Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Getting There: 12 Hours in London

The last couple of days have been fairly sedate as classes are getting more serious and I'm concentrating a little more on just settling into the city after a fabulous weekend day trip to Cinque Terre. My excursions have been limited to scoping out the various open-air markets around the city; a useful task, but not narly as exciting. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to catch up on some of the experiences I skipped over since this trip began.

First, started this trip with almost no sleep. The night before my flight, I had the chance to spend some time with friends I haven't seen in over a decade- in Boston. It ended up being a late night. My fellow student, Alycia, had offered to have me stay in her parent's guest bedroom and have her mother drive us down to the plane together, as we had an early flight. I got to her house after 2, and we left at about 5:30 AM.

Once on the plane in Logan, I was able to doze for a couple of hours. We landed at Heathrow Airport in London, before I felt like more than a couple of hours had passed. We sorted out the tube and made our way to King's Cross

and the hostel where we were to stay for a few hours before getting up early (again) and jetting off to Gatwick to catch our flight to Florence.

78 Clink is an interesting building; once a courthouse that Dickens worked in (that apparently inspired some of his works), the courtroom is now a cybercafe!

I had to take the opportunity to sit in the judge's chair to go online.

The accommodations were minimal, but at least there were beds, and the bar was still open. We "nipped off for a pint" before bed, then sacked out for 4 hours or so; up at 5 for a shower (inasmuch as we slept at all; our room slept 14), then back on the tube.

We took the tube to Victoria station, changed to the National rail to Gatwick, then took a completely unnecessary ride to the wrong terminal. This is what happens when airlines consistently use "Partners" and you don't read the fine print on your ticket. The British airways clerk didn't help by being extra snooty.

"I have a flight to Florence and your kiosk says I can't check in."
"Oh, we don't fly to Florence. You must need another airline." With a sneering smile, and no motion to take my ticket or continue the conversation.
"Well, you sold me a ticket to Florence!" Forcefully, and with no intent to leave her desk until she took the ticket from my outstreched hand and dealt with my problem.
Taking the ticket, "Oh, I see. You're flying Meridiana. South Terminal. You can take the shuttle over there."

So we run to the other terminal and get in line. Meridiana apparently enforces their (checked and carryon) baggage restrictions with a heavy hand; Alycia was charged an ungodly sum for her overage.

In security, my bag was pulled from the x-ray machine. After sorting out that my coat hanger were not, in fact, some large arcane metal object, we finally boarded the plane! We touched down in Florence a couple of hours later, were met by friendly and helpful staff from the Institute, and herded onto taxis to our apartments.

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