August 29, 2006

London: Arrival and First Impressions (8.11.2006)

[Prologue] Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Surely everyone reading this remembers what occurred in the early hours of the morning. Not being one to read up on the news online hindered my ability to be aware of the situation. That, and the fact that the radio and television I have access to is mostly presented in the Spanish language, which on its own is not so terrible (love those rrr's), but when coupled with my inability to fully comprehend español when spoken, well, let's just say that it makes for a good bit of "No entiendo." (I do not understand) on my part.

Luckily for me, Señor CC was kind enough to send me an email detailing the new travel restrictions and the fact that most flights were cancelled and would be for the next few days.

My reaction went something like this: ACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Perhaps it was: NOOOOooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!! (falling into deep chasm)

Really, at this point it is all just a blur and all I can tell you with any certainty is that whatever it was, it had many exclamation points after it:


There we go. NOW you understand.

We decided not to cancel or change our flights as suggested by our friendly airline email, but to wait it out - a choice that in the end worked out wonderfully, if it did cause a bit of a flight-status obsession on my part.

Friday, August 11, 2006

This was our first experience flying out of Jerez International Airport - a very small, but excellent airport. This place is easy to get to; its size makes for a non-hectic airport experience, and the drive up is beautiful. As a bonus, you pass not one, but two (count 'em!) bullboards on your way. What is a bullboard, you ask? Why, an enormous bull-shaped billboard (the only kind you'll find here in España). Oh yes, they are large and black and quite impressive. For a little more info, go here and read the bullboard information at the bottom of the page. If you want the full-blown story from the creators of the brave little bulls, go to Osborne's homepage, click on tEnglishish language tab, and read your fill.

Another first this trip was our flight on Ryan Air, one of the airlines where everyone just gets into the queue and you choose your own seat as you board. I have never been on a more chaotic flight - wait! I lie. You will read about a more chaotic flight when I post about our return trip. The people traveling, not the airline or its employees, make things crazy. We were traveling during peak holiday time. Ours was a very loud flight, no one listened to any of the announcements or even attempted to appear as if they were paying attention to the safety instructions, but all-in-all we got where we were headed and it was fine. Yes I would fly with them again.

One nice aspect of our flight was that we were able to purchase our Stansted Express tickets on the plane and save a bit on the cost of a return trip ticket. The Stansted Express is the train that travels from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street Station in London. The trip is about forty minutes, and only stops twice on the way, hence the term express. We arrived at Stansted at about 22:40, passed through passport control (I cannot explain how happy we were that we are not UK citizens; their line was easily a few hours long - yes, hours), gathered our bag, changed our money, and boarded the train. *whooooo-whooooo*

Liverpool Street Station is huge. It is a junction for trains and buses as well as the tube, and this makes for a very large place. We got there at 0:30 or so and opted to take a cab to our hotel. Our driver was pleased to tell us about all of the sights we were passing as we rode along, and everything was lit up along the way. We caught our first glimpse of St. Paul's Cathedral, Whitehall, St. James's Park, Hyde Park, and a few other places of interest. It was almost surreal to be driving around in a car looking at all of these streets and buildings that previously we had only seen in movies and pictures. I don't know how to describe it except to say that it all looked very 'London' and you felt like you could be in a Sherlock Holmes story. Everywhere we looked we felt like stating the obvious: "Hey, that looks just like London!" as if we thought that maybe the books and movies had exaggerated the very London-ness of it all.

See, I warned you that I didn't know how to describe it.

Excited and exhausted we arrived at our accommodations, the Hyde Park Radnor Hotel (Bed and Breakfast). We were very happy with our stay here. Full English breakfast is included in the price of the room, they have a 24-hour check-in policy, and you can leave your bags with them after check-out if you are taking a late flight on your day of departure. The rooms and bathrooms are snug and you have to pass through a fire door every two steps (normal in London), but the place and its employees are great. As an added bonus, it is only a two minute walk to Paddington Station. We would definitely stay there again.

And now for the grand conclusion: we went to our room, unpacked our bag, and went to bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzz...

No comments: