‘Twas a fabulous weekend darn sarf, but I’m still absolutely knackered!  I left at 7am on Friday to head down, and the wee car actually still had tons of room in it (amazingly!)  Somewhere as I passed through the Lake District a wheel bearing started to go – only noticeable initially as I slowed down and sped up going in and out of services/roadworks, but then the further south I got, the louder it got (and correspondingly the louder the radio got ;o) ).  By the time I reached London it sounded like half the exhaust had fallen off it was that loud a roar!  

Getting to South Kensington was no bother, as I had no difficult junctions from getting on the M74 in Glasgow, down through the M6/M42/M40/M25/M4/A4 and then I tried to find the Grange Strathmore Hotel… Ha!  Talk about difficult to find!  I knew I needed to turn from the A4 onto Gloucester Road then first right into Queen’s Gate Gardens, and on the print out I had it looked like it was on the first corner I’d come to driving up.  Nope, no sign, no flags, nothing (not like the Radisson, which was on the A4/Cromwell Road just past Gloucester Road and could quite clearly be seen with signs and flags!).  So round I went again, and no, no sign, so I tweeted for help (and no-one replied *sob*).  Next tour round I stopped and looked at Maps on my phone, and it seemed to be back at that first corner, so round I went again aaaaand, nope, nada.  So next I went down all the wee streets off it as I went round again – as it turns out Queen’s Gate Gardens numbers like a Catherine wheel, so there’s the square in the middle, but there’s also 2 legs that go off at the top corners and the numbers continue down them.  I followed it all the way round, and nothing.  Back onto the phone, but this time I hit Google to find the actual building number, then I toured again and finally found it.  It has a tiny brass plaque on the column at the bottom of the steps, but that’s the only indication it’s a hotel – no wonder I couldn’t tell it apart from all the houses!!!  A nice concierge then helped me haul everything in to their lobby so I could then legally go and park the car (a mere £16 for 4 hours on the far side of the gardens, but of course all I had in change initially was 60p, so I had to put that in to cover 9 minutes, then run round to the newsagents I’d seen round the corner and get a £20 changed)  The only up side to all the touring and running about was that it had killed nearly an hour, and I could now park from 2:30 to 6:30 (and maximum 4 hours) and after that it was off meter!

Schlepping back round to the hotel again, I met Laura outside leaning against a car, so briefly said hi and headed in to get all the stuff up to Leanne’s room.  Confusingly, it was now a different porter, but I explained that everything was for room 447, which was what Leanne had e-mailed me.  ‘But we don’t have a 447 madam, are you sure?’  Yes, quite sure she said 447, I even showed him the e-mail where she said she’d left a key at reception for me.  ‘We definitely don’t have a 447,’ he said decisively.  Down to the lounge I went, and looking like a woman derranged (judging by the looks on everyone’s faces), I screeched across at Laura, in a slightly hysterical voice, ‘Where’s Leanne?’  To which Laura and Susan replied in unison (for they had brought her back to London after a night at Susan’s) ‘In the other hotel!’  I could have cried – you remember that pile of bags from last week, right?!  Thankfully John gallantly leapt into action (as the only male there that wasn’t a babe in arms) and, along with Laura and Susan, we hauled everything round the corner to the Radisson, which, if you recall, was the one I could see quite clearly when I drove up in the first place…  Aaaaanyway, the very nice guy at the Radisson front desk lead us through to the tiniest lift you’ve ever seen in your life.  It fit (tiny) Susan, (oversized) me, and the bags, and that was it, so Laura and John went back to prop up the bar (I still owe them a drink for that actually, cash in next year guys!)  Susan and I then discovered that the dratted room 447 was as far as humanly possible, down a labyrinthine set of corridors that Lewis Carroll would have been proud of, from the lift.  By the time we found the door, we were laughing rather hysterically, but at least Leanne was there to greet us and to help us trek back and get the rest of the stuff before we all headed back to the Grange to prop up the bar.

Fade out to the return journey…  (the actual event will take several more posts!)

Getting out of London was no bother, but you may remember that loud roar, well, I got to Oxford Services and decided that really, I didn’t fancy driving along only to find my wheel rolling past a la Herbie or the Wacky Races, so discretion being the better part of valour, I stopped and called the breakdown service.  I must say that I think the breakdown guy took an inordinate amount of glee in telling me that I only had the basic cover (oh, and with a £20 excess thank you very much) and that as I was SOOOO far away from home, I was WELL outwith the 10 mile rescue zone.  Oh, and I could upgrade any time, but that there was a 2 week exclusion zone, so that wouldn’t help me either (note to self, don’t get breakdown cover along with insurance next year…).  As the cherry on the cake, it didn’t cover hotels either…  Anywho, he thought he might be able to find someone to help, and thankfully the help was rather more helpful than he was!  By just after 3:30 the car was off to the garage, and I was booked into the Days Inn at the services (thankfully at the lowest rate!) and phoning and texting all and sundry to inform them of my fate.  I contemplated what to do, and whilst EPP and block sewing was an option, having pinged the lovely Jan to say I was local, she noticed that I was less than 10 miles down the road, so we went out for dinner and came back for a natter afterwards.  The next morning I sat in the room reading till 11 am checkout time, then hauled all the stuff out to the lobby and cluttered it up til Jan came down for another natter until the car reappeared.  (Thanks also to Susan who considered a rescue, I will be practicing my running skills for next year in anticipation of having to leap into her car as she tours the carpark unable to stop ;o) )  I finally got home at 8:30 last night, and managed to sort a few wee things out before collapsing in a heap.

Dinner at the Thai place near Jan’s