Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Transition to Travel

I like the crowns on top

It's hard to believe that, after spending literally years researching and planning for this extended European trip, so much was left to the last minute. But both Martha and I were caught up in real life responsibilities right up until we took off. (For online friends, Martha is my sister)

I was trying to tie up final loose ends of personal and family business, Martha was tying up personal business, driving cross country and trying to accomplish everything with a broken shoulder. Real life was proving more challenging than ever, so trip prep fell by the wayside.

We didn't even book lodging in our first stop until just a couple of days before I left. But we are very happy with our choice.
There is a new to us chain of hostels called Generator that are clean, modern and efficient. Although I had always hoped to stay in a more traditional lodging, because the architecture in this city is one of my biggest joys, and sharing my sleeping space with several strangers is never a joy of any kind for me, I am still very happy and comfortable in this place.

Tucked away in a tiny alleyway, the outside is typical old London. Inside is the total opposite. Bright industrial decor. But the price is right, less than $35 a night, and the neighborhood totally rocks.

The Brunswick shopping center...centre...
A few blocks from St. Pancras station in one direction, which is so lovely I could stare at the exterior for hours at a time, and lovely Russell Square a few blocks in the other direction. A small outdoor shopping mall is barely two blocks away with grocery and drug stores, plus the mobile store where we got new sim cards.
❤ St. Pancras Station ❤

Public toilet outside Russell Square. Just a small fee.
Chill Space with LOTS of outlets

The data plans are ridiculously cheap here, helped even more by a strong dollar, and we get to use them in most of the other countries we are visiting. So we are thrilled with that find.

In any case, it was a bit unnerving landing in a foreign country without access to all the information I rely on from teh internets. Gatwick Airport gives everyone 45 free minutes of wifi, which I considered a lifesaver. It allows you to get all the basic information you need in order not to have spend all of your vacation at the airport or spend an exorbitant amount going into town.

Floor names easier to remember than numbers?
I managed to pick up the train tickets I'd pre-booked and jump on what turned out to be one of the slower trains to my destination. But at least it got me there. When I went to meet Martha today, the train we took did not go all the way to our stop. We still don't know why. But we were required to get instructions from all the helpful personnel at the station where the route terminated and do a great deal of extra walking. Thank goodness it is Martha's shoulder that's broken, and not one of her legs.

Side note here about how helpful and friendly every last person has been on this leg of our trip. Mad props to LAX for surprising me with that, particularly the jocular TSA agents. But London has been one kind and amazingly helpful person after another. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like it.

My feet were so happy I had fuzzy slippers.
Fuzzy slippers on flight. SO happy I brought them.
Still, it was a hysterical moment for the two of us when a woman entered the train carriage we were just sitting and chatting in before we found out it wasn't going any further. She got on and asked if this was the train to Gatwick. We told her it had just come from there, that's where we got on it. When she asked if it was going back there, my sleep deprived brain offered, "I guess if you stay on it long enough, it'll turn around and go back."

She was obviously flustered, presumably because she had a flight to catch. When she came back on, with the confirmation of a station agent that the train was turning around right there, we realized just how unwelcome my wrong information had been to her. Of course, once she realized we were Americans, she wasn't going to just take my word for it. Little did she realize that even in America, people should not be asking me for information of any kind. With the possible exception of computer questions. sigh.

For the rest of the day, though, one of us would turn to the other and say, "I guess if you stay on long enough..." and we'd both start laughing wildly.


Revolving Sushi Belt at St. Pancras. Yo!
When I got in, I picked up wifi at St. Pancras for free, as well. That allowed me to get a screenshot of the route to our hostel. Thank God. Although I had already reconciled myself to finding a paper map, if necessary, I'm just not at all sure if those things still exist. And though our hostel is only a few blocks away, I had absolutely no idea how to get there.

So, after checking into the hostel, first stop was for the sim cards for phone and tablet. Then I came back to shower before going out to eat. The first place I saw after leaving the station was calling my name as I walked by, so went straight there and stuffed my face, before coming back and falling into bed.

On the way back, though, I was very surprised at how many people were eating and drinking outside. It was only 48F, and I wouldn't have done that in those temps even when I was still smoking. They were all having a good time, too, lots of laughter.

I had gotten in at almost 1 pm, and Martha came out of customs around 11:30 this morning. By the time we navigated transportation snafus, though, it wasn't a whole lot earlier. So we did pretty much the same thing. Checked in, went for the sim cards and then found a very nice pub called The Swan for lunch. Small, but lovely, with an extremely personable bartender who also served us and made us feel very welcome.

Of course, live chatting with AT&T for what seemed like hours robbed us of much of our lunchtime pleasure. They are refusing to unlock Martha's new iPhone even when I (pretending to be her) threatened to cancel all 5 of her family phones and 2 tablets. But her tablet isn't locked and I remembered you can buy unlock codes online, so a big FU to AT&T.

Nearby Russell Square

Our very comfy room
So, we took care of necessities, explored our immediate area a bit and have made a small start on what we plan to do going forward. We are both functioning on way too little sleep, and I don't foresee that changing any time soon. Particularly while sharing a room with 8 other people. The farts and snores were perhaps not loud enough to wake a sound sleeper, but I wouldn't know because I don't happen to be one.


We are NOT complaining. About any freaking thing. Because we are so very excited to be here, there's not a lot else that we actually care about at the moment. We are just wallowing in the fact that we are actually beginning this months long adventure. Finally.

Tomorrow, we will finish the phone set ups...I hope...and probably pick up some version of a tube travel card. Look for some theater tickets. And just go look at whatever the hell we want, whenever we feel like it. Back at the hostel tomorrow night, we will figure out where we'll be staying in Ireland next week. And so on...

Not a lot of plans, which is how we wanted it. We'll figure it out. Right now, life is good and we're loving it. Really, really grateful for it, too. We hope everyone else is doing well and stays that way. Please take care of yourselves, and be careful. Because it's gonna be a while before we are ready to come home.


  1. It's a horse, not a dinosaur... Haven't finished reading the blog yet, I just really felt you should know.

  2. It took me a few tries to post that comment, btw, but there it is. First comment, woohoo!!
    I love this. I love this so much. Pictures are awesome and I'm glad I can know what you guys are up to, as you're getting up to it. I'm also really happy to hear how happy you both are. The pictures are great, you've gotten better at that than you used to be.
    I'm sad the black cabs aren't black, I'm happy those revolving sushi bars really exist, my bladder would never entertain that public pod of a toilet, I like the black wifi boxes, I can't wait for a chat at the Blue Box, and here's what I learned about the horse.. The electronic ticker is intended to draw attention to the City and the wealth gap between rich and poor.
    While traders and hedge fund managers make their millions, "the less fortunate look to the bare bones of the horseplay of today's gentry", Haacke says.

    Love you!

    1. Also, I get that about the toilet, but it's even classier than the porta Potties at Coachella. Re the pics, it's probably just the cameras that got better. I was so frustrated at not being able to capture the face of the clock in later evening photos, but it was just washed out by the backlighting. Don't have time to learn about that either. My focus is very narrow at the moment. Glad they're decent enough now to at least share some of what we're seeing and doing, though. And that you're enjoying it so much. That really does add to our enjoyment, too.

  3. Love you, too, and thank you for that info. It was way too high up for me to be able to read. And I just don't have time to look up stuff that doesn't relate to my immediate needs of food and shelter. Oh, and connectivity.

  4. Your trip is causing me to learn things I never questioned that London Bridge was no longer in London, I was actually confused at your first comment about Big Ben, so your vacation has been my learning experience. I didn't know hey had the ferries there. hat looked very nice. Still loving all the photos. I realize I look forward to see if you've posed at the end of the day, so you better keep that going; even if just for my sake.

  5. Now for the research portion of today's visit. Seriously, as soon as I saw the monkey's I had another tab open to check it out. Same thing for Big Ben, that tab was open before I got to the next paragraph in which you told me not to look.
    Anyway, royalty used to trade exotic animals as gifts. Lions, tigers, polar bears (oh, my), kangaroos, and, you guessed it, monkeys. "In the corner of the Tower’s walls, outside the Jewel House, sit three mischievous baboons. There was a School of Monkeys in The Monkey Room until it closed in 1810. "
    That is until one of the lions ate he lion dude's girlfriend. Then the animals became the founding members of the London Zoo. The statues are to show how it was when they were a normal part of the palace grounds.
    As for Big Ben, the clock tower is the Elizabeth Tower, but over the years Big Ben, which is only a nickname for The Great Bell, has become a general nickname for the entire tower. It is acceptable.

  6. These comment boxes suck on mobile devices. But thank you so much for helping me with all of that, I'm glad to see you you still enjoy learning about random things like that. If I had more time, I'd be all over the google.

    No selfies on the blog, tho. I'll email you one every day. If I'd known you enjoyed them so much, I'd have taken one with monkeys. Hehehe.


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