Monday, September 15, 2014

Trip Report - Our Big Trip - August 12th - Paris to London - I Am Reunited With My Luggage

In the morning it was clear, and we had a little time before our Eurostar departure to London, so we had a last snack at a sidewalk cafe, and stopped at a wonderful bakery to buy some pastry "for the road." We also stopped by the train station to be sure we could find the right track. We couldn't find it at first, then realized that the departure lounge was upstairs in an area called "London Hall." There was a small waiting area with a few shops and eateries, and then you walked down to the tracks to get on the train.


Turned out that taking the Chunnel via Eurostar was not scarey at all. If you didn't know you were going underwater, you would have thought you were in an exceptionally long tunnel. No water splashing on the roof, no eyes peering at you from the darkness - a disappointment. I went and stood in a line in the cafe car while we were traveling,  to get our Oyster cards* so that we wouldn't have to stand in line once we got to St. Pancras station.

My directions for getting to our next hotel were, of course, in my missing luggage, but it turned out to be relatively easy. We actually saw our first bit of "aboveground London" when we left a metro station and walked past a Roman wall to a Docklands light rail station. The DLR is relatively new, and is apparently completely automated. I only saw someone check to make sure everyone was a paying passenger once the whole week we were there.

Our first view of our hotel, The Brittania International, and its surroundings were not promising.  This is in part of what used to be the old London Docks, once a bustle of wooden sailing ships,  and surrounded by marshes. Although place names remained: "Canary Wharf", "Isle of Dogs", "Heron Quay", and "Marsh Wall", little remained of that. Everywhere were shiny new highrise office buildings, expensive condos, shopping malls, and restaurants. We got out at Canary Wharf and walked across a narrow pedestrian bridge and along a trash-littered quayside walk to the hotel. Inside the lobby was all posh. I was briefly elated when the concierge gave me my suitcase, but the elation vanished when we finally saw the room. This was supposed to be a 4-star hotel, but the room we got looked as if someone had been playing hockey in it - there were massive scratches on the chest of drawers, one drawer was stuck shut, a light bulb was missing, the doorjamb looked as if it had been forced up through the carpeting when someone didn't have time to cut a proper opening….etc….Also, in the bathroom we found what had to be The World's Smallest Hotel Soap. After a brief wash-up and clothes change we went out to explore more of the neighborhood. We stopped by a chain eatery for 'to go' sandwiches, and by Tescos to buy a bar of soap that you could see and hold onto.

Then, goodnight to our first day in London.

A small remnant of nature.

 *An Oyster card is a pay-as-you go card for public transportation in London - you put set amounts into the card and it deducts charges as you go - it can be used on buses, trains, metro, bicycle rentals, a few boats, and an aerial tram.

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