A Tube Strike on the Ritz

Jeff and I took our first trip! It was to sunny and wintery…Colorado. That’s right. We moved all the way to London to take our first holiday back to the U.S. But life stops for no man, and when you’re called to be a Best Man, you are duty-bound to perform, no matter where you are. It was a lovely, albeit quick, trip and also one of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had between lost luggage (what do you wear to a wedding when you don’t have your suitcase), severe jet-lag (you lose time going backwards), and missing the Super Bowl (we were in Denver, for crying out loud)!

But the best of all was coming home to London to a tube strike. I didn’t even realize these sorts of things happened. Working in the corporate world, if you strike, you’re fired. But the Transport for London (TFL) is a union, and the best way they are heard is by disrupting the travel for close to 8 million London inhabitants. With things changing and technology catching up to the underground, I fully understand why cutting jobs and stretching the workers thin is cause for action, but man, it certainly isn’t convenient.

During this week-long strike action, I learned a few things.

  • Finding alternatives for traveling is not wholly difficult. Obviously strikes have happened before, and they will happen again, so commuters have figured out which buses and overground trains to take.
  • If you have plans for that week that cannot be changed, make sure you know exactly where you’re going so if you have to take an alternate route, you can still make it.
  • Don’t wear heels. (That lesson should probably just be London-wide, not just limited to strike time.)

A dear friend of mine, Megan, gave Jeff and I a gift for our wedding of Afternoon Tea for Two at The Ritz London. I was so excited to have my first “tea,” so we dressed in our finest (see: heels) and headed toward the few tubes that were still operational. I wasn’t exactly sure where The Ritz was in relation to the Victoria Station, but I had assumed it would be no problem to find it.

I was wrong.

The Ritz Hotel is a mile from Victoria Station, past Buckingham Palace and through Green Park. This is not a trek to take in shoes you have not broken in for several months. When we finally made it to the lit up, glamorous hotel, I raced down to the ladies room just to take my shoes off in private. Lucky for me, the stalls went all the way to the floor, so I was in a closet of solitude. Ritz2


When I emerged, my toes cooled on the marble floors, I marved at the Titanic-esque decor and fancy layout. We were even welcomed by a string quartet.

We were handed a menu of different teas to enjoy with our sandwiches, and were given the suggestion of the Royal English Breakfast tea. He said we wouldn’t be able to find it anywhere else. When in London, do as the English do.

Then they brought up a wonderful platter of perfectly trimmed tea sandwiches. I am gluten-free, but I decided for the night, I would have to put up with the uncomfortable feeling and not limit my experience. It was only many months later did I know you could order gluten-free options for high tea.

Sandwiches

We moaned and swooned over the cheddar, ham and mustard, egg salad, chicken with horseradish, salmon, and cucumber and dill morsels. We had our favorites and when they brought refills (who knew), but we knew pastries were on the way, so we didn’t indulge much more.

Pastries

When the waiter brought the next platter I wanted to pinch myself. Chocolate cake, napoleon, salted caramel and chocolate macaron, and a banana custard concoction were elegantly placed around the idyllic china. Everything was incredibly rich but small enough that we could fully enjoy each taste without feeling like lead balloons.

After taking in the music and elegance of the space, they brought the scones. More food? Scones aren’t really scones here. Here is a lesson on British versus American words: scones are actually biscuits. However, biscuits are cookies. On the savory side, chips are French fries, and crisps are chips.

The scones were a little on the dry side being biscuits, but we had some lovely strawberry jam and clotted cream to spread on them. There are only so many ways to spell divine. We were so full at this point of gluten and sugar, we both regretted turning down the peanut/chocolate cake or candied orange pound cake that was getting served around to the tables.

Tea

By the time we were ready to call it a night, my poor feet were in so much pain, I asked if we could have our first black cab experience. The very nice cab driver took us back to the Victoria train station while we battled with how on Earth we were going to get back to Ealing Broadway. But despite the cab being a godsend for the moment, never again will I get inside. For one, they prefer cash rather than card. We rarely carry cash, so we had to drive to an ATM before he would let us go. But also, they charge every 30-seconds rather than by distance. So, if you’re stuck in traffic or at a red light, that’s too bad. What was one mile as the crow flies was £7.

I hobbled down the stairs to the train and waited patiently for my next chair just to be told, by the grace of the engineers, that this was the last train to Ealing Broadway, our destination. Jeff and I hadn’t even considered that the trains stop for the night.

When we got home, we smiled at each other and realized we just had our first fancy night out on the town and it was everything London between elegance and finger sandwiches to cabs and tube strikes. I can’t wait to see what our next London adventure will be.

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