Saturday, March 15, 2008

From Heathrow to the Hotel

Well, here we are in London. It is about two in the afternoon. We have successfully navigated through the airport and we are on the Underground from Heathrow to our hotel. I have the address, and I looked briefly at the map and I am pretty sure of where we are going.

Pretty sure.

I have an idea that the Jesmond Dene is somewhat near the British Museum, a few streets back. I know how to get to the museum, so I figure that we will get out at Holburn Station and walk up the street.

So we take the hour or so journey from Heathrow and expect to get on the Piccadilly Line, which would take us right where we want to go. Unfortunately, the line is being serviced and this adds about an hour to our travels, what with getting off the train and having to figure out how to get back into the city.

We traveled on the blue line up to Broadway, changed trains and got on the red line. There were a couple of changes along the way, complete with having to read maps in a daze and change platforms a number of times. If you can't see the image details, just click!

This is Acton Station -- I can't remember if it was East or West. It is pretty, but it is a bit far from where we want to be. It is cold, but clear. We waited for a bit, shifting from foot to foot, rearranging our bags, waiting for the train. At this point, it is about seven in the morning after an essentially sleepless night.

Note the slumped posture. I think the strap on my bag is actually anchoring Wry to the pole, or he would tip right over.

Actually, we are doing pretty well, mobility-wise. We each have a suitcase, a carry-on, and a jacket. I left my scarf in the suitcase, but I am dong fine. We have not seen much of London, just the airport and a couple of stations. The one inconvenience is that when we have to change trains we have to schlep our suitcases and look for seats. Ordinarily, Heathrow is at the beginning of the line (or the end, depending on your direction) so that when you get on, exhausted from your flight, you get a seat.

As we get closer to London and are getting on later, there are fewer and fewer seats. WM manages to doze, standing up, leaning on a pole. It is a new personal best in the Sleeping in Public domain. I cannot sleep, so I read my Vanity Fair and people watch.

Finally, we get off at Holborn. I am happily remembering being here with Rowan. I remember how much fun we had, meandering around, getting completely lost more than once. Now, I remember enough to get out of the Tube station. I recognize the buildings immediately.

Wry gets this picture for our eldest daughter, because she will snicker.

We are going to head up Southampton Row and keep walking until we get to Russell Square -- where the Museum is.

We start walking, pulling our cases behind us. The traffic is zipping along, and I remember taking pictures of the buildings a year ago. My husband has lost a bit of bounce in his step, but I cheerfully point out places of interest -- The Ivy House, where Rowan and I had lovely Thai food, Sainsbury's -- where we can get a sandwich, if necessary, the hotel that we stayed at last time, the Caffe Nero -- where the coffee was pretty bad, and the pizza place that Rowan refused to consider.

It all seems surprisingly familiar. I am surprised by the amount of detail that I remember.

Gee, we seem to have been walking for a while. I stop, pull out my map and triangulate our position. My map is not up to the task, and no one that we ask knows where our hotel is, so I nip into a hotel lobby and get some help. A nice young woman with a heavy Russian accent helps me figure out where we are going. She says that it will be about another 20 minute walk, and very kindly hands me a map from her stack and we circle the destination in ink, so that I will be less likely to forget where I am going.

My husband is standing on the sidewalk outside the hotel, looking a bit dazed.

To make this all a bit clearer, it seems that I got us off about three or four stops sooner than we should have.


Walking more and more slowly, we trudge up the street. My hand has stiffened on my suitcase handle and I have to swap sides, which makes me awkward. I keep making encouraging statements like, "It should be another five streets and then we turn" and "Look at this wonderful building. We should see Euston Street in about another block or so" and "St. Pancras! It should only be another few streets!" I am feeling like a bad navigator.

Finally, we get to the hotel. It is just a step from the King's Cross/St. Pancras station, which was where we should have gotten off. The British Library is just a street or two down. Taking a right down a smaller, quiet street, we pass a number of small, rather ... unpretentious-looking establishments. One is a Salvation Army. Some have hand-lettered signs. I have trepidation.

We get to the Jesmond Dene and it looks clean and well-maintained. We navigate the narrow entrance and squeeze into the lobby. It is charming and warm. I did not know how cold I was until we get into the lobby. Darren, the manager, is very welcoming and kind. We are getting Room Four, which is so recently remodeled that there is no number on the door. Darren helps us haul our cases up the narrow stairway.

The hotel is an old Georgian house. It is small, but has lots of character. I like it. We are shown where breakfast will be and our cases are deposited in the room.

The room is pretty tiny, but well-organized. This is the view from me standing in the bathroom doorway. This is the picture I take when I turn around.

Wry amuses himself by stretching out his arms to see if he can actually touch the far wall. Almost. Now, I am not complaining, because we are not expecting a Marriott, nor are we wanting a Marriott. What we are looking for is a nice place that has a good location. The room is clean, comfortable, and cheerily decorated. And there is free wi-fi. Score!

We freshen up and realize that we are starving. So we pull out our "Cheap Eats in London" book and decide to forage for provender. As my husband would say.

We walk over to the train/Tube station to see where we would have gotten off had I been better-prepared. We go in and wander around and then, after looking around a bit, we walk up the stairs and look around.

I liked this picture a lot.

This is the view above King's Cross.

And behind us, at St. Pancras' Station.

The buildings are just so beautiful -- I am all of a sudden just very happy to be in London. Now it feels like we are really here. We see that one of the picks in our eating guide is right across the way, and we decided to go on over.

The restaurant is small, and the seating is communal. As we step in, we are hit by nice smells and warm air. Someone tries to nab some chili sauce from behind the cashier's desk, and is promptly berated -- he decides that he does not need the extra sauce for forty pence.

After we get seated, we are given our menus, a little ticket, and a golf-type pencil. You mark what you want. The server bustles up, looks the order over, and rushes to the window. The guide recommends a coconut/seafood soup and I order that. We order tap water and Wry orders a Coke. He sips it appraisingly.

He has some sort of a yellow curry soup. The prices are low -- about three or four pounds per item. The egg rolls are acceptable, the satay is really chewy, but flavorful, and my soup is fine. However, it also has an ominous slurry of chili oil on the surface of the soup. I tread carefully, as I have visions of my stomach lining melting right off. However, it is warm, tasty, and filling, and we soon feel much better. I eat some of the yellow curry soupy stuff to spare my stomach lining.

Our food budget is twenty pounds a day, per person, max. I think we can bring it in for twenty pounds per day total. That is my goal. So far, with a dinner that cost under eight pounds, we are doing well. We have twelve pounds leeway for tomorrow! I might need a snack!

We walk up the street a little ways, and see that there is a Boot's (like a CVS or Rite-Aid) on the corner, for all of our pharmcological needs. We are tired and decide to get some sleep and get an early start in the morning.

Wrymouth takes a few pictures along the way.

This is the staircase outside our room.

I get into my jammies and see about doing the technology housework -- setting the phones to charge, uploading the pictures, charging the camera batteries -- all of that. I hear a triumphant cry from the bathroom -- "I got your picture!"

Not a bad aerial shot. The shower is small, but there are scads of hot water and good water pressure.

This is why I love my husband.


Wry Mouth said...

Nice post. But -- you fail to explain the significance of the "crescent moon" button on the top of the toilet tank.

Dr. Bob said...

Nah -- I was gonna' get there, when discussing one of the differences between the US and the UK.

rowan said...

Hey! Great read!

Wowzwers...all that hassle gettin tae yer hotel, an ye still hud the perspicacity tae tak photies fur her Haverers.

Compact and bijou is sort of the way of things in the British isles. I am yet to find the willpower to fit into that space-ratio. (Puts down Creme Egg and sits on hands.)

I liked yer pics a lot. The hotel room looked very neat and clean. Ah...London. (Expansive sigh.) I do love the place. I know I will always have a spring in my step while under its auspices. It has such a jolly uplifting vibe. You seee something cool and understated around each corner, behind or to the side of something which is overt, and overstated,but never playing for applause.

I think I have a lot of London receptors, which are resonating a little, looking forward to another visit, mayhap to the Natural History Museum. I guess I could be a London addict, but I can't see a self-destructive element to that. I live too far away to become a daily customer at Wagamama, and anyhoo...the food is probably not too high in fat. You get such a lot...and it is soo good...

Howevurrr, I don't know anyone there.Am still kicking myself for not giving my number to that beefeater. (Jist kiddin.)

My security code is humiriz. Yo!

bama said...

Ack! I have so much to read!! I'll get right on it...and then I'll start commenting.

Dr. Bob said...


rowan said...

I am hoping I was circumspect in my enamel-polishing and artistic in my towel and soap arranging, lest you take cool bird's eye shots of all the micro-bathrooms you encounter...

(Waves to fellow Haverers.) Wish you all a wonderful and blessed Easter.

Dr. Bob said...

Thanks, Rowan.

And to you and yours.

Bama said...

I've finished reading! Yay! Of now..I'm sure everyone has moved on. Sigh...

So! Yay for you and Mr. You! London Calling baaabay! Woo-hoo!

I ABSOLUTELY would've been the one to get off the train 20 minutes before my stop. That kind of stuff happens to me all the time.

So-watching the little video of the room...I was struck by the view out of the window...and wondered how old the building you stayed in was (is that bad sentence structure?)...and how old the buildings around it were. Because I just had the feeling, when you opened that window...that people for many, many years looked over essentially the same view. And that's so neat.

Anyhoo...I'll be better about keeping up with the upcoming installments!

Dr. Bob said...

Bama, no problem. I am slowly getting new posts up. You are totally in the groove.

Bama said...