I set aside one of my days in London to follow the path of Walk 5: Soho to the British Museum from Walking Jane Austen’s London by Louise Allen. I started from Paddington Station, but the Bakerloo line was closed for maintenance so I walked to the next station and got off at Oxford Circus.
Oxford Circus is a busy shopping area with a Top Shop, Marks and Spencer’s, and street performers, people raising money for charity, and tourists. It is hard to imagine Jane Austen might have once walked here. I walked towards Poland Street and glanced down Argyll Street before crossing. I spied the Liberty Stores and took a detour (see earlier post).
I rejoined the walking tour and entered Soho. The book gives a variety of historical facts not all of which are directly related to Austen but from the same time period. Occasionally, there are tidbits like, “The house of Doctor James Stanier Clarke, the Royal Librarian who showed Jane around Carlton House, was on the north side of No. 37. In December 1815 he wrote to her to offer the use of his personal library and to assure her that there was always a maid in attendance. There is no record of Jane’s response to the shocking invitation to visit an unmarried man’s home.” (p61)
I got to the brink of Chinatown and I was beginning to flag. I realized I was also a few blocks from the famous Foyles bookstore. I left off the walking tour and went in search of books, a loo and some hot tea. Little known fact, the creator of the mystery series Foyle’s War named the lead character Christopher Foyle for his favorite bookstore. There a number of outlets but 107 Charing Cross Road is the flagship. I started on the 5th floor at the cafe and then leisurely worked my way through every floor.
I rejoined the tour and walked to Bedford Square where I discovered not every blue historic marker is so special. On to the British Museum. The British Museum’s collection is first rate. The empire gave them the opportunity to haul a lot of cool loot back to London. I was disappointed that a few things have changed since I my last visit. I do not remember so much junk for sale in the center reception area, plus cafes. The museum is free of charge (although a 5 pound donation is suggested). I was not interested in a sandwich wrapped in plastic so I moved on to find a place for dinner.
The most direct way to get back on the Tube at Tottenham Court Road was also closed so it took a little longer to get back. By this time my ankles and feet were not responding to the signals from my brain so I went back to my room at the Hilton and put my feet up. I had yarn and stationary to sort through from the Liberty stores.
There are 8 walks in all to appreciate Jane Austen and the rich history of London. It also helps to pay attention to the layers of detail all around.
I am a Hilton Honors member so it pains me to use my points and have such a rocky start to my stay. I drove up to the front of the Hilton near Union Square and the Bellman accepted my bags. Then I walked across a giant ugly lobby doing a great imitation of 1970s SFO to a 4 person deep line at the HHonors counter–a large group of airline employees queued with one woman handling all the requests at 10:30 p.m. I had checked in on-line but that apparently does not speed the process. I actually do not know what the advantage this option is to me.
Then I had to drive around the block to the parking garage in Tower 3 and spent 20 minutes winding my way up to the 10th level to park. Then find my way back to Tower 2 through the Lobby Level, then go up to level 14 to my room. By now it is 11:00 p.m.
As I enter my room the phone is ringing but the light next to the door does little to illuminate the interior. However, I am in a room equipped for the hearing impaired so a bright light is flashing in tandem with every ring of my phone and it is blinding. I fumble to turn on the light and the switch on the side nearest the door does not work. I simultaneously try to answer the phone and neither of the 2 lines connects me. I call the front desk because I suspect it was the Bellman calling. The first attempt lands me on hold hell. In the second attempt the front desk clerk says he will check and call me back. “No, no I will wait on hold! I do not want to experience that light flashing in my face again.” It was that disorienting.
While I wait for the Bellman to bring up my bags I grab a glass and collect some tap water. There seems to be a film on the water, so I rinse the glass and try again. The water is almost milky white. I show the Bellman when he arrives and he agrees that it is strange. He offers to send up some water and I decline since I want to go to bed. There are two bottles of water, which I generally prefer not to use for ecological reasons, but tonight I am thankful to have as a back up. I send him off with a glass of water to show his supervisor.
I lose the back to my earring down the sink and I take out the plug and I can see the back of the earring but cannot reach it. This is not on Hilton Hotel–it is just how my night is going. My other back to my earring also falls onto the carpet and this draws attention to how old and worn the furnishings are–circa 1980. The beds look naked. I always thought the Hilton chain had a pecking order: Hampton Inn, then Garden Inns, and so on to the top HILTON. Alas all of the Hampton Inns I have stayed from San Diego to Des Moines have been more elegantly appointed than this hotel.
Finally I decide at least I can watch the Tonight Show since I am rarely up this late. Hah! Either the television or the remote is broken. I called the desk and again demurred at the idea of someone coming up right now to fix it. I wanted to get in my jammies and get in bed.
I can hear two men having a conversation next door and there is consistent traffic noise even on the 14th floor. I thought I was so clever using my points for a 2 night stay while I am in San Francisco for training. This is an inauspicious beginning.
I do not often dedicate a post just to lodging in a place I visit. I believe this is the fourth visit to Sedona and the other stays have been at the Enchantment Resort. It is a super special place for a girls weekend or couples get away. However it is more expensive and not always available. I also am a HiltonHonors member so I decided to see what they have to offer in Sedona.
The Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock was under $200 a night and included 2 free drink coupons, access to the fitness facilities including the beautiful pool, classes and tennis. Our room was a suite with a lovely patio area to enjoy a little of the outdoors and the views of Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock.
We dined in the restaurant for lunch and breakfast and found the food and service to be very good. We enjoyed the lounge as well for more conversation and a nightcap before bed.
Darlene the Concierge gave us very good advice about things to do and places to eat. I booked a massage at the spa and Linda gave me an A+ massage working out the knots in my shoulders from cycling. UK Sarah swam laps then used the sauna and jacuzzi. She said the jacuzzi was one of the best she has experienced.
When I return to Sedona I will stay at the Hilton again. Especially if I am organizing a business meeting or retreat or traveling with family. We felt a peace and grounded energy from Sedona and the Hilton Resort was a gracious complement to the Sedona environment.
I love traveling with my friend UK Sarah because it helps me see places I have been to several times with fresh eyes. We flew into Flagstaff and picked up our rental car and drove to Sedona on Highway 89A. It is a beautiful drive along Oak Creek. We stopped at Rock Slide State Park to take pictures because all of the other laybys were full of cars also taking pictures.
We spent some time enjoying the amenities at our hotel and then went to Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock for a short hike. It was great fun and we came up with our word for the day: Majestic. We needed to come up with more vocabulary than Wow! and majestic just fit.
We took the time to read the Sedona Vortex Map. Bell Rock is one of the places that the energy is strong even from the parking lot. Call us skeptics but we did not feel it. Perhaps we are insensitive.
After our hike we drive to the end of Verde Valley School Road to view Cathedral Rock more closely. Majestic. Better than a man-made cathedral.
We returned to the Hotel and changed for dinner. Then we walked to the Cucina Rustica for a delicious Italian meal with impeccable service from Paul. Dining outside in the warm Arizona evening with guitar music in the background would be very romantic with the right person. We took advantage of the ambiance to have a great conversation and to catch up after 6 months in very different time zones.
Today we will visit Chapel of the Holy Cross on our way to the Grand Canyon.