Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snow day in London

"We just got an e-mail from school," my flatmate yelled down our hallway as I walked out of the shower. "No classes today on account of the snow." I ditched my towel for my sweats and poured a steaming hot mug of coffee. Apparently four inches of snow is about all that London needs to shut down for the day.

After a long weekend out and about in London, I savored the extra time, catching up on reading, missed episodes of "The Office" and travel plans. My flatmates and I lounged around over breakfast -- it was a second-pot-of-coffee morning. In the afternoon, we met some other friends in Hyde Park to play in the snow, London-style. My flatmate and I walked the two miles to get there because the London transport system shut down for the day -- no buses and very limited tube service. Covered in a blanket of white and hundreds of awe-struck Londoners, the park looked like the inside of a snow globe: stunning.

According to my architecture professor, Monday was the first and only day he ever remembers that the London buses did not run. The BBC reported it was the biggest snow since 1991. And, nearly every store on Oxford Street was closed by four o'clock in the afternoon. Of course to me -- a native Chicagoan and Syracuse survivor -- the snowstorm barely felt like a dusting. But, I learned an important lesson. London does not do snow. They don't use salt. I didn't see one plow in the streets. And, I saw very few shovels. Primarily, they use brooms to remove the snow. But, no complaints here. I welcomed the snow day and temporary London pandemonium.

My flatmates and I finished our day with a movie and chocolate night. Notting Hill lit up the big screen and Kinder Bueno was my chocolate bar of choice. Think creamy chocolate and a bit of biscuit.

And a quick cod update... Baking it in the oven with just a little salt and a lot of pepper resulted in a much tastier dish, especially with a soy stir-fry on the side. Plus, straight from the freezer, it proved the perfect answer to my forget-trying-to-buy-groceries-in-London-in-this-weather dilemma, Monday night.

Monday's mess continued into Tuesday, despite a blue sky and rays of sun. With no salt and very scant attempts to remove the snow from London's sidewalks, the three-block walk to school got treacherous really fast. Other than the streets, every thing was covered in a sheet of ice.

Facing a quiet evening at home on Tuesday, my friends and I decided to explore London's iconic shopping mecca: Harrods. I have never seen so much designer clothing in one space. Walking through the women's department felt like the backstage of a fashion show. The perfume hall proved overwhelming, especially the army of employees in black suits and high heels. By far, I found the food hall most enticing. The tea and chocolate room boasts beautiful tins of coffees, exotic teas and picture-perfect truffles. Employees in suspenders, striped-vests and hats completed the picture. Another room features a deli counter that stretches for miles, filled with salads, quiches, lasagnas and croissant sandwiches. A sushi counter sits opposite the deli counter. Out of either hunger or awe, everything appeared delicious. Not to mention, this was the one hall I felt that I might actually make a purchase. I quickly learned that Harrods is not the place to follow a student's budget. I splurged on a box of lemon-verbena tea.

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