August 5, 2012
LONDON CALLING (DAY 13)
Trains, trams and taxi cabs
By Michael Lewis
MANCHESTER -- Sometimes we take life and things for granted, that we can get from here to there with the snap of our fingers.
Of course, that's not always the case, but we happen to be quite spoiled.
On Sunday morning, I took a train from Newcastle to this western English city for Monday's quarterfinal encounter between the United States and Canada. After a long, long Saturday night, I managed about four hours of sleep, not exactly what I had planned for rest.
The journey took a little longer than planned. It seemed there was a light that would not go off in the engineer's booth. We were delayed at two stations while the train powered down and then up. When the said light still went on, our train was attached to another train at York. We arrived at Manchester Piccadilly Station some 44 minutes late.
It certainly was not the end of the world because I had built in extra time before the U.S. press conference at Old Trafford.
I took a shuttle bus to the stadium; besides the driver I was the only one aboard, in stark contrast to the packed train. Because Canada was late to its press conference and with a ton of work to do, Robert Klemko of USA TODAY and I left the stadium after the last shuttle bus had departed for our hotel.
We got directions to the local tram station, although we had high hopes of hailing a cab before we got there. It was 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and we were hungry. And because it was getting later in the night, just how many decent restaurants would be open?
A few cabs that looked empty failed to stop for us. We followed the signs to a cricket ground, which was next to the tram station. However, the signs were not as accurate as we would have liked and we wound up lost -- until Robert took out his cell phone, activated his GPS and figured out where exactly we were and where the tram station was.
Once back in central Manchester and the clock ticking, we tried some restaurants close to the hotel, but they were not serving food that late or had pizza. Listen, after eating Little Vincent's pizza in Lake Ronkonkoma, it is difficult to eat pizza just about anywhere else. Pizza in Manchester? Blasphemous!
A bartender at one of the restaurants suggested another place that is usually open until 4 a.m. -- Black Dog. It was about a mile away. We started walking and walking and walking (we passed other establishments; they either looked seedy or were fast food, the latter being a last resort). It seemed more than a mile away and we finally gave up and took a cab.
I wound up have a falafel wrap and it was delicious. Compared to some of the overpriced dinners I have had elsewhere through Great Britain this one hit the spot in my stomach and wallet.