Europe 2008 (Vancouver-London) Days 0-1 May 24-25

25 05 2008

We finally got around to starting our vacation!

We left home today/yesterday at 1430.  Thank you Anne for driving us!!!  Check in was uneventful and we made it smoothly to our secure area by 1545.  Lots of time to kill so we shopped for a few souvenirs to bring friends over in the UK.

They boarded us at 1710 instead of 1700 and we got underway only 5minutes late.    The flight was odd.  They didn’t turn down the lights until we had only about 3 hours short of Heathrow.  Not exactly great sleeping conditions.  Turns out there had been a medical issue on the plane, and that was most likely the reason for the long “lights on” period.

At around 0500 UK time, we looked out our widow and saw the ice floes of the North.  Just after that they put up the “you are here” map on the screen between movies.  Apparently we were at 65.04 N  82.26 W  Within the next hour or so we also saw the sun rise over the clouds on the ocean. It was lovely.  Intense reds in the sunrise.  After all that I finally got a bit of shut eye.

I was surprised at how easily you go through customs and immigration at Heathrow.  We handed a card to an officer who stamped our passports and checked our little “immigration cards” and that was it.  No interrogation at customs or anything.  Seems like it might be a uniquely Canadian and American thing.  😦

After clearing immigration, the next challenge was to find Liz who was meeting us there.  I hadn’t seen Liz for about 16 years and that was only for a short bit.  We walked out and started looking wide eyed at all the people that were waiting for folks from the plane.  Suddenly a little lady stepped forward and I said “Liz?”

“Yes”, she said.

It turned out not to be too hard.  We checked out of the parkade and Liz drove us off to Brentwood via the core of London.  Wow… busy, and on a Sunday at that!  We had the scenic whirlwind tour. Houses of Parliment, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, the Mall, the Eye, the tower Bridge.  Whew!    We took a few pictures from the car, but it was beginning to rain.  I don’t think they turned out that well.

We then got out the the ring road –  the M25 a and out to Brentwood, where we checked into the Holiday Inn.

The Holiday Inn was a reasonable place, but small halls and smoky smell to the halls.  It was VERY busy. Of course with Monday being the Bank Holiday so many people were on vacation.  The bed was quite soft, and the room was quite basic.  We flopped into our beds and had a 3-4 hour nap.

We went down to the restaurant for “snack-dinner”, since we really hadn’t eaten anything since about 1000 on the plane. The restaurant had a set dinner… cost was 20 pounds/per person.. ouch… We ate at the bar instead.

At the bar, Irene ordered Fish and Chips, while I had a Lasagna: £18.95!  Ouch.

After that Liz came over to get us and we went over to her place where we met Aiden, her husband, and  Richard, and Jessie.   What a lovely place!  Beautiful yard and garden in the back.  Typical quaint British home!  We enjoyed a nice drink with them and chatted about our plans for tomorrow.

Well we got back to our room at the hotel around 2230.  We figured it was a good time to call home and let people know that we’re all OK.  Irene went to call home.  No go… If you don’t have a credit card on record with the hotel you can’t make LD calls from your room.  Down to the desk at 2300 and dealt with that.  Apparently the Internet booking had been “pre-pay” so they didn’t have anything on file at the hotel.  Fixed. We appear to be finally settled into this VERY expensive country.  For Internet they want $24/hour at the kiosk.  OUCH!  Sigh.  Maybe the room will be cheaper.

Tomorrow  we take the train into London and sightseeing – too bad they forecast rain 😦

g’night.

(pics etc will come later.  Sorry – this is getting published 5 days later due to Internet connection problems to date 😦 )

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