I carefully packed all the items, including my camera and the book of life, into my new suitcase. Ready for the holiday but not fully drowned in the "it's my birthday tomorrow" euphoria yet, I travelled to the airport that Thursday morning. Waiting for Tiger to arrive there too, I went shopping for fruit, had a quick call with parents and checked for duty-free items in the beauty shop. The new collection of the L'occitane creams attracted me. Spring was everywhere it seemed: Easter ambassadors like egg- and bunny-gifts in the shops, people were dressed summery heading for holidays, and the pastel-colour design of the cosmetics made me stay and try some.
At that very moment, my mobile vibrated. "I am at the gate," the short message said and I headed to the security control to enter the gate area.
He met me and invited for a drink in the café. Whilst sitting there, I dropped my glance on his phone and jealously noticed, that he was texting with Li.
It was our upcoming flight to the British capital. It was one day before my birthday.
On the plane, Tiger entertained me with stories about the island Sylt. "It was the German Dandy - Gunter Sachs - who discovered Sylt and made it popular for other celebrities. Since then it is a holiday destination for the rich and beautiful." He smiled. "Soon, we too are going there. You will love it."
It was time for here and now, I thought. At first, we should celebrate my birthday and enjoy London. Tiger liked running ahead of time and continued sharing teasers about the island.
"How many times have you been there?" I supported the conversation.
"20? I have to guess."
"Wow, you must really like it there!"
"As I say, you will like it too!"
I did not mind, I got excited and imagined myself walking along the beach in the North.
Upon landing at the Heathrow airport, we bought a water at Costa and took the Piccadilly line to the central London.
At Victoria, I stepped aside to orient myself. Failing at that though, I raised my glance at Tiger, saying: "I think we need to turn right..." He called up Safari maps but all we saw was an empty raster, as the map would not load. Having to take our chances and bags, we rolled the way I suggested ...
Two clues proved, we were heading the right way:
Passing Wicked, which Tiger noticed and called out first.
Seeing Wetherspoon - the Willow Walk - (thank God things do not change much in historical London)...
As we stood to cross the last bit of street before reaching our hotel, it was one of those moments where you do not believe where you are. It seemed unreal to be on holiday in London around Victoria!
Going out for lunch, we headed South and checked location after location, menu after menu on the opposite side of the street. Almost agreeing to Giraffe, we moved on one crossing further and there it was - Nando's. We knew what we'd get there, so happily we headed straight inside. I had a salad, he had his butterfly chicken and we spiced the dishes with "Lime and Herbs" peri-peri sauce.
Tiger and I struggled with the glass bottle and dispenser though, you could not get the sauce out of the bottle without shaking it wildly, almost uncontrollably, nearly splashing the drops everywhere but on my food. Tiger pointed to the window bar seat where a mum and a daughter were having their lunch and I noticed the same movement of mum's hand holding the bottle. The sauces are delish, but the dispensers are rubbish. For drinks I ordered strawberry and lime and received a RASPberry and lime cider... and after drinking a glass, the whole journey seemed more relaxed and I felt more comfy and jolly…
"So, is it working?" He smiled a she-is-drinking-a-Cider smile.
Of course, it did. It was the alcohol in the cider, unfolding and getting my brevity out of me. I chatted openly to Tiger about photo-editing programs, and about our plans for the rest of the day.
We decided to browse and visited some shops on our way to "South Kensington" as we initially thought. Charity, herbal, pharmacy and second-hand shop - all on our way... At cafe Nero, Tiger decided to have his last espresso for the day. "I am spoilt," his verdict was after the sip. Putting the mug away, he changed the conversation and impressed me with his knowledge of the history of Cafe Nero's origins and how proud English were to have the invented and run Nero.
He who "Out-clauded Claude"
Everywhere I looked, I saw the word Pimlico on the signs of local shops. Were we heading towards Tate Britain? Getting "lost", or wondering, we did not mind which way to go. Yet indeed, my navigation whiskers led me towards the Thames, past the white swan, we turned left into the streets we walked with Baine 2 years ago and then up on our north-east we saw the entrance into Tate. Great! It was my wish to visit the gallery on my birthday, but there we were - one day earlier. It had to be a Tate afternoon.
We took the Manton entrance and went upstairs into the sculptures wing of the building. Henry Moore and his creations. It was all new to Tiger and he "whiled around", but I was impatiently drawn to the Turner's collection.
Just around the corner, when entering the red-painted halls of the Turner's collection, I felt at home.
The rooms were filled with visitors, some curiously observing the paintings, others relaxing on the benches. We sat down in front of the "Decline and Fall of the Carthaginian Empire". Pretty soon, an tour group joined us with a guide stopping and waiting on the left of the paining. He spoke about the self-confidence of Turner, and how the painter was sure to be a genius and ahead of his time and quote "out-clauding Claude", referring to Turner's favourite old master Claude Lorrain.
We browsed further, shared our comments about most and least favourite paintings. John Constable's Salisbury Cathedral was the last paining we saw. Then, I led Tiger towards the impressive spiral stairs. There and then, with my camera's timer release, I took Tiger's favourite picture of us.
We finished out visit at the Manton's shop, where the Van Gogh's doll kissed me. Yet another gimmick, but why not - we were on holiday.
Taxi took us to the hotel, and shortly after we were on the road again, this time to the Church's. A lady dressed in black and bright cherry shoes was helping Tiger to send his shoes for refurbishment. I was invited to look around the shop.
Tiger would tell me later that night, over dinner: "Prada bought Church's and tried changing the brand. The revenues started to drop and pretty soon, the brand was restored to Church's. Then the business recovered." Never change the running system.
We walked towards Piccadilly, met Mr.Beans at the corner and saw crowds of Londoners, enjoying a beer and a chat in front of every pub. The tube took us "home" and whilst relaxing at the bar, Tiger selected some options to go out for dinner that night. We chose an Italian in our neighborhood and headed there around 7 p.m.
We arrived ahead of time but were welcomed to take a seat. As we sat on the sofa, waiting for our order, Tiger concluded: "This is just right: not too little, not too much. Staff is friendly, ambiente is not over the top." I liked the authenticity of the restaurant as it was led and run by Italians. Still there was one thing Tiger and I agreed upon that night. Enjoying the wine, we concluded that the food could be better - and it would not be much effort. I missed Hamburg and Italian restaurants there.
We walked "home" and I craved to fall asleep, looking forward to the new birthday adventures the next day.