Saturday June 3rd
The Journey From The Airport To The Hotel
To call this a journey would probably be an understatement.... When we arrived at Gatwick Airport, we walked for what seemed to be about a mile to get to the baggage claim area. We quickly retrieved our luggage and headed up the lift (elevator) to train platform where we would take the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station in London. The train ride was about 30 minutes, and the train trip seemed like a first-class trip. Pairs of seats on the train faced each other with a table in between them. They served drinks on the train similar to the way that drinks are served on the airlines.
Once we arrived at Victoria Station, we met up with one of the employees at the station that helps tourists with luggage by driving them though the station on the equivalent of a large golf cart. We checked at the ticket desk at the station to determine where we needed to go to get our travel passes. We purchased a pair of 7-day travel passes prior to the flight, but we only had vouchers that had to be exchanged for the tickets and the London Pass. We didn't want to spend a lot of money on the underground, and since it was getting late, we wanted to get our travel passes before we went to the hotel and before they closed for the day. We found that we needed to go to the British Tourism Authority near Piccadilly Circus to get the travel passes.
From the train platform at Victoria Station, we had to travel down a few flights of stairs and up a few other flights of stairs to the Piccadilly underground platform so that we could get to Piccadilly Circus. It was quite an effort to get our four bags of luggage up and down multiple flights of stairs, we received assistance on two of the flights from some locals who helped us get our luggage up the stairs. We were not able to get on the first underground train that came by since it was too full. We waited for the second train and managed to drag our luggage onto the train. We made the short trip to the Piccadilly Circus station, where we decided that Christy would remain on the underground platform with the luggage while I went up the stairs to get the travel passes.
Once I got up to the street level, I found that the travel office closed at 4:30pm. I looked at my watch and it was 5:00. We should have gone straight to the hotel... I went back downstairs and Christy and I got back on the train to Victoria Station, went up about 4 more flights of stairs to get to the underground train to the hotel. By this time, we were both extremely tired and I was sweating so much, you would have thought I had just finished a five mile run. We finally managed to get on the District/Circle line train that went to our hotel at the Temple station, and we only had three more flights of stairs to climb before reaching the street level. Once at the street, it was a quick walk across the street to the hotel, where we checked in only 5 and a half hours late. Fortunately, our hotel room had air conditioning (a rare commodity at hotels in London), which I proceeded to crank down to 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit), which was as low as it would go. After about 30 minutes, we had finally cooled down enough to begin checking out the hotel room.
We started to to unpack and I wanted to get our internet connection up and running. We have our home telephone service through Vonage, a VoIP provider that allows you to make your phone calls via the Internet using normal phones. It works with any broadband Internet connection, so we decided to take our Vonage Phone Adapter with us so that we would be able to make phone calls to both England and the United States for free. It took me a while, but this is how I found out that their light switches are backwards from ours. In England, you flip the switch down to turn on the light or switch. Completely foreign to me, I found switches on the wall outlets. When I turned them on (flipped the switch up), and plugged something in, it wouldn't work. Shortly after this, I found out an important fact. While many devices in the U.S. work on both 110 and 240 volts (the voltage used in England), power strips with surge protection do not work on 240 volts. When I finally got the power on, the power strip fried, yielding the sweet smell of roasted transistors, and tripped the breaker to the room at the same time. I called the reception desk and told them that our power was out, and after 4 visits by various hotel staff and about an hour, we finally got the breaker turned back on. Once we got the power back on, we finally got things up and running and decided to go get something to eat.
We asked the concierge if there was a nearby pub where we could get something to eat, and he directed us to a wonderful place called The Wellington.
They had a pub on the ground floor and a restaurant on the first floor. In the U.S., the first floor and the ground floor are usually considered to be one and the same. In England, the ground floor would be at the street level, and the first floor would be the floor above ground level.
We stayed at The Howard (A Swissotel property). It is located a block away from the Thames river, right across the street from the Temple underground station. This is a view of the hotel as it faces the Thames river. The picture is taken from the London Eye on the other side of the river. British Airways owns/runs this attraction. You can read more about it here. The staff has been extremely friendly and courteous. We are staying in room 506, which is a corner room at the south east corner of the hotel. We have a pretty good view from here, although we would probably have had a better view of the Tower Bridge if we were a couple of floors higher so we could see over the trees to the east.
Here are some of the night shots taken from the hotel room.
We did a little sightseeing around town, and we found Saint Martins in the Field Church. This is one of the Dickens Village buildings that Christy has, so we decided to get a picture of it. Despite its name, the church is not in a field. It is in-fact, in Trafalgar Square, right next to the National Portrait Gallery. A picture of the church is below.