Monday, May 6, 2024

Sunday, April 28, 2024. Unexpected shopping.


The plane landed. It was morning. 11-ish? Good to get up out of the seat and move around. My sister and I both decided to wear compression socks for the flight because we’re getting old and that is the kind of thing you take into consideration before long flights. Leg blood clots. Deep vein thrombosis. I knew one thing - I couldn't wait to take them off!

We disembarked. It’s always annoying (to everyone) when a group of travelers know where to go automatically and another group, all lumped together on a plane, don’t. This whole trip, I’m in the second group. Don’t know where I’m going or how to get there. A bunch of us “lost” people stopped to read a sign that was near an escalator. My sister and I didn't stop to read the sign. We just took the escalator down - into a deserted tunnel. There was only one escalator and it went down, so if this was a mistake, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to go back.

At the bottom of the escalator was a tunnel. An airport worker stopped us as soon as we got to the bottom to let us know that the tunnel walk would take at least 20 minutes. Hey, we’d just been sitting for 9+ hours, a 20-minute walk didn’t sound that bad. At least he didn't say it went to the wrong place. But even in this deserted tunnel walkway, people who wanted to go fast and get around us appeared. There were a few people movers/travelators to cut down on some of the walking, but mostly it was a not-insignificant walk to the customs area. At least spending that time walking would mean less time standing at a carousel waiting for our bags to arrive when we finally got to the carousels.

We had to go through customs first, which was surprisingly easy. You self checked out, placing your passport on a scanner and posing for a confirmation picture. Doors popped open and you walked through without encountering a human. They seemed to not care about people entering the country via the airport. Fine. Easy. Where is my suitcase?

The signs all indicated our bags would arrive on carousel 8. We just got there when there was an announcement over the PA system that my sister needed to report to a window to talk to a person. No big surprise, but her bag didn’t make the transfer from Dallas to London. While she filled out the lost-luggage paperwork (not accurately named since British Airways knew exactly where the bag was - in Dallas), I purchased a SIM card for my phone and waited for my bag to arrive. In hindsight, the SIM card I bought had way more data than I needed and didn't actually work in Amsterdam, but you live and learn. I purchased almost 99 times as much data as I ended up using for the week. Oops! Still cheaper than upgrading my plan on the US SIM. Anyway…

Person after person left carousel 8 until the same 5 bags kept going around and mine wasn’t one of them. I joined my sister at the counter and asked if that was the right carousel or if it had changed. Rude English Person #3 couldn’t tell me anything until I gave her my baggage claim  ticket. Like, she couldn’t even tell me what carousel the bags from our flight were coming from. I left my sister and searched through my carry-on for the claim check ticket and finally found it. Oh, yes, my bag was on carousel 11. Why haven’t I been able to find it? It should be here. As if the signs saying it should be on carousel 8 were known to be wrong. Argh! Anyway, I got my bag. They couldn't give my sister an accurate timeframe of when her bag would arrive, but someone at the next window from the same connection was told her bag might be delivered the next day, so we weren't too worried. Afterall, we already knew there were at least 2 flights from DFW to Heathrow each day. It shouldn't be hard to get my sister's bag on one of those flights.

 (Some of the view from the Heathrow Express.)

Then it was time to hop on the Heathrow Express, which gets you into town and lets you off at Paddington Station. Paddington Station was about ½ mile from our hotel, so not too bad of a walk. Our hotel was closest to Lancaster Gate Tube Station, but walking to Paddington, according to the map and not reality, took about 9 minutes.

It had just finished raining by the time we disembarked the train, but there was still a little drizzle. The streets were drenched, and by the time we got to the hotel, so were we. I was lucky enough to be able to change my clothes and wash my face when we got to our room at The Columbia Hotel. I also had a surprise waiting for me at reception - mail! Diana sent me a Harrods gift certificate that was waiting for me at check-in. I guess a trip to Harrods had to happen!


Our room was on the 3rd floor, room 319, which when translated to American means it was on the 4th floor. One of the elevators was broken, so it was either lots of stairs (the stories were massive with high ceilings) or the tiny lift. The lift said the capacity was 4, but that would be a stretch. Two people with luggage was a struggle. And the lift opened to a large step up. Hooray!


(Center staircase, The Columbia Hotel)

This is the same hotel I stayed at last time I was in London in 2014. And it is the same hotel we stayed at with our parents 30 or 40 years prior. Last time, I booked a single queen room and was given a double queen room. Huge! Lovely! Old, yest, and the floors make loud noises when you walk, but really comfortable for one person and probably still comfortable for two. This time I booked a twin double. Wow! It was small! It looked like they used an efficiency king room and just put in two twin beds where the king bed would fit. There was just enough room between the wall and foot of the bed to roll my suitcase over to the window. On the plus side, this time we had a view of Hyde Park from the window, so that counts for something.


(View from the room.)

The room's toilet felt like it was going to fall over each time you sat down. It even had bolts attached to hold it to the floor. But nevertheless, it was wobbly. And I could not once get it to flush on the first try. Most of the time, it would flush on the second try. But there were a few times when I must have flushed it 12 times before it finally took. This is what 45 is always complaining about! What a waste of time and water.

(Yes, I took pictures of the gross plumbing in the hotel room.)

We were going to see some friends of mine the next day, so I called Gail and Charles to let them know we made it, and confirm that we’d see them on Monday. I also asked where we should go for my sister to get some emergency clothes and supplies. I wanted to go to TK Maxx while I was in London - because I'm addicted to TJ Maxx - so it worked out that the go-to shop, Marks & Spencer, was on the Kensington High Street near TK Maxx. Well, that worked out for me if not for Cynthia.

In clean clothes and dry shoes (for me), we set off walking. We hadn’t figured out the Tube system yet, so we walked through Hyde Park to the south side where the shops were located. TK Maxx was so crowded it drove both of us crazy. Oh, and did I mention? My sister broke her toe a few weeks before the trip, so she wasn’t thrilled about walking and even less thrilled about stairs. The women’s clothes were downstairs and we didn’t see an immediate lift, so we left and looked for Marks & Spencer. It was next door to an H&M, which saved me, along with Zara, when my bags didn’t arrive in Barcelona in 2014, but my sister didn’t want to go somewhere she could go in the US. Gail had told us that M&S (Marks & Spencer) was where everyone got their knickers / underpants / panties, so in we went. Knickers and pajamas purchased, we went off in search of dinner.

(Chestnut tree in bloom in the park and other little flowers.)

We also wanted to get some supplies for the room - like water, Coke, toothpaste and toiletries -so we found a Sainsbury's Local and bought a few things. I bout some granola bars in case dinner didn’t work out. I was still feeling pretty sick from the flight, so wasn't sure if I'd be able to eat dinner or not.

Surprise! Everything closes at 6PM on Sunday! Even most of the restaurants. We still didn’t want to take the Tube, so we walked around the park, through Notting Hill, and back to the hotel. We dropped off our groceries and supplies. From the room, we researched restaurants near the hotel that would stay open past 6, since it was now past 6. We went to an Italian restaurant, Bizzaro. I had pizza and Cynthia had a tricolore salad - a caprese with avocado added. They need to start making this salad in the US.


By then we were exhausted, so we went back to the hotel and I think we both fell asleep before 8PM. Luckily, we didn't have to be up early on Monday. Gail and Charles wouldn't be available until after 11AM and we didn't really plan on getting up early for breakfast. We played games on our iPads until we couldn't keep our eyes open and that was the end of our first day in London.

No comments:

Post a Comment