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Day 1 in London
April 25, 2015 00:46
We woke up VERY early, showered, got dressed, and finished packing. We had arranged the previous night to have a cab pick us up instead of trying to ride the RER with all of our luggage, not to mention hauling it down to the train station. The cab ride was uneventful and for the first time all week, there was almost no traffic. Of course, it wasn't even 6 am yet, so there's that.
We arrived at the Paris Nord train station to catch the Eurostar to London. We had a couple of hours to spare, but we needed some time to fill out the customs forms and Gertie wandered about a bit and found us a quickie breakfast. I only took a few pictures of the station because I had my hands full with luggage.
Worked our way into the immigration line. British customs was located in this station, so we wouldn't have to deal with it once we arrived in London. Although it wasn't bad, this was the only customs interaction where we got grilled to any degree. We were asked when we left the USA, when we were going to leave London. HOW were we leaving london. What port were we leaving from? What was the name of the ship? No friendly pleasentries whatsoever. Oh well, no matter. We got through. We had to run our luggage through an Xray machine and the conveyor belt leading into the scanner was at an upward incline, and our one heavy bag, which weighed upwards of 70 pounds, would keep sliding down the belt. I had to give it a firm push up the ramp to get it through. We are DEFINITELY packing lighter next trip.
We got through customs and still had an hour before our departure time, so staked out a spot to sit down and explored the terminal a bit, and bought a couple drinks. About 30 minutes before boarding we got in a line. Some minutes after that, we started to walk to the train. This was a bit tedious as we had to walk down a ramp carrying several heavy bags. At least it wasn't stairs, but there was still a risk of losing control of the bags on the walk down. Nevertheless, we made it to the train platform and walked to our car. I got a couple of the smaller bags stashed above our seat, but the larger one clearly wasn't going to fit. Thankfully the area between cars had some shelves for larger bags, so I was able to stash two of the bigger ones in there. We sat down and prepared ourselves for the ride.
The ride was.... well, it wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't comfortable. The table between our seats and the seats across from us had a single support pillar in the middle that just hit my knee, forcing me to sit somewhat at an angle the entire trip. The seats had no recline, so attempting to sleep on the trip wasn't happening. We were almost 30 minutes late departing as another train on the same tracks somewhere had an accident, or a onboard fatality or something, but it delayed us a bit. The train moved pretty quickly once we got out of Paris, but slowed down dramatically before entering the channel tunnel. That was also unexciting as it was just pitch black for about 20 minutes, and suddenly daylight again.
Finally we made it to London and we walked through a maze of barricades until we made it into the populated area of the station. We hit the bathrooms and worked our way to the taxi stand. After a short wait in line, we were able to load our stuff up into a large taxi and the driver drove us to our hotel, the Andaz. There was a bit of a stark contrast between London and Paris, and not just the side of the road they drive on. While both taxis we took in Paris were like private cars, and the drivers helped us load and unload our bags, in London, the taxi driver was separated from us with a plexiglass partition, and we had to handle our bags ourselves. We even had to hand our money through a small window. Oh well. At least, at the hotel, a porter was immediately present to load our bags onto a cart, in contrast to the hotel in Paris which didn't. However, the rooms at the Andaz cost 3 times as much as those at the Marriot, so there's that. Not that I paid actual money for either of them.
Once inside we were immediately walked over to a desk and got checked in and had a room immediately available for us, despite how early it was, so we were able to walk up to the room. Our luggage was ported up behind us, separately, but arrived right after we did. The room was NICE. REALLY REALLY NICE. King sized bed with endtables on each side. Large bathroom with a shower/tub combo, large desk with a built in compartment with a mirror and hairdryer, and power outlets with adapters for several different countries. Above the desk was a large TV mounted on the wall. Off to the side, was a large closet and a separate compartment with several shelves and a safe, and next to that was a fridge with several complimentary drinks. There were also some alcoholic drinks included but they weren't complimentary. Below the fridge was a drawer with a coffee pot and a substantial selection of coffee and tea.
We ate lunch at Simpson's Tavern which while good also wiped out half of our supply of pounds. I had intended to pay with a credit card, but the reader they had was taking so long, and we had to get going, so I just ponied up the cash instead. We then took the tube over to the Queen's Theatre and watched Les Miserables. We tried to go to a nearby museum but it closed early that day, so we hit a nearby Fish and Chips place for dinner, and then took the tube back to our hotel.