Here's something you may not know: the 11:43pm/23:43 train from Weybridge to Waterloo stops at almost every station between the two, even Vauxhall, and I don't think I've ever stopped at Vauxhall. (It's spittin' distance to Waterloo - what's the point?) So when the HRH Slow Boat To China pulled into the station at around 12:25am/00:25 after my fine visit with the Moore family, I made my way to the good old Bakerloo line for the straight shot to Paddington.
Imagine my chagrin (and that of other Bakerloo-wannabees) when I found the gate to the platform closed. En masse weary travelers ran to the Northern Line as the last train was about to leave. Whew! sez I to meself! Made it!
Ah, but my relief was short-lived. My Plan B was to hop off at Tottenham Court Road, then catch the Central Line to Lancaster Gate where I was staying. Plan B didn't work. Ours was the last train into/out of the station, and all were unceremoniously shoo-ed out the door and onto the street as the station gates slammed behind us.
Hmmm. Now what? It was a few minutes to 1am, and I'm on Tottenham Court Road trying to figure how to get back to my hotel. Cab, you suggest? On Friday night? Hardly. It was like Times Square after the theatre lets out - impossible. Bus, maybe? Sounds like a plan, but which way and to where?
I walked purposefully but aimlessly (can that be done?), going in the wrong direction for several blocks twice, eating up about 15 minutes. I asked a couple of people to point me in the right direction. One got me completely turned around (thus, wandering the wrong way for the second time). The second person did point me right, but suggested I get a cab or bus since I was so far away from my destination.
Again, I started walking, turned right when I got to Oxford Street and headed south. Such a busy, happ'nin' street, I figured I could easily get a cab or find the right bus. No to both. Every so often I'd stop and spend a couple of minutes trying to hail a taxi, but they were all otherwise engaged. Oxford Street is quite the party-place in the wee-small-hours of the morning, I've found out. It was knocking on 1:30, my feet were aching, and I was close to worn out.
OK, I'll just cut to the chase. I ended up walking all the way back to my hotel, arriving a little after 2am. I was tired, but not really uncomfortably scared (I'm a Noo-Yawka') until I got to Marble Arch and Edgeware Road. Suddenly, all the people disappeared. Guess no one takes early-early morning walks in Hyde Park, so the walk from the Arch to Lancaster Gate was a lonely one. I was hyper-aware of everything, walking as fast as I could without breaking into an actual run for the last 15 minutes or so.
Completely my fault. I certainly knew way back in the 1970s when I was living there that the London tube closed down around 12:30am, but I suppose after 24/7 New York, it never entered my mind that the tube still closed early. Or that I wouldn't be able to get a cab (and no Mr. Big offered to pick me up). Or that I couldn't figure out which bus to get on. I'll know next time.
And by the time I got back to the hotel, I'd walk off that wonderful Chinese meal I'd shared with the Moores. Ah, me!