Oh the weather outside is frightful

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London as seen from the observation deck at the Shard (Tallest building in Europe)

But then, I am in London for the holidays. About 20 years ago, my parents started a tradition of having the family gather in London for a week for the holidays. It was a way for them to have their adult children and their significant others around for more than just a holiday meal and gift exchange. Now, it’s only the Bro, Sis-in-law and myself and we’ve decided to continue the tradition. I actually got to see London with leaves on the trees this past September before my motorbike ride in Germany. It’s the only time I’ve seen London that way. It was kind of odd. I’m now back to the familiar: Leafless trees, flowerless bushes, the general population bundled up against the cold and rain slick roadways. I love London at Christmas time. It’s like being at a Dickens fair but without the costumes and annoying fake English accents. It also gives me the chance to indulge in copious amounts of curry; something I have easy access to but rarely avail myself to at home.

ImageI’ve discovered a chain of quick serve restaurants here in London called “Itsu” providing a healthy alternative to most quick serve restaurants. It’s my new favorite restaurant for a quick nosh to stave off the cold and wintery London weather. Their duck and rice potsu is particularly warming: A combination of roasted duck meat, assorted veggies, brown and wild rice bathed in a mild Thai curry sauce. A perfect way to comfort the soul.

I’ve discovered a few other things on this trip.

1) Beware the pickpockets and gypsies. Not only on the street but also behind the tills at retail and dining establishments. There seems to be an epidemic of short changing the tourists going on ranging anywhere from extra charges on the dinner bill to shorting the change when paying by cash. So far, it’s been a daily occurrence ranging from providing change for a 10-pound note when paying with a 20 to shorting a pound or two at the coffee shop. My reaction ranges from annoyance to amusement. I figure they need the money more than me for them to be so blatant about it.

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Changing of the Guard (and clearly the inspiration for the Wicked Witch of the West guards in the Wizard of OZ)

2) Many restaurants are now adding a “Service Charge” (gratuity) onto the bill so be sure and check before adding a gratuity to the bottom line.

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Stairwell at Saint Pancras Hotel

3) And most importantly: When photographing small children enjoying a ride on the carrousel at the Winter Wonderland carnival in Hyde Park, if asked “Which one is yours?” neither the parents nor the local authorities find it nearly as amusing as I did to respond with, “I haven’t chosen yet” Mug shots pending. Actually, I’m just kidding. I heard that on the telly and thought it was funny.

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Carrousel at the Winter Wonderland

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Regent Street on Boxing Day

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