Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blogging the London Trip- Day 1

It's really nice having an entire day to get ready for a trip before you leave. Our flight out of Dulles was at 10:20pm Saturday, which meant we would get a ride from Super Shuttle at about 6pm. Kat thought that was crazy-early but I said that between security and everything else, it might not mean hours of waiting.

It did, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, we got on the plane before 10pm, a British Airways flight, to find that the air conditioning was out of commission. The temp inside was climbing steadily as more passengers embarked, which meant the Cadbury chocolate bar I bought got melty real fast. Kat and I did our best to ignore the heat but... you can only ignore so much.

We got airborne by 11pm and the air conditioning kicked in once the big engines were going. That was a relief. We found, however, that our overhead lights weren't working at all; this meant the pilot had to reboot the entire system, which meant the TVs were down for awhile. Argh.

Landing in Heathrow, we got through the gate, cashed some US money for UK currency, and then waited for our tour group's bus to show up. Turns out we missed one (must not have heard them calling our names) and caught the next one, putting us into London around 1pm Sunday. We saw a huge mob of soccer fans in the street at one point, shouting in support of Manchester United (who beat Chelsea in a very close match in Moscow last week). We were a bit taken aback by the intensity of their demonstration.

Arriving at our hotel--the Riverbank Park Plaza--we settled into our room, then changed rooms (we were close to the train track behind the hotel). Our hotel was right on the Embankment, with a terrific view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, with reasonably convenient access to the Vauxhall Tube station. (I'll add pictures and links to this post tonight, so you can see what I mean.)

Our only schedule item that evening was seeing our friend Mike Carey at a pub near Tottenham Court Road. We headed out a bit late (after 5pm for a 6pm meet), found that Vauxhall Station was closed for maintenance, scrambled to figure out how to get to Tottenham Court Road, got there about 6:10, and then asked nearly every third person on the street how to find a pub named The Angel.

Nobody knew. Go figure.

Eventually we found a police officer and he produced a pocket map, which showed us we were about four blocks from our target. Kat insisted we buy that very map immediately, then we made it to The Angel... at 6:45. Mike was getting ready to go (or so it seemed to me), but we settled back in, got a round of pints (half-pint for Kat), and talked.

Don't know about you, but I like talking and it seems Mike does too. We covered X-Men (especially Charles Xavier [currently the feature character in Mike's X-Men: Legacy series]and Scott Summers), Felix Castor, writing in other media, travel plans, restaurants and sights of interest, and a dozen other topics--including a very cool writing project Mike is on right now. I won't say more about it because it's his news to reveal, when the time is right, but Kat and I wish him the very best. He's a great guy, a good friend, and we hope to see him again soon.

Mike had to get home, so Kat and I wandered to Rules, a restaurant Mike had recommended. (It happens to be the oldest restaurant in London; it definitely has that feel of genteel antiquity and the service was matchless.) We had a fantastic meal-- Kat said it was the single best meal she had in London-- and made our way home around 11 or so. It had been an exhausting day but well worth every minute.

And on Monday... our first tour. Stay tuned!

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