Black Beauty

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Across the Big Pond

This post is coming to you from Harlington, UKm a suburb of London.  I'm writing this on the morning of the first full day in the UK, May 23, 2013.  I woke up a little early and decided to get up and try to post on the blog, so here I am.

The trip from Raleigh to London went just fine.  Flights were on-time, security was easy, and all of the fears I had conjured up were wasted mental energy.  Usually they are.  The flights were relatively smooth, with no bad weather in our way. The flight across the ocean was long, but not too bad.  It turned out that the airplane was not configured the way it was depicted online.  I did have an aisle seat, but there were seats beside me.  My neighbour was okay, not infringing on my space or bothering me at all.  I managed a rare feat; I slept a couple of hours.  Landings were smooth with no hassle.  Overall the flights were a positive experience.

When we landed, we found our way through security (about a 45 minute waiting period due to long lines), but that worked okay with no hassles.  At baggage claim, our bags had already been pulled off the conveyor and were sitting for us to pick up.  What service!  Life is good.  The whole process from home to London was without any real hassles.  We got cash from an ATM machine in the airport.

We decided to take a bus from the airport to the hotel.  While the hotel was not far from the airport, it was much more than we could have walked.  So, we went to our bus stop and waited about 30 minutes for the bus to arrive.

When it arrived, we jumped on-board and rode the 15 minutes or so to the hotel.  The bus let us off at the front door of the Comfort Inn Heathrow, our home for the next 4 nights.

Check-in at the hotel was without a hitch, so we had our room early in the day (about 9:30am).  When we got to the room, I was blown away with the room arrangement.  The bedroom had a queen bed and two single beds!  Behind a door was another bedroom with a single bed and TV!!  So, I had my own private bedroom, giving Gary and Linda some degree of privacy.  The arrangement was perfect, IMO.
My Room in London

After doing a little unpacking, we were hungry and went out in search of that mythical establishment, the English Pub.  One of my "to dos" for the trip was to have a traditional meal and a warm beer in a real pub.  Somehow that was important to me...

The front desk clerk told us there was a pub about 5 walking minutes from the hotel.  So, we set out in the 55 degree morning in search of the pub.  About 5 minutes into the walk, we saw a place that sorta looked like it might possibly be a pub, but because it did not appear to be open, and because it was clearly an Indian place, we kept walking.  About an hour later, after stopping in a topless place, trying to get food (they sold none), a guy there told us about a cafe just a short walk down beside a canal.  So, we followed his directions and found the elusive cafe right where he said it would be.

But, alas, it was not a pub!  No beer.  But the menu had some pub-food, we were hungry, so we stayed and ate.  Linda and I had Shepherd's Pie, which was very good, and Gary had the fish and Chips.  All of the meals had peas, lots of peas, which we subsequently have decided is a staple food here.  The food was quite good and very reasonably priced, especially for the quanties.  Lunch was good, even though it was not the pub experience we were looking for.

We discovered that we were in a nondescript area in the suburb, with lots of attached housing, and a mix of kept and unkept dwellings.  It was not threatening, but it was, for the most part, not very picturesque.
Ugly Housing Near London Hotel

After lunch, we set off to find the rail station.  After a bit of walking around, we found it and figured out how to make it work Sunday morning when we travel to Manchester.  Should be okay.

Then we walked back to the hotel, pretty bushed from a couple hours of walking and exploring.

So, we took a nap.  I think I was asleep in about 30 seconds and had a very restful two hour nap.  It was much needed and, after I woke up, was exactly what I needed.  They had one too, and I believe it helped them a lot.

When we got up, we started trying to decide what we'd do over the next few days while in London.  We wanted to go to Stonehenge, about 85 miles away.  We wanted to see the usual London things, Big Ben, London Tower, Buckingham Palace, etc, but were not sure how to do it.  After some discussion, we decided we wanted an afternoon tour to Stonehenge whenever it could be arranged, and that we'd get one of the double-decker busses to move us around to the various venues in London.

Easier said than done, when you're trying to do it on the cheap.  We found that the computers in the lobby are not free (two pounds per half hour), that trying to make the arrangements online via phone is impossible, and that throwing one's phone on the first day of a 3 week trip in a foreign country is not a good idea.

After a lot of work on Gary's part, he found that there was no way to get the Stonehenge reservation via  Internet over the phone.  The very last step included printing a copy of the reservation to use when checking in to the tour.  No way to print a receipt with a phone.  Also found that phone call did not work.  So, he finally got the hotel manager to make the reservation and print the receipt for the trip.

|I did not help in any of that because my phone was acting weird.  No signal at all (even though earlier it worked just fine).  It had some weird stuff on the screen that I had never seen before.  No data, nada.  |It was no use to me at all.  After a few aborted tries, I finally was able to get Verizon global services on the phone.  The lady I was talking to told me that I'd have to talk to her over a land line so we could troubleshoot my phone.  So, I decided to give her our room number and have her to call me there.

As I walked to the room, all was well.  Just as I got into the room and started to give her the phone number, the call was dropped!!  Damn!  So, I tried calling her back.  Nada.  Tried again.  Nada again.  In utter frustration, I threw the thing!!  I had to vent; I was feeling bad that I couldn't help Gary with the arrangements, frustrated that the phone would not work, and frustrated at dropping the call at the most inopportune time. So I threw it.

When I picked it up, I could immediately see thousands of cracks in the screen.  In the end, the phone seems to work, but the screen is non-responsive, so it is broken for good.  My bad!

There is no Verizon outside the good ole USA, so going to a store is not an option.  I have insureance, so I used Gary's phone to call Verizon to start the process to get a replacement.  Lady I talked to was nice, and helpful, and then transferred me to the insurance company, which was an automated system.  That did not work, because the system did not like the fact that the number I was calling from did not match up with the number for my phone.  So, it disconnected me.

I had a website to use, so I decided to spend the 2 pounds to use the computer in the lobby.  I don't understand why, but in the end, it was free, so I'm using that computer as I write this.

The website was working just fine until I got to the "ship to" address.  It had options for two countries, USA and Canada.  Not UK.  So, that stopped me at that point.  However, it did send me an email confirming that I had started a claim.  So, I replied to that message, hoping someone would actually see my plea.  Later I got an email saying they would respond today.

So, we'll see.  If I were betting, I'd bet that I'll be phone-less for the next 3 weeks.  It's okay; it's my fault, so I'll just have to suffer through the withdrawal.  I have good friends to help me when the shakes begin, and I believe they will give me appropriate counseling when needed.

I can't post pics from this computer, so I have no pics yet.  I should be able to do it later, and if I can, they'll be here if you come back to look later.

So, this is a recoup of my first day in Jolly ole England.  Except for my temper, it was a good day.  And the real adventures start today.


  1. Well now my child, there is no need for throwing things, you might get hurt...LOL. Everything will be fine here...just have FUN and enjoy the trip...your trip of a lifetime, remember?!? Love you and be safe...enjoying the blog already... :-)

  2. Sorry about the phone, the withdrawal is going to be terrible for you!

    Glad everything else has been good. Lisa and I will be coming to London in Aug, good to know what works and what won't.

    I may leave my phone at home, I don't have replacement insurance.

    Tell everyone Hi

  3. Glad you're safe and sound. Read your blog and I must say, I'm ashamed of your destructive temper. Calm down boy. Your Mama taught you not to throw your toys. Now you have to suffer the consequences!!!
    This is your conscience speaking......BIG SIS

  4. I promise not to throw my phone again on this trip. It's dead, so it's packed away. I will have a phone on the tour; but since it belongs to the tour company, I'll be sure to take good care of it.