My little cousin is in a town. While being kids and teenagers, the age gap was too big for being playmates plus she lives in another country, but in the last couple of years we started growing closer. So she is in town for a shopping weekend with friends and calls to ask if I want to meet her. Sure I do. However, the only possible is in the afternoon as I invited someone round to brunch. The invitation is actually a couple of months old and meant as a thank you for his assistance with some problems handling a statistical tool, but shortly afterwards he moved to the States for his PhD and we did not manage to meet until he came back for a visit – which is today. And in the evening I will become the foster mum of a huge plant of a friend’s friend who is going abroad for his post-doc.
In the afternoon I have time, I tell my cousin. She points out that they have already reserved a table at the Ritz for a British tea time, would I like to join them. Of course I do. But, she says, the problem is that it costs at least 20 Euros.
That must be indeed a great cup of tea, I think. When I was her age and traveled to other cities, my friends and I would hang out at places which were known as student cafés or bars. I wonder if we ever had toddled with the idea of spending 20 Euros for a cup of tea at a fancy hotel. Oh well, the times are a changing.
The brunch is fun. We exchange stories about The City where he lives now – which is one of my favorite cities, and his scope work.
He enjoys The City – I always wonder about people who do not -, but points out how expensive it is – not only rent wise, but especially regarding food. Not to mention organic food and good bread. It is incredible indeed – I wonder how normal people in normal jobs can make a living there.
It is interesting to compare the differences in academic environments. He makes the similar experiences that I did years ago, and we compare the pros and cons of the different academic cultures.

And then it is time for the tea time. I arrive at the Ritz and just walk in as I have a room there, thinking that this way I will not appear too alien for such a shmancy fancy place. It is indeed overwhelming – the chandelier is huge, there is a wonderful flight of stairs, lots and lots of nice flowers and friendly people everywhere.
The girls are already there, and we sit down in comfortable chairs, all feeling a little bit as if we do not belong here at all. The waitress who is dressed in a Chinese dress hands out the menu and we can choose between different tea settings – all of them include food, some have more pastries and others more sandwiches. I go for a good mix, sandwiches and pastries and scones. Then we can chose a tea – where I pick Darjeeling of course. The waitresses (! by now we have three waitresses serving us) disappear and get us the tea and the food which is arranged in tiers. Everything is just beautiful – the waitresses in their dresses, the Waterford china, the silverware, the live piano music, the light, the furniture – and the food is so delicious! (but petite in size)
The bathroom has an entry room which is bigger than my apartment and knocks us out by its size and decoration.
Just before I leave an older man walks down the stairs, dressed in a dress similar to the beafeaters in London and proudly announces that one special room is now open for the public.

It was indeed an interesting adventure, being in clover, surrounded by luxury.
What a wonderful day – although until the plant arrived I had done nothing for my presentations. However, I feel so energetic after all the nice chats and food I had today, that I am energetic enough for a night shift.

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