publicity in the American press following the death of Princess Diana and the movie The Queen and thanks to Love Actually, I will always picture the main resident of No. 10 as either Tony Blair (who really was PM once upon a time) or Hugh Grant (who really was never PM :) ) . Ironically, even when Tony Blair was the PM, he didn't live at No. 10. Anyway, we stood out front for a bit with the crowds but you can't really see much as there's a gate and guards in the way. We saw the Horse Guards and other fun British sights but discovered we had left the camera at the hotel so deferred the rest of our sightseeing to the next day and hopped back on the tube for some shopping. We braved the crowds on Oxford Street and were overwhelmed by Marks and Spencer and Selfridges. We returned to the hotel laden with delicious and fattening food - most of it incorporating heavy cream or custard. We got some Thai take away and had dinner in our room. We stopped along the way at a corner shop to get fresh strawberries to go with our double cream (YUM!). As it turns out, Nescafe (the instant coffee you get almost everywhere in Britain) isn't so bad with a good dose of said cream. I can already hear the scales groaning back home. I finished supper off with some pear and butterscotch yougurt (doesn't sound good but is amazing) from M&S. Why don't we have this stuff in the States? It's so good. This morning I had vanilla yougurt and fresh strawberries. Yeah, I know you can get vanilla yogurt in the States but I swear it's not the same. Not as tangy and rich as in England. Must be something to do with the extra "u" - yougurt vs. yogurt???
I slept really well that night being aided by being completely exhausted, having drunk (very unusually for me) alcohol, and needing benedryl for my allergies. In fact, I more or less passed out almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Tim had made coffee and everything but I was long gone. I was up and ready to go (well, ready to eat yummy stuff and drink coffee) at 7:30 the next morning (which was like, 2:30 am at home???? I think???) but Tim was still sound asleep so I puttered around in my pjs, reading and drinking my Nescafe until Tim was roused by the loudest fire alarm I have ever heard. Apparently, they were "testing" the system - the young man who came around to check things was very apologetic - but since it was 8:30 am on a Saturday morning in a hotel, I have to wonder if it was an intentional test or if the kitchen staff sort of accidentally "tested" the alarm.
I spent about half an hour planning the course of our day and it seems likely we will return to the hotel with sore feet and weary bodies again tonight - but filled with knowledge and British tea and culture, of course. Tim is buried in the final Harry Potter book and I am eating cereal while reading Rules Britannia by Rohan Candappa - one of yesterday's buys. Tim is looking forward to a "real" cup of coffee. Though we searched in vain yesterday in London for a Starbucks (they're there, we just didn't find one) there is, mercifully, one right on the way to the tube... Mind the gap! Oh...sorry...It's a sort of Pavlovian response thing...