2009 TRIP TO ENGLAND, by Colin L. Miller

Intro May 28 May 29 May 30 May 31 June 01 June 02 June 03 June 04 June 05 June 06 June 07 June 08 June 09 June 10 June 11 June 12 June 13 Expense Report

Friday, May 29, 2009

While still heading in for Heathrow, the sky outside was starting to lighten in anticipation of sunrise. In morning daylight, the plane flew over Ireland and southeast over Wales and finally to the landing at Heathrow, 5,300 miles from Tucson. After exiting the plane, we all went to the passport check area, which was very crowded with all us arriving passengers. It was divided into UK passports and everyone else. About 30 minutes later, I was through the “everyone else” line with my first rubber stamp mark in my passport. There was a currency exchange booth nearby (TravelEx, Terminal 4 Landside Arrivals) so after a few minutes of waiting in line, I cashed in $1250 for £709.62 -£3.99 fee ($1.7615 per £1.00 or £0.56 per $1.00) with a buyback guarantee of the same exchange rate.

By the time I was loaded down with a large wad of British cash, mostly 20's, 10's, 5's, and some coins, the passport check room had emptied out. Now it was time to exit into the duty free area and then the main terminal. There were shops, restaurants and vending machines scattered about the crowded terminal, including more currency exchanges. Since I'd already converted my money, it was too late to try shopping around for a better conversion rate. I spotted a vending machine with SIM cards for cell phones. I inserted a nice, new £10 banknote into the machine and chose one from T-Mobile as I'd heard they have good service coverage in England. The packet contained a plastic card with a punch-out SIM chip (a bit larger than a microSD card), a card with the SIM's info that I could use to purchase top-up minutes, and a tiny user manual. I put the SIM in the phone and it worked, however I didn't have any airtime so I couldn't make any calls yet.

I went downstairs to the Terminal 4 Underground station. At the ticket window, I put in for a £3 OysterCard with £20 of value to use on Underground trips. The trip from here to the hotel area should only be about £2, half of the cash price. The OysterCard is a proximity card. Just wave it at a card reader and the gate opens. Your entry point is noted and then when you exit at the destination, the fare is deducted.

After an hour's ride with stops at other stations, I decided to exit at Earl's Court Station and walk the rest of the way, since it was only about 9:30 AM. It was sunny and warm, with some humidity. It was also very crowded. Out of the station and on the street I tried out my GPSs. However, with all the buildings lining the street, it couldn't get a signal. I started walking in the general direction of the hotel based on my previous viewing of the Google maps. At a residential area park bench rest stop, I got the GPS to show me the street map, and with my keychain magnetic compass I made sure I was headed in the right direction. After 2.6 miles and an hour and 20 minutes from Earl's Court I checked in at Corus Hotel Hyde Park. The exterior looked like what I saw on Google Street View.

My room was #935, a small room with a single bed, a small safe, no AC but with a window, a TV with four channels, and a tiny bathroom. It was comfortable enough, and I would be out and about during the day. After a brief rest, I headed back out, unencumbered from all my baggage. Going through Hyde Park, I went by the south side of the Long Water past the Diana Memorial area, out Hyde Park Corner, to Buckingham Palace, then along The Mall past the north edge of St. James Park, and over to Trafalgar Square, then the Westminster Abbey area, Big Ben & Parliament, and then over the river to the London Eye area. After a rest in the grassy area by the London Eye where street performers did their art, music and other performances, I headed back over the river and through the crowded city streets. Not far from the hotel, I stopped at the Marble Arch Sainsbury's for a snack & drink (£5.00). I'd read that local markets offered prepackaged sandwiches and snacks for a reasonable price. I then returned to the hotel where I finally got some rest with a raging headache.

Total spent: £38.00. Total day's mileage: 9.5. Condition of feet: very tired and sore. Tomorrow, I would visit the Natural History Museum and see an IMAX movie.

Hyde Park - Lancaster Gate, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Eye

Intro May 28 May 29 May 30 May 31 June 01 June 02 June 03 June 04 June 05 June 06 June 07 June 08 June 09 June 10 June 11 June 12 June 13 Expense Report