Friday, July 27, 2012

one reason I love london? because of this guy



The 2012 Summer Olympics start today in London and here at The Happygirl, we are excited for the games to begin. Yes, we will be happily watching the Opening Ceremonies cheering especially hard for the athletes who may be the only ones competing for their countries.

I love London. During my job as a celebrity interviewer for MSN.com, I was lucky enough to spend a considerable amount of time in London as a reporter. I love this city. I literally love everything about it from watching the United Kingdom appear under the clouds as you land at Heathrow to the pride in which the London citizens have for their country. I adore the cabbies. It boggled my mind to learn that a green badge cabbie in London must pass The Knowledge test (sounds Harry Potter-like, yes?), an exam that tests their comprehension of 320 routes (that's 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks!)

There are the extraordinary restaurants (Try the Tea-smoked omelette, fruit muffin and a Passionfruit Smoothie at The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwall.) There are historic walks throughout the city, museums, monuments, churches, art galleries, shopping. . . Sometimes when I am rushing around between meetings or interviews I stop into a church, sit in a pew and close my eyes imagining the thousands of people who sat exactly where I have over the past hundreds of years. It's almost as if you can hear their prayers still hovering among the statues.

London is charming, of course but one of my favorite memories was of this man. He personified London for me.

I was staying for a few days at one of London's legendary posh hotels covering a movie junket. One of the challenges in traveling for your job is learning a new alarm clock at each new hotel. Often I would be fumbling late at a night after a screening or two to try and set an alarm for the morning only to find that I set it for PM or not at all. At this hotel, however, the alarm clock was perfect. It was a small, simple battery operated clock, gold toned in a black leather folding design, easy for the travel. It reminded me of something Grace Kelly would travel with. There was one button to set the alarm and the alarm itself was clear and loud but lovely - ting ting ting.

I was in love.  I woke up happy feeling like London was waking me up with a firm but friendly "Hello, my little traveler. It's time to wake up. Let's go! Get up, shall we?"

On my final morning in London, after breakfast I went down to the front desk to check-out. I had seen the clerk several times over my stay but on this particular morning he would become one of my favorite memories of London.

Front Desk Clerk: "Good morning, Miss Johnson. How was your stay with us?"

Happygirl: "So lovely. Thank you for taking such good care of me. May I clear up my bill please?"

Clerk: "Brilliant. Of course."

I remembered the clock. "One question. The clock in the room? The little alarm clock by the bed? Do you sell them?" (I often stayed at hotels where most things in the room were for sale, from the bedding to the bathrobes.)

Clerk: "I am terribly sorry, Miss Johnson but the clock is not for sale."

I was disappointed. "Oh. What if the clock were missing from the room, what would you charge me? Could I just pay that perhaps, in advance?"

Clerk: "Here at _____________ the items in the room are not for sale. However, if, perhaps, you were to take the clock home with you to America, I trust that someday you would stay with us again and bring the clock back with you. We have enjoyed your stay with us, Miss Johnson and we look forward to your next visit."

He said this in a serious tone but then there it was, a subtle, slight wink--the British sense of humor that I appreciate. In that one almost imperceptible wink I got the message "We may be posh and maybe a little stodgy but we're still kind of cheeky."

There may be extraordinary museums and art, outstanding shopping and restaurants but what stands out for me about London are the people, from the cleric who passionately points out the quirky facts about his small church and the cabbies who say "Hello, luv!" when you get in their cab to the hotel clerk who knows exactly how to leave an impression on a guest.

London, I love you so.

Here's to London and the games!

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