London, United Kingdom
Remember that sleep I was going to get on the flight from Dubai to London?
We left Dubai at about 2am Dubai time (11pm UK time), with a revised ETA into Heathrow of 6.45am, apparently due to strong headwinds.
I did try to sleep but, apart from maybe an hour of light napping, and a couple of 20 minute blocks, it didn’t happen. From sneezing man on the last leg to wriggling woman in the seat behind on this leg, I had no hope.
So a 4am breakfast was welcome, and chicken curry with coconut rice was a nice way to start the day.
We finally arrived at Heathrow at 7.15am, and started to worry that we might be too late for our booked hotel transfer, which we had to notify if we’d be any later than 90 minutes past our pickup time.
Being new to border security/customs procedures, we had no idea how long this side of things was going to take. The clock was ticking past 7.30 and it really didn’t look like we’d be out of there before 8.00, so I suggested to Lil Sis that we call the transfer company.
What ensued I will put down to lack of sleep, but it involved an unactivated SIM, no reception, a credit card and a pay phone that charged rates that I’d expect to pay for a bus ticket rather than a phone call. We eventually found our driver and, in the way of everyone who goes overseas, found ourselves booked on the same transfer car as the lady who had commented on our light packing in Melbourne. Of course, she’s also booked on the same return flight as us next week.
Travel tip: Pre-booking the airport transfer was a great idea. The thought of struggling onto a train with our bags after so little sleep and more than 24 hours travelling was too horrific to contemplate. This is a situation where price becomes irrelevant. It took a bit over an hour to get to our hotel. I spent most of the trip looking at the buildings and comparing them to ones back home. The housing rows just out of the airport were really interesting and I don’t remember ever seeing anything like them in Tasmania. They looked typically English.
Luckily our hotel room was ready when we got there – this was worth the phone call before we left. A blissful shower was my first priority. I’d thought about having a shower in one of the transit airports, but once we were in the airports, it seemed like it was going to be a lot of trouble to organise. And I’d just end up feeling grotty again anyway. So I decided to put up with it. So the shower was great.
Then I managed to Skype Juniordwarf and Slabs. It was so good to see them. When it was time to go Juniordwarf kissed me on the iPad screen.
Then it was time to explore. We’re staying near Russell Square in Bloomsbury, and we’d found a craft beer pub in the next borough called the Holburn Whippet. It sounded like it would be worth a visit, so we made our way there for lunch via the O2 phone shop so I could buy a phone and an international SIM card.
Holburn Whippet serves light lunches: burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizzas. We sampled a couple of beverages, had a yummy lunch and decided that London wasn’t all that much different to Sydney (sorry London). I was expecting to feel different being in a different country, but I really don’t. Sure it’s bigger and older, but when you’re on the ground, the immediate space around you is no bigger than the immediate space around you at home. And while there are more people on the street and vehicles on the road, they are spread out over a bigger area, so there aren’t heaps more people or vehicles in your vicinity. The city ‘feel’ extends further out from the CBD than in our cities, but it still feels like one of our cities.
That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I was expecting. So while I’m on the other side of the world, and I’d been travelling for over a day, in some ways it doesn’t feel like I’ve gone anywhere. It’s an interesting feeling that I’m just going to sit with.
After lunch, we bought some postcards, looked for tacky souvenirs and oriented ourselves around the train stations. We found that when you book train tickets online and nominate a station to pick them up from, even though it says you have to pick them up from that station, you can pick them up from any station with a ticket collect self-service machine. So we picked up all of our tickets for the rest of our stay.
While we were writing out postcards in the hotel bar, it occurred to me that I’d gone almost 48 hours without sleeping. Following the travel advice on adapting to a new time zone, I really tried to stay awake until as close to my normal bed time as possible, but it wasn’t going to happen, and it was a 7pm bedtime for me.