looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

Gatwick to London

We touched down at Gatwick at 6:00am and I felt like crap. Not even dialing up "LONDON" on my WorldWatch (alas, no longer available) and seeing the local time, date, sunrise and sunset times blip into place could cheer me up. Still - we were in England! For the first time, in my case. It was very dark outside, I could see nothing interesting except the terminal lights.

We disembarked from the jet and trekked through the terminal towards immigration, baggage claim, customs, all without incident. The foreign exchange desk didn't take traveller's cheques, so we changed a little of our American cash into UK pounds and bought a couple of tickets on the Gatwick Express to Victoria train station with a credit card.

The Gatwick Express runs every 30 minutes and it was a bit of a trek to get to station at the Gatwick end of the line. We emerged from the escalator just 30 seconds too late to catch the 6:45am train so it was a chilly wait for the next one - fortunately no-one was smoking in the enclosure on the platform so we sat there for 15 minutes until the right train pulled up and after some dithering about whether this was the right train, we hopped on and found a seat.

Pretty soon it filled up with people and then pulled away from the station. I guess we were heading North towards London but I couldn't really tell. I rested my head against the window and watched the parallel lines of the rails of the adjacent track until I felt sick. When was the last time I was on a train? Flashbacks to high school times and scooting around the Hutt Valley. Actually the last time was probably the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad on our Ohio trip but in many ways that didn't feel like a regular commuter-type train.

I watched the station names go by, familiar from books. Suddenly Battersea Power Station loomed up and I felt the urge to take a picture. Radiate cold shafts of broken glass... Feeling the blank stares of other passengers in the carriage, I said out loud to no-one in particular, "Closest I've ever been to a Pink Floyd album cover..." Except that time I set myself on fire, I thought. No, better not say that out loud.

And then the train pulled up on platform 13 at Victoria station. It seemed enormous and we got lost immediately. Which level were we on? Where did we need to be? How do we get to our bed & breakfast? We found an escalator and came out at one exit where we could have just found a taxi, but I knew that we were only 5 minutes walking distance from the Airways Hotel, (according to their web site). All the websites we'd checked out said that taxis in London are expensive. I'd prepared for this part of the journey by printed out a PDF facilities map of the station, and also an aerial screen shot of the district from Keyhole Earthviewer, which has pretty good coverage of the center of London. So I knew that if we could find the Hudson's Place exit from the station, we'd be able to walk the couple of blocks required. We were pretty tired but I knew I could handle the bags if L could handle the walking.

We walked around and went back down into the mall area and took a good look at the layout map. Then we located some more escalators leading back down to the platform area and walked right around the interior of the station at platform level towards where I thought the right exit was.

Hudson's place was not on any of my maps but I knew where we had to be. So we trudged off in the right direction, looking for St George's Drive. The locals were very friendly and would notice that we were clutching maps and looking around, and would come up to us to see if we needed directions. After walking around Eccleston Square, suddenly there was St George's Drive and then we were walking up the steps and into the building.

 |