day 1: heading to London

Mike on Rails.

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

I arrived at Boston Logan airport about three hours before my flight to Manchester, UK. The check in line was immense and I stood more than 90 minutes before I was able to check in.

American airlines was clearly understaffed — periodically, someone would wade through the crowd looking for people on particular flight so they could be brought to the head of the line to check in for theirsoon-to-be-late flight. And that just made the rest of us later.

I waited in line with a family of 5 originally from Manchester who’d been living in the US for several years. When I asked about the kids’ accents, the mother laughed and said the grandparents in the UK found their American expressions “cute”. They kindly provide some suggestions for restaurants they’d like when they lived there, but I checked on my iPhone only to find that their suggestions no longer existed.

The flight was fairly boring. I did manage to get an exit row, and sat next to a lovely peripatetic British couple who were had most recently lived in Oregon, but had spent years in Germany as well. We all chuckled over regional accents, and reminisced about our various travel adventures. And I provided a well-received demo of my iPhone.

At passport control in Manchester, the line for americans was 1/10 the size of the line for everyone else, and moved at 1/5th the speed. The questions were sort of amusing — who was I staying with, how did I know them (“erm, flickr.” “oh, right!”), etc. I quickly found my bag and was off to The Station (as it was called on all the signs) to catch a train to Piccadilly station in town. I paid the ¬£3.40 fare with a ¬£20 bill; ticket machine gave me ¬£16.60 change with heavy, single-pound coins, rather than bills. I then clanked my way to the train.

After a short ride, I dropped my bag at the Left Luggage site – ¬£6 for up to 24 hours, after it was x-rayed by a fellow who was on the phone before, during and after x-ray – and then wandered off to Starbucks to wait for a friend. Conveniently, they were offering free wifi that day, so I caught up on news, mail and flickr (not necessarily in that order), while nursing a nice latte to help recover from jetlag and lack of sleep. I could have been in the US for all I knew but the, ah, wide variety of interesting hair styles kept reminding me I wasn’t.

We’d planned to head to the Arndale to the Carphone Warehouse to get a cheap SIM for my recently unlocked iPhone, but we managed not to meet: I did notice some milk-froth on my nose, so I might have fallen asleep into my latte, and not been recognized ;). I decided I didn’t want to wander off to the Arndale, so I just walked across the hallway to Vodaphone to get a SIM. The fellow kindly allowed me to test the iPhone with a SIM he had in his pocket, though I had to use a bent staple – rather than a paperclip – to get the AT & T SIM out.

The right text plan was a bit difficult to discern: my choices were £15 for 500, or £10 for 200, with 10p for additional ones. I figured I might send more then 200 Рwhich made the £15 the better choice (2 x £10 gives me fewer texts for more money, and £10 for 200 plus 50 x 10p give me far less for the same price). And a I added on a bit for voice as well.

Back to Left Luggage to retrieved my bag, I was then off to find the train to London Euston. The train ride was generally uneventful, though I did send a bunch of texts to friends to let them know I had a phone. Conveniently the international numbers (e.g. +44 7123…) which I had in my address book worked fine so I didn’t have to re-input local versions (07123…).

One passenger near me caused a bit of excitement by neglecting to have a valid ticket. The ticket fellow asked for payment and identification, neither of which the passenger provided. He threatened to call the transit police, but since we all left the train without mishap, I guess there was no followthrough on that. There was some debate by my seatmates about whether it was “fair,” but of the ticket guy, an older woman merely said “he’s just doing his job.” Indeed: is it so hard to travel with a non-expired ticket?

In a rather long taxi queue, I had a pleasant chat with the people near me about how they thought American was expensive. Sort of amusing. The cab driver didn’t know how to get to my destination offhand, but he pulled out his trusty book of streets, he found it, and off we went. ¬£20 later, I was deposited at the right address in Shepherd’s Bush.

I was greeted at the door by a smiling Danny who had taken the day off from work to wait for me. My memory is a bit bit fuzzy for the rest of the evening due to lack of sleep and jetlag, but some of the high points were: getting the wifi to work on the phone (with WEP) immediately – but spending more than an hour with macbook before Danny shut off security; being invited to Danny & Eva’s wedding in Slovenia at the end of November (“we need a photographer”); trying to figure out a plan for Saturday via conversation, IM and texting; and playing with a bit of camera equipment.

I took a short nap; Eva returned home from work, and the rest of the evening flew by as we (re)made plans for Saturday, and discussed how best to get me to Ljubljana in November. We pumped up the air mattress, which apparently started deflating moments later after I’d fallen deeply asleep: I awoke nearly flat on the floor.

Saturday has dawned (at least behind the clouds), but I’m sure the day will be sunny enough meeting some of my London friends – and a few Mancunians as well – who have wandered down.

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One Response to day 1: heading to London

  1. captainburan says:

    Thanks for your information. It is very useful.

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