My son and I cleared customs at Heathrow before our scheduled arrival time. We weighed taking a cab and taking the Tube, and ended up taking the Tube. Our hotel is the Arofsa in Bloomsbury, which happens to be close to multiple Tube stations.
Because we were arriving late, so late we were expected to retrieve a front door key from a lockbox since the front desk of our family-run hotel would be closed, I had googled crime on the Tube and in our neighborhood in advance. There was plenty of crime reported in our neighborhood, but mostly some crime called Anti-Social Behavior. I figured I was up to handling criminal behavior of this sort, considering myself somewhat anti-social. I was familiar with the directions from the nearest station to our hotel and how to get the station with one Tube line change.
We encountered our first instance of what I can only guess is Anti-Social Behavior on the Tube. As we pulled into a station at least five stops from where we needed to change lines, I saw trouble waiting on the platform before the doors even opened. A man, clearly drunk and maybe mentally unstable, was dancing out a greeting of the train before hopping into our car.
His first move was to grab the pole and complete a tawdry faux striptease before heading to the opposite end of the car to begin loudly harassing riders and propositioning men. He stayed interested in the other end of the car for longer than I dared hope. We had two stops to go when he decided to come into our end. We laid low and he directed his attention to others who seemed more willing to engage. I was readying my son to leave and wait for the next train when the Anti-Social One determined his stop was up next. The entire car breathed a sigh of relief when he left.
Once we’d changed lines and arrived at the station closest to the hotel, we had a bit of trouble finding street signs and had to double back for instructions from the Tube station attendant, not before encountering a more frightening exhibit of Anti-Social behavior, a man bellowing in the street. My son’s nerves were clearly fried, and we were happy to arrive at the Arofsa. We navigated the lockbox with no trouble and made our way up three flights of stairs to Room 14, with a few lessons learned.
The Arofsa is a 200-year old Georgian on Bower Street, the former home of Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais. The name was familiar, but I had no familiarity with his work. My limited research turned up few paintings that I recognized although he enjoyed excellent commercial success even during his life (face it: art is not really my thing).
More importantly, my research turned up a few awesome stories. For example, a controversial marriage to Effie, who’d had a first marriage annulled because her husband had been horrified on his wedding night at discovering certain realities of female anatomy. Also, a painting of Ophelia that caused his young model pneumonia from laying in cold water for hours and days, and for which he was required to pay medical expenses. A painting called “Bubbles,” of all things, which he sold to a soap manufacturer for commercial purposes and which became his most well-known painting.
You have some idea what you are getting when you stay in a hotel like Arofsa, which means “resting place” in Welsch. It is charming, but it is an old, old building. I picked the hotel because it was reasonably priced, well located, and had a room with two twin beds. It’s hard to find a hotel room with two beds, but I found even a twin room quite rare for this visit.
Our room is as tiny as it can be, with just enough room for the two twins. When we’re not in our respective beds, it’s almost impossible for two of us to move around freely.
When we opened the door we were almost bowled over by a musty odor that appears to emanate from the bathroom. I’ve detected a similar, less pronounced odor in some of the nearby restaurants, so it may have to do with old plumbing in the area, or water.
Because it is very, very warm in London, we’ve been able to keep the window open which has been helpful.
In my previous trips I’ve mentioned the absolute ingenuity of hotels fitting bathrooms into either tiny or awkward spaces. The bathroom in our room at the Arofsa is the smallest bathroom I’ve ever seen. It’s probably smaller then 9 square feet and there is no activity that is normally completed in the bathroom that can easily be done without banging your elbow or knee into a wall, door, or sink.
Still, it is cozy and pretty. It is our arofsa, our resting place. We’ve been absolutely on the go all day today. I’ll tell you all about it next chance I get.
The match is tomorrow, and we can’t wait.