Friday June 9th
6:00am - Here it is, the first day of the British Gran Prix. The temperature today is supposed to be sunny and clear with a high of 73 degrees. We're having to get an early start today in order to get out to the track by 9:00am. We woke up at 5:00am and have to leave the Euston train terminal on the 7:14am train to get to Northampton at 8:30am. This should get us to the track around 8:50am hopefully. This is the schedule at the track today. The last practice ends up about 3:00pm, so we hope to be back by about 5:30. This should get us time to get to Harrods and get some night pictures of the Tower Bridge when it is all lit up.
The train trip this morning was just great. We took the underground from Temple over to Embankment, and then took the Northern Line up to Euston where the National Rail service is. From there, we took the 7:14 train to Northampton. It was a typical commuter train, with only a handful of stops. The rail journey took about an hour and 20 minutes to go from Euston to Northampton. The fun began when we reached the Northampton station. They had a sign out in front of the rail station that said the bus to Silverstone would leave from the left of the front of the station. What the sign didn't say however, is which side of the station is the front, if "left" was left while facing the station or from inside the station, where to the left of the station it would leave from, or what time it would leave. You would think that the special service they had running to the track would have provided a little more information.
We asked one of the people inside the station and they indicated that we would need to walk to Northampton Town Center (about a 5-10 minute walk) and catch the train there. I would have never guessed that from the sign in front of the station. We asked one of the ticket agents, and they said that the bus would be leaving at 10:25am from the train station. The only problem with that is that it was 8:30am at that time, and the Formula1 first practice session would take place from 11am to noon. This meant that we would have a two hour wait in the train station and we wouldn't be able to get to the track in time to attend the BMS Pit Lane Walk and we would probably miss the first part of the Formula1 practice session. We had two hours to kill and we needed to cash some traveler's checks so we would have some money at the track for lunch and souveniers, so we inquired as to the location of a bank, and we were told it was about a 5-minute walk from the station in the opposite direction of Northampton Town Center. Since we had two hours to kill, we decided to walk to the bank.
We walked for about 10 minutes before we saw the bank, but when we went in, they said they couldn't cash our traveler's checks since we didn't have a bank account, and we should try another bank which was more or less across the street. We tried that bank, but got the same result, except that they told us to try the post office, which was across the street. We tried the post office, but they couldn't cash them either and they suggested going to the main post office in Northampton Town Center, and that it was only a 15-minute walk. We decided to take a bus, which went directly to the Town Center bus station (apparently all busses into town go directly to the Town Center bus station and you catch the next bus from there. We finally arrived at the bus station at about 9:20 and decided to inquire again about the bus to the racetrack. They said that the 9:15am bus to the racetrack was just leaving the train station at that time. We were quite upset at this point, after getting the runaround at the train station when we inquired as to why they would have a train come in and make everyone wait 2 hours for a special bus run that only went to the racetrack. The attendant at the bus station showed us the same special bus time schedule for the weekend that the ticket agent at the train station showed us, only with one significant difference. The bus station agent had an additional time hand-written in for an additional bus at 9:15am. If we had been able to get the 9:15am bus, we would have been able to get to the track in plenty of time for the first Formula1 practice session. We met another woman there, Audrey (I hope that's spelled correctly), who had called the bus station the day before and was also told that the first bus would leave the station at 10:25. We all ended up having to wait at the bus station for an additional hour and 10 minutes for the next bus. We were quite upset at this point, but we might be able to catch the last half of the F1 practice session.
We waited for the bus, which arrived at 10:20, loaded, and left the station by 10:25. We were finally on our way to the track. After about a half hour journey, the bus finally stopped in Silverstone Village, and let us off at the bus stop along with a busload of ther passengers. The only problem was that there was nothing at the bus stop that indicated where the racetrack was! Apparently, a few of the other people on the bus had already been to the track before and know which way to go (we were dropped off at a 4-way intersection). We decided to follow them since it appeared that they knew where they were going. We continued to walk, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes... Finally, after 25 minutes, we arrived at the entrance to the racetrack. I couldn't understand why the "special" bus to the racetrack couldn't drop us off at the entrance to the racetrack. Of course, after a 25 minute walk, we arrived at the racetrack at about 11:45, which, after walking to the closest grandstands, was just in time to catch the last 5 minutes of the morning practice. We would have to wait for two more hours for the next practice session to start. We decided to look for a place to cash our traveler's checks, get something to eat, and find a good seat to watch the next practice from.
As it turns out, our tickets for the race only provide reserved seats for the Sunday race only, the Friday and Saturday sessions would be general admission. Of course though, the track was packed and all the good seating was taken when we got there, but everyone left to get something to eat when the first practice session ended. We found a place to cash the traveler's checks, and decided to pick out a good seat in the Luffok A section where we would have a good view of the infield to get some pictures from. We had our pick of the seats since everyone had left to get something to eat. We found some seats with a good viewing location, sat down, and then I went to get something for us to eat while Christy held our seats.
During the break, there was a skydiving exposition which we watched. This team is the only skydiving team that has performed the maneuver shown below.
At 2:00pm, the second practice session started and we took some pictures. Even though we were getting pictures in the infield and the speed of the cars was relatively slow, the first round of pictures came out blurred because the shutter speed was set to only 1/125. I bumpted it up to 1/500 for the rest of the pictures which looked better. We had 4 good track locations where we could get pictures from, all while remaining in our seats. When practice was over at 3:00pm, we decided to look for some souvenirs since the bus back to the train station wouldn't leave until 6:00pm. We had about 2 or so hours to kill. We did our souvenir shopping, and started the 25-minute trek back to the bus stop where we were let off. We arrived about 5:00, and waited there for the bus to pick us up at 6:00pm. As time approaced 6:00pm, there was quite a growing crowd at the bus stop, and we wanted to make sure that we got on the bus when it arrived since the next bus would not come until 7:40pm! The bus arrived at 10 minutes until 6:00pm, and we got in line at the bus stop sign. Our experience in London had told us that the busses always stop at the sign. We were among the first to secure a seat on the bus, although there were a handful of people that couldn't get on the bus because it was full. The ride back to the bus station was uneventful, as was the train trip back to Euston, except that the train was about 15 minutes late leaving because it had to wait for one of its crew members to arrive from a delayed train. We finally arrived back at Euson at 8:00pm. So much for doing any other sightseeing...
We finally made it back to the hotel at 8:30pm. We decided that we should cash the rest of the travelers checks in London to avoid any service charges. We found a Travelex office in Piccadilly Circus. We decided to go there to cash the checks and to have dinner. Following that, we decided that this would be a good night to get some night pictures of the Tower Bridge.
At 12:14am, we finally made it back to the hotel. We ended up eating at a restaurant in Piccadilly Circus called Adam's Rib, which specialized in American food. We really wanted some more traditional English food, but apparently Piccadilly Circus caters more to the younger crowd looking for something other than English food. We did however, get some great pictures of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. We have to get up at 4:30 in the morning, so I'll just post a few pictures and then its off to bed...
The north side of the Tower of London:
The west side of the Tower of London:
The west side of the Tower Bridge: