Flight Diary and Initial London Thoughts

This past week, while I didn’t have a reliable internet connection I wrote down some thoughts and observations from the day I left Houston and my first week in London. There’s a few days worth, so I’ll post them here over the next couple of days.

2007-09-24 – Monday  (London)

The plane filled up at Detroit and a lady did sit down in the seat next to me, but I managed to run her off. I’m not sure how, but we went wheels-up right at 9:30 p.m. Once we got airborne I started watching The Usual Suspects on AVOD. I watched most of it, but dozed off and on towards the end. At one point I woke up and noticed the lady next to me was leaving and she never came back. I guess I was snoring too loud, or drooling or smelled bad or something. So I ended up with an empty seat next to me after all.

The flight was pretty quick. I watched Fracture with Anthony Hopkins and Paris je T’aime to pass the time. From Detroit, the total flying time was just under 7 hours. Landed at Heathrow, successfully passed Passport Control after being grilled by a small Indian woman and then corralled my luggage. Heathrow has free luggage carts which helped up to a point. All told, it probably took me 4 hours from the time I landed until I was inside the door of my room, and that’s with no problems, just lines, trains, and taxis.

The rest of Sunday is utterly boring, because I slept all day. After I finally figured out how to call the U.S. on my cellphone I hit the rack and slept, mostly interrupted until about 6 a.m. this morning. I don’t have a pillow but I was so tired it didn’t make that much difference. So now, fully rested, with no jet lag I’m ready to tackle London.

First order of business is some supplies, including plug converters, a pillow, plastic cups for drinking water, and something else. Also I need to see how the Colts v. Texans went yesterday.

Later today approx 4:00 p.m.

My first excursion into tourist London:

The rain went away and the skies cleared up. I’d estimate it was about 65 degrees and quite sunny. Some quick hits:

  1. The courteous “Look Left” and “Look Right” warnings painted on the pavement at many of the intersections. I guess they’ve had too many tourists flattened while looking the wrong way.
  2. In the tube, the exits are called “Way Out.” Direct and literal, but it looks weird.
  3. Dr. Pepper is available at several stores, but tasting it is another story. It doesn’t quite measure up to Dr. Pepper back home. I’m not sure how its different, but it tastes a bit like Dublin Dr. Peppers (it has sugar, instead of corn syrup), but the flavor is pretty far off. It’s like a faint cousin of Dr. Pepper and there’s some other disagreeable taste that overpowers it. Surprisingly enough, the Pepsi here isn’t too bad.
  4. First meal in the UK. Buffet at Pizza Hut in Picadilly Circus and Pepsi, for which I paid approx $18, including tip and tax. Absurd. But I felt I needed a little reminder of home. The pizza was tasty though.
  5. Big Ben is much more impressive in person. It’s enormous and the detail on the face is amazing. I took pictures from many angles, but I doubt they’ll convey anything about it.
  6. Took a walk through St. James’ park and saw Buckingham Palace. The English know how to do gardens. There were several beautiful display beds and many more that were just kind of tossed off. It was such a pleasant stroll, under these enormous trees along the pond filled with ducks and swans. Very peaceful and serene.
  7. The closest tube stop to me is Russel Sq. It has elevators, instead of stairs/escalators that go down to the level of the trains, which makes for a little wait. So far I haven’t been during rush hour, but that could be quite a bottleneck. Overall the tube experience has been good. It’s easy to find where you’re going and they have this thing called the Oyster Card that you swipe at entry and exit and it is supposed to charge you the least amount possible based on your total trips throughout the day. It’s still a fairly expensive mode of travel; if you used it every day it could easily run 4-5 £ a day.
  8. I really really miss having always-on internet. There’s so much I want to look up, check online, pay a bill or find out info and going to a internet cafe just doesn’t cut it. The time pressure combined with an unfamiliar computer and weird browsers are difficult to overcome. Hopefully I’ll get access tomorrow.

Yet again, later – 8:40 p.m.

Traveling by tube can be frustrating. I needed to go to a store by Oxford Circus, so I walked to my handy neighborhood Underground stop at Russell Sq. Time elapsed, 12-15 min. Tube to Holborn (pronounced Hoe-bourne) and change trains to the Central line, to Oxford Circus (15 min). Wander up and down Regent Street, until I find the store, only to find that the store itself closes at 8:00 p.m. and the section I needed had mysteriously closed early tonight and was blocked off by large orange construction type barriers. Do all of the above in reverse and you have a frustrating evening.

The Underground has a bit of a bad reputation for being unreliable. Based on the information announcements I heard tonight, which included delays on at least three different lines, it sounds like the reputation is well-earned. I haven’t hit a line with problems yet, but it’s only been one day. The most comical announcement was the one that Victoria line was experiencing severe delays due to a “person under a train.” What made is comical was the matter of fact manner in which this was repeated, several times, in different stations by different announcers. Sounds like being under a train is just one of those things over here.

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