Arrival in London

I started this blog post sitting with feet up windows open breeze flowing in and still not quite believing that I’m actually back in London. I’m now finishing it at 3am in the morning, with the windows and doors locked watching the BBC news and counting my lucky stars that thanks to Jet lag I was in bed asleep when the terror events unfolded literally a few hundred metres from where I am on London Bridge and Borough Market, locations where I was only a few hours before.

I’m also not sure if this should really be three blog posts as it technically covers events over three days, but since I got zero sleep over the period, I’m counting it as one. I’ve had meals that I’m not really sure if they count as breakfast, lunch or dinner.

It all started on Friday morning, 10.15 Sydney time, we left for the airport and Sharon dropped me off at the check-in counter. Checking in was non eventful, as was moving through emigration and security. Of course being a male travelling by myself I was “randomly” picked to go through the extra super duper security checker. I’d left my phone in my pocket, so got to go through all that fun twice !

Bit of time to kill before getting on the plane so decided to check out the shops before grabbing my final Oz coffee. Noticed Tim Tams were super expensive, at around $6.50 a packet. I Had already stocked up from Coles to keep all the expats in the office happy, only $1.50 there. Will be brining so UK treats home on my return. Bought and drank my coffee, considering the shafting on the Tim Tams, only $1 more the the city wasn’t too bad really. Stocked up on a few last minute things and waited for the plane.

The trip to Hong Kong was pretty good, Sat next to a nice mum/daughter combo who were going to drive around Scotland for two weeks and chatted to them for a while. Food on plane was ok, but totally devastated that there was no wifi. I think this 777 plane getting a little long in the tooth with Cathay Pacific.

Arrived HK. More security and health checks found gate, then lounge. The lounge was really disappointing as seems to every credit card company uses the same one and they let anyone in willing to spend $30. Glad I get me credit card for free, wouldn’t be worth the annual $300 fee otherwise. Best thing about HK airport was the rubber duck display made out of tinned food. Quite interesting.

Flight to London was very long and dull, delayed over an hour out of Honkers due to some weather issues. I’m reminded yet again how much I hate night flights. A night in Asia wasn’t really an option as I had to be in london on Monday morning for the conference and wanted to spend as much of weekend in London as I could. A case of suck it up princess…

Of course I can’t sleep on planes and managed about 1hr max dozing on and off. That just wasn’t working so I switched strategies and started mainlining coffee as often as I could, listening to music and watching a movie for the rest of the flight. Movie was Hidden Figures, interesting story about a group of African American women who did all the trajectory calculations for NASA during the space race.

Set up my phone with my UK sim in it so I would be all ok for arrival, filled out all the paperwork for immigration and custom checks. Cathay Pacific dropped the ball a little on breakfast, i thought they were really cutting it tight, the flight tracker said we had less than an hour to go and they were still handing them out, then there seemed to be a crazy rush to get it all cleaned up virtually seconds before we landed.

I can see why come consider Gatwick to be the poor cousin to Heathrow, its old and was a bit of a rabbit warren to get to the immigration and customs area. One bonus was that it was quiet with virtually no one there so we all cruised through in a few minutes.

Gatwick had two portraits of the queen, all made out of tiny pictures of other UK citizens. Interesting and well done. After customs, bought a GBP20 express ticket for the train to Victoria station. Only waited a minute or two for it to arrive and was whisked into London faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket. Closest station is “Monument” but since there is track work on the District and Circle line, it was closed today. The next best option was “Bank” station. The apartment was super easy to find after walking out from the station, its right next door to that massive “Walkie Talkie” building, so didn’t even need to look at a map to find it.

Checkin guy was running late, but they had a system where I could get the key from a safe in the lobby, so did that, had a shower and walked up to the office where my London colleagues work. They were in the office today running a test so I dropped in to say hi and drop off some Tim Tams. The walk to the office goes right past my favourite London building, the “Gherkin”. Walked to Liverpool station and took a train to Euston to pick up some tickets I’d pre-purchased for my day trips to Bletchley and Manchester.

I had a 2.30pm appointment at the Lego store to try out the portrait maker, so jumped on a train to Leicester Square. Walking around noticed Bakewell tarts for sale, had never had one, but seen them on the show “Great British Bakeoff” so was keen to try one.

The Lego store in London is just awesome, lots of hard to get stuff plus a few exclusives you can’t get anywhere else.

After finishing here I took a train to London Bridge and walked down to Borough Market to grab some lunch. Was intending to get a coffee from Monmouth Coffee, but there was a massive queue. I noticed a vendor selling cups of Pimms, so had one of those instead. Very refreshing on a warm day. Borough Market is a foodies dream, so much on offer. I really just wanted something plain, and almost had trouble just finding a beef burger. On my way out of the market I picked up a couple of punnets of strawberries for 2 pounds.

Such a fantastic sunny day, I walked down to the Shard building and took the lift up to the viewing station for some pictures. Not cheap at GBP25, but worth it if its a clear day. Would be nice if they kept the glass a little cleaner though.

Walked back to apartment across London bridge, and by this time of day I was fighting to keep my eyes open, so just called into Tesco’s, picked up a pre-made curry for dinner, started on this post and was in bed pushing out ZZZZs by 7pm.  I woke up at around 1.30am and couldn’t get back to sleep so decided to check FB, and saw that I had quite a few messages and it was clear that something big was happening in London with another terror attack. No chance of getting more sleep now. I’ve planned for a trip out to Bletchley Park for Sunday, at this point I’m not sure if the stations will be open or if I’ll be able to get there.