London—The Prequel and My First Day
I learned something when I wrote this post: The United Kingdom includes Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales. So, I’m writing about my visit to the U.K. although, in fact, I never left England.*
My trip came together pretty quickly. My GF, LB, planned a solo trip. Still, she graciously agreed to let me accompany her for a chunk of her holiday. She went ahead, to places on the Continent. We met up in London a few days after my arrival, and we returned home together.
I flew to London on British Airways, non-stop from Phoenix. People have been raving about this flight to me for years. “Really,” I’ve thought, “a plane ride?” Well, yes.
I did upgrade to World Traveller Plus. Worth every penny, for we took off at 7:40 p.m., landed at Heathrow at 1:35 p.m. (just shy of 10 hours later), and I’m sure I slept for at least six hours. Not even a bit of jet lag.
Nice, too! I think in a lifetime of travel—more than 250 flights—I haven’t heard please and thank you said as many times as I heard those words on one flight. (The pilot even asked the crew to please prepare for arrival and cross-check.)
The food? Meh. The gin? Free, and two bottles, too.
Heathrow was supposed to be a crazy place, and I suspect connectors find it challenging. Not for me, fortunately. Passport control took a bit of time. (I signed up for Global Entry, the expedited passport check-in system, but the first available interview date fell on my departure day. For next time.) “Bit of time?” Maybe 20 minutes. Otherwise, an easy airport.
The Heathrow Express got me to Paddington Station. LB sent great Underground instructions, but I know how poorly I do in new places, so I chose quick and direct, with a cheap Uber ride to my flat from Paddington.
For the rest of my day I visited the British Museum. I was there for about two hours, and returned on Sunday. In those 90 minutes I saw collections of metal work, sculptures, pottery, watches and clocks, etc. Scratched the surface, maybe.
I stayed in Bloomsbury at Trinity Court. (I think it’s on the edge of Clerkenwell.) AirBNB, and I haven’t had a bad experience yet.
From Paddington Station I arrived from the north, and that’s the focus of the rest of this post. With the availability heuristic, identified by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (and others), our minds go first to what is most readily available. Ideally, we don’t stop there, but that’s where we go first. Hard-wired on that front.
So, coming from the north, and having spent about 20 hours of total travel time, when I got hungry I recalled the places north of my flat. Not so much there, it turns out. (I did find a place on line, but Google Maps sent me off into someplace where I did not belong.)
In two places with cocktail menus—both in my “north zone”—my request for a Beefeater martini—in London, I might add—got me the fish-eye. Just as well, probably, as the first place found me standing next to two blokes who were, I’m pretty sure, two of Daphne Moon‘s brothers, back from Seattle. I can only imagine the scene if a martini had actually appeared!
LB suggested upscale take away food. (That’s takeout for Yanks.) Alas, I found the upscale stuff the next morning, due south. And on my first night? I ended up at Supreme Fried Chicken, where I got and brought home lamb kofti and fries, and had a lovely chat with the Omar the owner about vices: gin for me, tobacco for him.
All in all, a fine first day.
[I am home now. I wrote the first couple of blog posts in London. I wrote the rest in Tucson, and all of them got a polish job aka editing in Tucson.]