Friday, March 18, 2011

To London, To London

So we pick up the adventures of our intrepid world traveler as he leaves the Paddington Express train from Heathrow airport at Paddington Station. Somehow found our way to the Underground, an astonishing but apparently exceedingly effective labyrinth of countless lines, each one seemingly with a different look and style of cars. London is divided, for Underground purposes, into four zones, and you can buy one-day tickets for any combination of zones. Since we had no idea of which zone was which, we bought one for zones 1-4, and later found we'd paid far more than we needed to, since we needed only zone 1, which is basically the heart of London.

A note on the London Underground: They are not handicapped-accessible. Unlike Chicago, for example, where the bottom of the train doors are level with the platform, the bottoms of the doors on Underground cars may be three to eight inches higher than the platform, depending on the train and the station. Some lines are very deep underground. The deeper ones have very long escalators, the rest just stairs. Lots and lots and lots of stairs. And corridors. Depending on what line you're looking for (luckily, each line's route and stations are clearly marked by wall maps at every juncture), you descend a bunch of stairs, go down a long corridor, walk up a bunch of stairs which leads to another short corridor which leads to another flight of stairs to the platform.

Oh, yes, and when you enter the Underground you run your ticket through a machine just as we do in the U.S., but in London, in order to leave the station, you have to run your ticket through another machine in order to get prevent people who had purchased a zone 1 ticket, for example, from trying to use it to go to zones 2-4, which of course cost more.

At any rate, with not too terribly much trouble we made it to our hotel at around 8 a.m. and were informed our rooms would be ready at 2 p.m. Having by this time been awake for roughly 30 hours or so, we left our bags and headed out for the British Museum by double-decker city bus. Suffice it to say it is big and we saw the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles and not really all that much else.

Returning to the hotel around 1:15, hoping they might let us check in a bit early (they didn't), we sat in the bar and waited. 2 o'clock came and went, and about 2:15 I went to the desk to ask when our room might be ready. "Oh, we gave the key to your friend," the receptionist said pleasantly. Since Gary had been sitting in the bar with me for nearly an hour, I pointed out that while I had no idea who she had given the key to, it wasn't us. Hilarity ensues.

I really should not have been surprised; this sort of thing happens to me constantly. (Hey, it's not paranoia, it's fact.)

The manager came to us, all apologies, and asked if we might be willing to take a room with one bed. Uh, no, we definitely might not be willing to take a room with one bed. Fifteen minutes later, around 3 p.m., they found us a room, where we proceeded to crash for perhaps 45 minutes of sleep.

Made our way to Piccadilly Circus to wander around and have dinner. Well, dinner for Gary; I ordered a chocolate mousse for the calories, and as usual ate just about half. Also as usual, Gary finished his entire meal in the time it took me to eat what little of the mousse I did.

Oh, a note on English coffee: we have not yet come across a single restaurant, cafe, or even deli which does not brew each cup to order. None of the huge, spigoted carafes ubiquitous to U.S. restaurants. And they do not offer cream. Milk. I don't know if they don't have cream, or if they just don't offer it.

Took the Underground (down escalators, down stairs, up stairs, down corridors, up more stairs, down more stairs, to the train platform, then up escalators, up stairs, down corridors, etc. to exit) to the hotel, where I slept 10 hours, the longest I can ever remember sleeping. I needed it.

More later, you can be sure.


These blogs will be posted sporadically (as often as I can manage to do them) for the duration of my trip. I hope you'll check back frequently. I've not yet posted photos, but will alert you as soon as I do.

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