Time to move to Plymouth. But first, I stored my suitcase and pack at the Tune Hotel desk for five pounds and walked across the Westminster Bridge. Tourists were all over it, taking pictures of each other; I ducked and wove around the cones of light being sucked up by their cameras.
Due to dumbness, I missed two tours–the first because I’d misread the starting time, and the second because I miscalculated how long it would take to trek thru the Monument/Bank underground complex, a confusion of little tunnels, escalators and stairs with now and then a clammy underground draft or the electric howl of a train speeding away.
In the St. Paul’s station, I helped a young mom with two little kids carry one kid’s stroller up the stairs. She was grateful; her little boy was facing me, and he was not. His eyes grew wide, and he was about to bail out by the time we got it to the top.
By the time I’d located St. Paul’s Cathedral, I was really more interested in finding a WC. My map showed two close by; but I couldn’t find either of them. It seemed like one of them was in an office building across the street. The security guards were rather short with me, and sent me back south. I found a Starbucks, and was saved by my own country’s franchise invasion. Gratefully, I had lunch there, while eavesdropping on a couple of English yuppies discussing “gap analysis.”
The AC was broken on the train to Plymouth, the windows didn’t open, and the ride was 3.5 hours long. They passed out bottles of water and apologies. I got out my tinted bifocals for the trek to Gallery Guesthouse, and a lens fell out. I crawled under my seat and found it.
In Plymouth (map), after a few false turns I found the Gallery Guesthouse, very nice. The weather was chilly and overcast, not unlike another seaport city I know–Seattle. I layered up and walked down thru the Plymouth University campus and the Drake’s Circus shopping center to the Barbican, the old part of town.
The streets were narrow, wandering and cobblestoned, with flagstone sidewalks behind granite curbs. I found an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant, the Jaipur Palace. No need to go any further!
A hulking, Klingon-like doorman in a purple uniform with big gold buttons seemed to be discouraging me from going in; maybe it was my grubby ski jacket? I asked if the place was open and, upon hearing the affirmative, told him I’d like to go in. So he let me in. The staff swiftly disappeared my jacket into a cloak room and sat me at a table in the back. It had red and white tablecloths, a small vase of flowers and a candle. Paintings of Kashmir scenes decorated the room. Dinner was delicious, and elegantly presented on a tabletop brazier; lamb with spicy sweet-and-sour lentil sauce, saak paneer (spinach and cubes of Indian baked cheese) and Basmati rice.