I have survived over 12 hours in a 600 mph flying aluminum can. Either one of my seat mates wafting the distinct aroma of potato chip farts. Look to the left, look to the right, if it’s neither of them, the culprit must be you. The numbers on a flight are arbitrary. The bigger numbers used to mean a bigger and better plane. I flew across the Atlantic in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Which means they try to cram nearly 800 people into a plane. Probably.
Throughout the flight, I allowed myself to shift ever so slightly to keep the circulation going in my arms and legs. Just when you think sitting bolt upright in one position with almost no sleep is fun, there is the walk through the Heathrow terminals. I find myself moving through the airport at a leisurely stroll, taking in the sights, but this is not the case with the stampeding hordes of commuters with their wheeled luggage running up on you from behind like a scene from Stephen Spielberg’s Duel.
Once we all followed the bright yellow signs which read “Arrivals” we came upon Customs, which fitting for my introduction to all things British, was a long series of switchbacks forming a queue.
The same people who were up my ass on the walk over were now human detritus jammed up through these corrals of posts and nylon bands. I had to think to myself “How would Temple Grandin fix this?”
With maybe an hour and a half of sleep under my belt, somehow I entered the UK without international incident. I wandered through the airport until I found the underground, happily enough far underneath the ground, exactly where it should have been. I fumbled through buying my Oyster card, which looks nothing like an Oyster. But then again, the word for credit card in Spanish is “carne” and it looks no more like a slab of meat than the London counterpart looks like a bivalve mollusk.
The underground trains do not mess around. The Piccadilly line train arrived with a gust of wind, and then the length of it sweeping past at some inordinate speed until it came screeching to a halt, the distinctive smell of ozone and smoldering electronic components in the air.
That is one thing I should mention is the smell here. I have never smelled anything like it. Aside from the potato chip farts, and possibly my breath, which was a mixture of coffee and three glasses of red wine from the plane—which should have gotten me a quarantine for possible biohazard infection at customs—the city smells…odd.
I live in a town known for the meat processing plant. I have been through towns that were nothing other than refineries. I spent summers in San Diego when I was a kid where the smell of ship diesel hung in the night air with the salty fishy smell of the sea. London smells industrial, but there is something beneath all of that I can’t put my finger on.
My AirBnB is a 4th floor walk up. Recycling and not wearing shoes inside is EXTREMELY important to the owner/proprietor. As is being sure to lay the orange towel down on the bathroom floor when you are showering. Anyway, it’s inexpensive and in a good location. I’m not going to worry about it.
After a three hour nap in my room, I decided to check out Hyde Park and after sitting on my ass for several hours in a plane, I got 6.3 miles in walking around (airport included) and then getting lost trying to find my room. I had a Flat White (which cost slightly more than a Starbucks flat white in the States). I enjoyed the “Big Fish and Chips” at Tattersalls Pub, where the staff was friendly and the food was delicious. If not a little expensive. The Knightsbridge area is a tourist destination it would seem.
That might be the one thing about London is just how spendy it is. Even if this were dollars and not pounds, it would be expensive. A half pint of beer was just around four pounds. Draft. Dinner was right around 20 pounds. Sure, I could have split it with a traveling companion, easily, but it’s just me. Just so you know, solo traveling is a little bit on the expensive side. But it is worth it.
My style this trip has just been to kinda wander around and check things out. That can be a challenge when you are with another person or a group. With me, I can get lost and the only thing it costs me is a little bit of shoe leather, but I gain in experience.
WiFi is dodgy here, so unfortunately there are no pics with these posts! I just keep getting error messages. I will post pics at a later date!
One of the things I am learning is that London is truly a city of immigrants, if not visitors. I am continually surprised at the lack of English accents around here. Whenever people talk, I hear nothing but the familiar American accent. Visitors from all over the world are in abundance here. The US might talk a big game about cultural diversity, but we have no idea.