Up early and headed to the airport by 8:00 this morning. The hotel owner, Abel drove me and we had such a nice visit. He is originally from Cuba, so that was fun to talk about. If you aren’t from Florida, it may not make sense, but I have always been frustrated by the embargo and the fact that I cannot travel to Cuba. It is closer than Atlanta, but out of reach for me. My aunt spent her honeymoon there and it was not unusual for folks to fly over from Florida for a nice vacation. I hope, in my lifetime that will change.
Anyway…I was so caught up in the discussion, that when I went to pay him, I paid in British Pounds rather than Euros. We had a good laugh about that and I paid him properly. I guess I was already switching gears to London.
The flight went smoothly, just under 2 hours. Customs at Heathrow was slow. I don’t know why there is a difference between Heathrow and Gatwick, but of the two, I have better experiences out of Gatwick. Anyway, from Heathrow, I took the Express train to Paddington station. Then I had to take the Tube (subway) to the Hampstead stop.
My hotel, La Gaffe, is just a short walk from there. I was greeted warmly by Lorenzo (a kiss on each cheek – his father is Italian, his mother Greek) and he showed me to my cozy room. This is where my colleague, Pat Coccoma, our students, and I stayed in March. We were so lucky to find it. It is family run, has only 18 rooms, is reasonably priced, and also has a FANTASTIC Italian restaurant. One of the many things, I like about it is that there are also locals who pop in for a latte’ (Lorenzo makes a mean latte’) like they would a pub.
After getting settled, I walked along the Hampstead High street. I needed something to read so I popped into the local Waterstones (like Barnes & Noble) looking for the next book in the British cozy mystery series I’ve been reading. They didn’t have it, but called around and found a copy in the Trafalgar Square branch and offered to hold it so I’ll make a trip there this week. Then I found a café, had a sandwich and salad and watched the world go by.
Hampstead is a village in London. It is the best of all worlds. It has the transportation connections to all of London, but feels removed from the crowds and noise. There are several really nice pubs here, a street creperie that’s pretty famous (and I WILL have one before I leave) and the Heath itself, which is miles of parkland with views over London. Pat and I walked the Heath in March and I plan to do it again this trip. I’ve stayed in numerous neighborhoods in London – South Kensington twice, Notting Hill, the Strand, Bayswater- but as long as La Gaffe stays open, I doubt I will stay anywhere else.
I had dinner in La Gaffe’s restaurant and plan to make it an early night – for some reason I am really tired. I have no idea what I am doing this week. I plan to take it day-by-day. What a luxurious feeling.