Monday, October 17, 2016

London: Day 1

Not quite sunrise - from seat 30A
Sometimes travel can be a nightmare.  I still think about a trip from London in the early 1990s; it took 23 hours, involved Heathrow (twice), an airport in Canada and a stopover in Boston (all from what was supposed to be a direct flight), with my family and roommate freaking out because British Airways told them I'd "disappeared from the manifest."

This was not that trip.

I'm not always the biggest fan of technology, but checking in online 24 hours before our flight somehow got us on the TSA's precheck list, so despite my usual running late (3 hours? never!), we were through security and happily sitting in the Delta lounge with 90 minutes to spare, good wifi and a charging station for the Kindle I'd forgotten to plug in the night before.

The plane was nearly empty.  This was a non-stop Philly to Heathrow flight, and we were at about 1/3 capacity, so after we ate, Mario moved up a row, we folded up the armrests, buckled ourselves into the middle seats, assembled various pillows and blankets, and slept all the way to London.

Our teeny, tiny flat
What an amazing feeling, arriving refreshed and rested, instead of cramped and cranky.  Especially since we got in at 6:30 a.m. London time, a full 15 minutes earlier than scheduled.  After passing through passport control, we headed for the Tube.  There is a more expensive express train that takes only 15 minutes to Paddington, but since our flat let service didn't open until 9:30 a.m., we didn't see a reason to rush.

Once we landed in Paddington, we found the street where the office was and settled into a pub for breakfast.  Eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and a pot of tea goes a long way toward ridding you of the last of your airline fog.

When the office opened, we checked in and left our bags.  The flat wouldn't be ready until later -- 2:00 p.m. -- but they texted me at a little after noon to say they had cleaned our fiat first and it was waiting.

While we waited, we walked around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, then along the park, down a row of embassy houses (no photos allowed), and back along Bayswater Road.

Italian gardens / Kensington Gardens
The Airbnb flat was in Talbot Square, only a half block from the B&B where I stayed on my first trip to London in 1983 ($10 a day -- a bargain even for a 4th floor closet of a room with no private bath).

This place wasn't much larger, and it was just as high up, but it was clean, secure, with a comfortable mattress, and it was everything we needed.  Okay, the bath could have been bigger -- every time I used the toilet I hit my boobs on the edge of the sink, and the shower stall was literally so narrow I couldn't put my hands on my hips -- but it was quiet at night, probably the best sleep I've ever had on vacation.

After we'd unpacked and settled in, which I'm embarrassed to admit involved a brief nap (are we old?), we went out exploring.  Not having a definite destination, we walked back toward the station and then up into Little Venice, where the canals intersect.  We found a nice little waterside cafe and had tea and a snack, which gave us the strength to venture further.

Late lunch spot
Our evening wanderings took us to the Westminster Tube station, where we walked around outside the Abbey, along the Thames, saw Big Ben, Parliament and way too many people.  Then we wandered down to Trafalgar Square, and eventually into a nice pub where we ate meat pies and fish and chips until we were drowsy again.

We went back to our flat and slept like stones, knowing that Saturday would be a long day.

It felt much later than that . . .


SewRuthie said...

Sounds like you had a cool trip!

Jane M said...

I envy you that great space to sleep on the flight over. So glad you did take a ton of pics so I can travel vicariously.