Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
We got on a bus to Hyde Park Corner. I had never been on a bus in London before. Ridiculous as it might seem, my brother and I couldn’t really figure out they worked. The bus stations said we needed an Oyster card which we didn’t take (another stupid thing) and the bus maps were not easy to decipher so we stuck to Tube. I mostly walked from one place to another. It was maybe the first time that I walked so much. My had terrible ankle ache every evening but that wouldn’t stop me from walking.
Soon we found ourselves at Hyde Park Corner, I squealed with delight. I was here again! We walked along the Intercontinental, I caught a glimpse of people at the Cookbook Café’s tables. I was one of them not so long ago and from those tables I watched life outside, people sprinting, sauntering, walking leisurely, people in love, tourists, policemen, men in shoes worth more than ten years of my earnings, women sporting the shiniest brooches, it was such a pleasure having breakfast at this café.
We walked to the Hard Rock Café and found it not busy at all, quite opposite to the long bee lines in July. My brother and I had wanted to go in then but we were told that it’d take upto 4 hours to get a table, many crazy people waited, we did not. There was no line now so I Catharine and I walked royally into the café.
Hard Rock Café London is a regular pub if one is not aware of their great philosophies or is not fascinated with its history and the memorabilia all around. The entire world knows that I am perhaps the biggest fan of Hard Rock Café. While sipping my favourite classis margarita here at Hyderabad’s HRC, I read countless times the story of how HRC came to acquire such a vast collection of rock music’s timeless memorabilia, it began in this very café in London when a certain Rockstar said he wanted to permanently reserve a seat at the HRC London because he liked the place and was a frequent visitor. The café’s owner/manager said that wouldn’t be possible as the café doesn’t do permanent reservations but it was possible that the star could hang one of his guitars over the seat and that would ensure he gets his favourite seat each time he visits the café. Since then, many stars have left their belongings here which hung all around me in the café.
Catharine and I sat at the bar counter, our waiter, as any other Hard Rock Café waiter anywhere seemed cool and maybe he was except for his slight bit of snobbishness.
We ordered hot chocolate as it was the cheapest and we couldn’t believe we could be at the HRC and just spend that much! The hot chocolate at Hard Rock Café is possibly the cheapest in the City of Westminster, at least a pound cheaper than Starbucks just a few blocks away.
The café was all Christmassy, some waiters in Santa caps. Catharine and I loved the hot chocolate and at some point we began wondering how some real rockstars who aren’t around today would like the café if they should visit it today.
We thought Elvis might like it and then I said “Jim Morrison? No.”
The waiter who stood on the other side of the counter with his back turned to us was cleaning glasses and heard this part only where I said “Jim Morrison, No” to which he turned to me and said “You don’t know Jim Morrison? The greatest rockstar?”
This I thought was very stupid of him to barge into a conversation without knowing what we are talking about and to make a judgment that fast. I thought I should explain it to him and I did “Of course I know Jim Morrison beyond just reading his Wikipedia profile, we listen to him a lot in India,” I said – he seemed to get the point that he was maybe being judgmental. But then this is Hard Rock Café – there are never any hard feelings here!
The waiter immediately tried to get friendly with us, inquired how we were enjoying the day and went about cleaning is his glasses. I was glad to notice that the boys at Hard Rock Café Hyderabad are way friendlier, way more knowledgeable and way more pleasant – sometimes examples of world class standards can be had from small cities too.
We decided not to eat at the Hard Rock Café so we could go to some other place. My idea of travel in England is to visit as many pubs and clubs as possible given my appetite and capacity. So we left the café and I got some picture of me outside the café under its massive Christmas tree. The tree had mighty big ornaments. I was amused to find advertorial stickers on each one of them – thus ruining the tree and the festive, holiday spirit around it.
Right next to Hard Rock Café is a narrow lane in which is a pub – Rose and Crown. We took ourselves in and found the pub empty though at least a dozen people poured in within minutes. The food here wasn’t cheap but when compared to HRC, it was like having food for free! I had chicken sandwich and mashed potatoes with some veggies and of course a pint. (the picture below is from Google Images).
The manager of the pub or as he claimed to be arrived at the scene, made some inquiries with the bartender about customers that day, some things that needed to be fixed etc. He then inquired with us if the food was fine. We replied in affirmative. I excused myself and went out to for a smoke as I’d do each time I am at a pub. (Picture below from Google Images)
The guy, a short, black man, followed me and there began a conversation about India, expenses and the cost and quality of living. He was taken aback that the Indian rupee is 80 times lesser than the British pound and yet I had the means, at my age, to travel around Europe. I was surprised that a manager of a pub at Hyde Park Corner would say something like that to which he gave me an insight into the cost of living in the city. He had a family, wife and kid. Sending the kids to college wasn’t easy he said – “it’s so expensive!” I empathized with him and when done with my smoke I went back to my friend.
We finished our lunch when Catharine wanted to visit the washroom. Finding me alone at the table, the pub guy came back to me and said it was a pleasure talking to me and pulled my cheek. I thought it was a real stupid gesture but didn’t say a word as we were leaving and I didn’t want to make anything unpleasant for myself. What irked me was the realization that he wouldn’t dare do such a silly thing with Catharine.
I was happy to leave the pub, we were now headed to St James Church, Piccadilly, for a lunchtime recital. My first one ever.