Friday, June 18, 2010

Fabulous Week!

Having my daughter and grandson with me, in England for a week, has been fabulous. I took them to some of my favourite places and discovered, because of them, some new ones. I'll try to post some pictres soon.

And woven into the week was securing my apartment over here. Fabulous place. Everything is expensive, so for the next little bit, I'll need to be frugal. But I'm really looking forward to the great opportunity that has been afforded me!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

There Are No Ruts In Britian

I have traveled through Luten Aiport several times. Each trip to and from is truly an adventure. I don't think any trip has been a clone of a previous trip. It's nothing like when I worked projects in the States and the departures and arrivials were as similar from trip to trip as a normal person's commute. There is one exception to what I have said above regarding sameness. No mattter all the differences in my commute to and from Luten - it ALWAYS takes three hours to get there or get back.

My first trip to Scotland began at Gatwick. I returned via Luten. It was suggested I take the tour bus to London. Tour bus > Victoria Station. I was able to purchase the ticket on the airplane.

My second trip, using the train, I was advised that I needed to get to Farringdon Station. At Farrington, I needed to get an additional ticket to the airport. When I purchased that ticket the agent made sure she included the shuttle bus fee that gets you from the train station to the airport. I did not make a note of the direction name the training was taking me, as the ticket agent simply instructed me as to what track number I needed to be on.

Upon my return and learning from that previous trip that I could get to Kings Cross/St. Pancras, I could also catch the Underground to Liverpool Street just like from  Farrington, I could take advantage of the opportunity to vist Harry Potter's Platform 9-3/4 and purchase my ticket on the airplane, I chose this route. I ended up purchasing the last leg of my trip in one part of the station and learnt that I needed to depart from the other. Which is where I had just come from, but had not made note of where I was or had been. The stations are connected nicely, I might add, which makes knowing this important detal, seem trivial. Platform 9 3/4 is wonderful to see as it has the same platform marker as the regular ones and a luggage trolly stuck in the wall.

Next trip out, I decide the St. P/K.C station is nicer than Farrington and I  would go to the airport that way. I wished, not remembering if I had popped into St. P or K.C. that I had made a note of which part of the station's I'd used for my deapartures and arrivals. Nor had I noted what departure direction I was taking. No one mentioned a shuttle purchase and no one attempted to collect tickets at the station. On this particular trip I knew I was dealing with the possibility of my flight having been cancelled enroute due to the volcano eruption in Iceland. I arrived at the airport to find it was scheduled, but delayed by five  hours. When we finally in line to board, a problem was identified with the plane and the flight crew was outside of their hours to fly. We were put on another plane to Glasgow (check the distance between Glasgow and Aberdeeen if you want a chuckle) with the promise of a bus the remaining distance. Waiting for a morning flight was an option, but with only 10 seats available and 130 passengers to compete with, I chose the bus route. Upon arrival in Glasgow we discovered the bus that was waiting only seated 50. A planned 7:00 PM arival ended up being 4:30 AM the following morning. All's well that ends well, I say.

On that trip home, not having noted what the departure directon was, I did could not deduce the directon (opposite) I needed to get home and therefore could not, without aide consult the monitors for which platform I needed to return to K.C./St. P or Farringdon. After missing a train I had (intuitively?) been waiting for, I did decide, due to being tired and not wishing to figure out which part of St. P/K.C. that I needed to navigate, that I would do Farringdon. I forgot that Farringdon does not offer lifts and I was toting the big case. I failed to mention that on this trip that my suitcase's tyre gave up. I was draging 19kg (over 40 lbs.) of stuff on 1.5 wheels. I purchased a new case at the airport upon my return and changed everything out right then and there. (Laugh all you want - there were others doing the same.) Due to too many people wanting food to eat on the flight home and a plucky tailwind, the airline was unable to provide train tickets to St. Pancras on that particular flight.

On this trip out, smaller suitcase in tow, I decide, I'll take Farrringdon. I had also decided to try purchasing my whole route, under a Travel Pass scheme (plan)  to Luten. Seemed easy enough. It's a Saturday. Saturday's I know, mean that rail work distruptions are likely  probable. No trains to Farringdon this day, but with a mere hop, skip and and jump, I can get to St. P./K.C. I noted that St. P is the place to be, now jotting copious notes from learnt lessons. I note the direction of the train I need and head with confidence to platform A and B. There are blockades. I ruturn to the display and see that the letters have been replaced with platform numbers on an alternate floor due to rail work. With four minutes left for this train, I make my way up, proceed to the turnstiles to find that my ticket won't open the gate. An attendent let me through. Upon arriving at the station it eats my ticket at the exit turnstile, which on EVERY other trip, on any other journey,  has always returned it. I need it as a receipt for my expenses. The attendant fishes it out for me and instructs me on how to exit in the future if I need the receipt again. The current shuttle leaves. I queue op for the next one and I'm stopped with "£1.50 (one pound fifty) please". 1) I'd assumed that was covered in my original purchase and 2) where'd he come from? He wasn't there before. Upon arrival at the airport I was confused that I was confused about where to pick up my luggage. I've left the airport four times, but this was only my second arrival as last time it was via Glasgow and we'd conned the taxi driver into letting us out nearer to our hotel. At my age, the possibility being disoriented with something that you should be familar with is worrisome.

So the lay of the land is thus. Depart using the National Express train line from  Brentwood to Liverpool Street Station (unless there is line work) and then alternatives from Stratford may need to be considered. The Underground Circle  line from Liverpool St. to St. Pancras (unless there are line disruptions in which the District or Northern lines may offer relief). Depart St. Pancras via the Capital Connect Railway, to Luton Express Parkway, Bedford direction, (platform TBD when there is no rail work). For the return, purchase the tickets to St. Pancras on the plane (check the windspeed), board the shuttle without being checked (true to date), take the Capital Connect train in the direction of Brighton, platform 3 (but check the monitors) to St. Pancras. Underground Circle line to Liverpool Street (check disruption schedule now being emailed to me), National Express train, Shenfield direction to Brentwood. Watch the station signs rather than the billboards so as not to exit in Gidea Park or Harold Wood.

And please note: Whatever the detour, misadventure, dalliance, shopping, dining, or tourism activity you engage in, the trip will take three  hours without fail.