Up surprisingly early, I partake in The Langham’s classic English breakfast of scrambled eggs, Cumberland sausage, streaky bacon, flat-capped mushrooms, grilled tomato, and slices of buttered whole wheat toast with strawberry preserve, and three cappuccinos, before following my footsteps of the day before to transact Chelsea Boots (Paul Smith wins), fully understanding that my valiant two-week effort to lose weight has now been seriously imperiled.
Because then to lunch, at Il Vicoro, hidden on Crown Passage in St. James’s.
If there is a theme to this trip other than Mark Twain’s favorite hotel, and a wedding, it is friends and friendship. And so it is a pleasure to meet John, a friend for 36 years, sharing many points of reference—too many to cover during a two-hour lunch.
A snooze transitions one friend to another, a Swedish buddy from high school—in this case a 44-year friendship.
In preparation for these encounters, I look to Mark Twain—never short on sayings—for his take on friendship:
The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right.
Clas awaits me in The Langham’s lobby at precisely 6:03.
We enter the Parlor Bar and instruct the bartender how to stir two gin martinis.
The best thing about the result is their fine crystal glass; it’s a good thing that, in life, I see the glass half full, because that’s what these are, despite a price tag of… forty pounds! (A whopping $33 per martini.)
We return to Marylebone, the scene of our forging friendship forty-plus years ago: a pub we knew as “Hennekey’s" while still teenagers at the American School.
Back then (the early 1970s), you need look only 15 to order a drink, no false ID required.
And back then, our tipple of choice was Double Diamond beer.
Over time our tastes have changed, both in venue and tipple.
So after a quick photo op, we decamp around the corner to Caffe Caldesi, a true friendship enhanced by a nip or two of Jameson whiskey....
...awakening to Wedding Day, begun with a Marylebone morning: up and down the main street of a village that remains English against all the odds as Poles, Romanians, Bulgarians, Russians, and Arabs swarm the British capital.
I truly awaken at The Providores, best cappuccino in London.
Smart new boutiques have replaced many amenity-oriented shops, except for Daunt Books (For Travellers).
I peruse the shelves, ultimately entranced by a slim hardcover, papered in black and silver entitled At Night: A Guide for the Wakeful.
I intuitively discern it will provide stimuli for new road trip ideas.
On to Boots the Chemist for over-the-counter remedies unavailable in the United States:
1) Lemsip, perhaps the best reliever of cold and flu symptoms ever invented;
2) Veganin, a tablet containing codeine.
Time to squeeze into semi-formal dress for the wedding, barely buttoning my trousers in time for nuptials at the Danish Church in Regent’s Park.
|A beautiful bride and handsome groom|
I like neither formal events nor crowds, especially when I don’t know most of the people around me; polite chitchat drives me elsewhere.
I do my best, but when the wine cuts off and the band cuts in, I cut out—initially to smoke a Cuban cigar on the dank street outside, but instead of returning, I park myself in the Parlor Bar and sip Irish whiskey until jet lag dissipates and I'm ready to hit the sack.
My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.
It will be published in Fall 2016.