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    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Arrival in England

    England Trip - 2007
    Arrived at Heathrow Airport on 3/16/2007

    After collecting our Luggage, Glennys and I made our way to the Heathrow Express/Connect (train) station. We planned on traveling via a Heathrow Connect train (cheaper than Express as it made stops at various stations) to Paddington Station.

    I just *had* to take a photo of my Train Ticket from Heathrow to Paddington. Yes, those are my green fingernails, in honor of St. Patrick's Day

    The train ride itself was quite nice, and it was certainly a good change of pace after being on the airplane for such a long time (even if we were back to sitting again). I enjoyed looking out at the scenery. We were both just SO excited to finally be in England!

    A friendly conductor paused to chat with us after seeing our tickets. When he found out we were Americans, he launched into an interesting discussion on his observations on the differences between Americans and Brits. (He felt that Americans are more open and hat they will tell you *exactly* what they’re feeling – which he admired ).

    After chatting with him for a while, we asked him to take our picture, and then Glennys asked to take a picture with him.

    a Friendly porter - Heathrow Connect

    Once we reached Paddington station, we got in the queue for an ATM to withdraw some cash, and then we got a bite to eat. (I bought some soup to settle my stomach since it hadn’t really liked the croissant from breakfast). While we ate, we of course had to gaze around us and people watch. The station was very large and the ‘food court’ section with shops and food vendors was a big open area with (if I recall correctly) huge skylights overhead.

    When we finished, we got out our Travelcards and hopped on the Tube (aka the Underground) to take us to our Lodgings for the weekend.

    Unfortunately, while switching from the Circle/District line (Yellow/Green Lines on the Tube map) to the Central (Red) Line, Glennys was pickpocketed. We think it was this guy that at first blocked her path from exiting the train (or perhaps he was working in conjunction with someone else so that he was the distraction). Obviously, he flustered Glennys since I had already left the train (I had pushed right by him) and she needed to get around him and off the train before the doors closed. When we were half-way to the platform for the Red Line, she realized that he had stolen her wallet…with all the recently with-drawn cash, her credit cards, her driver’s license, and her 3 Day Travelcard. Fortunately, her passport wasn’t in her wallet nor was the Travelcard she was currently using. (That was a miracle!)

    I wanted to find someone to report it to immediately, but she said what’s the point? He was probably long gone by now (and the police probably get a lot of these calls). So we proceeded on to our lodgings (in a not-as excited mood by now, obviously).

    We exited from the Lancaster station as our Lodgings (part of a Timeshare) were half-way between that Station and the Marble Arch station. Since we'd been sitting for so long and since it didn't seem *that* far on the map, we decided to walk the rest of the way to the lodgings. Wow! While it was great to get out and stretch and see part of the city (Westminster) from a pedestrian's point of view, I definitely was regretting the whole idea near the end as we were tired of hauling our luggage all that way. (Everything seems farther when you're dealing with luggage and trying to find a new place...especially in a town where streets change names as you round the corner!). Later, we realized that we could have hopped on a bus to at least take us closer to our destination. But oh well - didn't know that upon arrival.


    Eventually, we did find our destination.
    Here's a shot of the outside (entrance) of 2 Hyde Park St, where we stayed on our whirlwind trip. A doorman let us in (if he wasn't there, then you had to ring the buzzer to be let in - definitely something different from what I'm used to!) After our experience that afternoon in the tube (pickpocketing), the staff was very pleasant and even though we were too early to check in right away (check in was 3pm) so the room wasn't ready yet, they let Glennys use a lobby phone to start calling her credit card companies to report the stolen cards. I think they took pity on us, so they gave us an upgrade! A Top floor flat!

    Since Glenny's cards were stolen, we ended up using my cards for the trip. (Good thing I had brought them along!). We put the key deposit on my card (they only give you one key, and you have to turn it in each time you leave the building and ask for it upon your return) and were soon shown to our new room. It was a one bedroom place with a little front entry area (basically an outer door to the hallway, with a place to hang your coats and some light switches, and another door on your right that led to the rest of the place). Immediately upon entering there was a large room (relatively, of course) that functioned as both dining room and living room, with a set of doors set into a side wall. Turns out that those folding doors lead into a tiny enclosed kitchen, complete with min-fridge, sink, and microwave. (And coffeepot!) There was a small round table in the dining area along with a freestanding waist-high cabinet that separated that area from the living room portion (along with the couch along it's back). From the Living room, a sliding glass door on the right opened on to a small balcony. On the left, a TV was set into a wall with two openings (doorways without doors) that divided this room from the bedroom area. In the Bedroom, on the other side of the wall was a dresser and another tv (so you could watch tv in bed). The Bed was a Queen sized bed and decently comfortable. Standing facing the bed (with your back to the dresser/tv and living room), there was a set of windows facing 'The City'...we had a wonderful skyline view and could see the top of the London Eye from our Window. On the left was a closet and a doorway into the bathroom.

    After we had taken a few moments to settle in and unpack a bit (and I think we took a tiny nap as well), we decided it was time to go out and explore and get some dinner.

    Here's another shot of the exterior of our building as well as one of Glennys & I on our way to get some food.
    Exterior of Lodgings: I'm standing on the sidewalk across the street (at a nearby intersection - where you can get from Hyde Park Square to Connaught St).

    A Self-Portrait shot during our evening walk on the day of our arrival. Yes, it was a bit *brisk* that evening - quite refreshing! =) This was taken at the corner of Hyde Park St & Bayswater Rd.

    For dinner we found a KFC near Marble Arch Station. The only strange difference I found is that they DON'T offer mashed potatoes as a side, just fries, corn on the cob, and beans, etc. (and gravy - which is what I found odd...gravy but not mashed potatoes!)

    Once we had gotten some dinner we decided it was too early to turn in, so we might as well take advantage of our tube tickets since they were still good and just travel around. So we did. We got on at Marble Arch station and just started riding the various lines around. I'd pick a station, we'd get off and then I'd pick another line to transfer too. Eventually, we ended up at the Tower Bridge station and got out for a bit of a stroll. We saw the Tower Bridge all lite up for the night. It was so lovely! We attempted to take a picture, but neither of our cameras would focus correctly and since the pictures didn't do the subject matter justice, we deleted those pictures. Oh well.

    Soon, though we were headed back to our apartment to get some rest. It had been a long day and we wanted to make sure we went to bed at an normal hour in this new timezone so we could get used to the change.

    All in all, I think our traveling around on the tube was a great way to end our first day. We got out and did something, even though it wasn't that much, and I got familiar enough with the tube system that I was definitely comfortable using it the rest of the trip. (Which was great! I wouldn't ever want to drive in London!).

    For more photos of the apartment, as well as many other things from my trip, check out my Flickr site:


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