At breakfast, I sipped my tea and watched as men carried the all the Christmas trees around the hotel.
Afterwards, we strolled through Hyde Park in the brisk morning air. The winter carnival sat quietly in sharp contrast to the hum and lights of the previous evening.
At the lakeshore, we watched the fat ducks and swans.
The trees were turning colors and the leaves were falling gently to the ground.
A modern arch framed Kensington Palace in the distance. The palace was built in 1689 and is still used by royal families. Princess Diana resided there until her death.
As we meandered down the path we reached the fountains--a beautiful maze of flowing water with a jutting medieval tower where large haunting birds were perched.
Soon we were back on Oxford street being enticed to shop by the elaborately decorated store fronts.
At every intersection "look right" and "look left" are stamped on the ground to remind American tourists that the traffic flow is different in London. As the cars zipped down the street my sense of self preservation adapted quickly.
The British signs made me smile too. I found their labels very literal.
Toilet = Restroom
Way In = Entrance
Way Out = Exit
Tube/Underground = Subway
Mind your step = Watch your step
Disabled Toilet = Handicapped Restroom
Carriage = Taxi
Give Way = Yield
Returning to the hotel at midmorning, my husband donned his suit in preparation for the awards luncheon. By 11:30 AM champagne was being circulated amidst the gathering crowd. Soon we were ushered into the ballroom. The ornate room was dimly lit with massive sparkling chandeliers. Tables covered with white tablecloths and gleaming with silverware and glasses filled the column lined room. There were as many glasses as pieces of silverware at each setting (in other words lots of each). The appetizers arrived and the accompanying wine was poured, and when the plate was swept away I was down one fork and one glass. The entree was accompanied by another wine. Then dessert...and another wine. Then came the trays of meat, cheese, and olives. And another tray of sweets. In the meantime, the international tunneling presentation rolled forward. The Bay Tunnel was highly commended a.k.a. runner-up/second place--a great accomplishment! Per the invitation, carriage time was 5 PM.
The Bay Tunnel group was headed to dinner later at a nearby pub, and we tried to join them, unsuccessfully, as they were no where to be seen; however, a second door farther down the street opened to a staircase and another dining room (not accessible from the inside of the pub). Thinking we failed to find the right location, we roamed back down Oxford street where my favorite Christmas lights twinkled overhead.
"City sidewalks, busy sidewalks...It's Christmas time in the city." We explored the British department stores and found a few things to take home to the kids--who were never far from our minds. By 9 PM the stores started to close and we walked back to our hotel, exhausted.
That elusive sleep came more easily--until the telephone rang! It was 8:30 AM and we were late for breakfast!