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London

New British T-Mobile number posted under a friend-locked post, for any LJ-less friends following along.

So, I'm in London.



In which a yokel takes photos of first-class
Ticket cost about $1000. I looked at business or first-class at the time, and $4300 sticks in my mind. When I got to the airport, US Airways offered an upgrade to first for $600. After a bit of wavering I decided to splurge. Not frugal at all -- the $1000 is buying me weeks or months in Europe, the $600 bought a few hours of comfort, but hey. For a 6 hour flight, maybe not worth it. For 12 or 15 it might be... of course, that'd probably cost more.

Definitely way more physically comfortable. 4 seats in a row, vs. 8 or more. And they recline to bed level. And have entertainment centers and plugs and a USB port of mysterious function (I tried it, didn't do anything besides charge my phone.) Free wine and mimosas and blindfolds and crappy earplugs. I've taken first class once before, a $90 upgrade from Dallas to Chicago on the way back from Chile. That had perks, like the pre-flight drinks and space, but was too short for full pampering.

I really should have tried to sleep as much as possible during the period, but I had to try the food, right? If you're wondering whether first gets better food... well, sort of. They certainly make more of an effort, but I think it's largely the wrong kind of effort. Lots of fancy, less in the way of good ingredients.

Dinner: salmon appetizer, which wasn't bad, but I may no be a great judge. Caprese salad, which came with balsamic dressing and I thought no salt or pepper, but it turned out I'd overlooked the teeniest (and most useless) shakers. The real problem there was that the mozzarella was these big solid slabs. I guess real fresh mozz would be hard for a plane but perhaps then you shouldn't try for it.

Oh, first there were nuts. Those were fine.

My choice for entree was "stuffed chicken breast". How do you stuff a brest? Gouge out part of it and stuff something else in. Smaller than I expected but that's fine given the sheer quantity of food here. The bowl of nuts alone was probably at least 400 calories. And then there was dessert -- I chose mousse. I'm sucker for good mousse, but, well, I had better one the night before at a med student party.

Metal utensils. For the record, Chile's airline provided metal utensils, free wine with dinner (though not an open supply), and per-seat entertainment in *economy*.

I skipped breakfast, that being only 3 hours after the giant dinner. I did go for OJ (decent) and coffee (which came with giant flask of milk or cream. I spread it among two cups.)

Legroom
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4876160828/

Le menu (original resolution available for reading)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4875638853/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4876252332/

And they all look just the same

Partway through the flight, right before dawn, I could see silhouetttes in the north. Should have been something on Greenland. Mountains? Glaciers? Don't know. Earlier I saw the Big Dipper REALLY BRIGHTLY, right out the window. Would have looked more but there was a fair bit of glare. Sky's pretty dark in the middle of the ocean, though. I took some photos of the approach to England; I'd like to have been able to take photos of the airport approach. Lots and lots of cookie cutter buildings, from houses to tall towers. I suspect council (public) housing all over. Interspersed with areas of older buildings, and green areas.

England
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4875554595/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4875553661/

Entering the country

20 minute wait in line to get to customs. I got asked a lot of question -- probably look suspicious, without a set return date or return ticket, but he waived me through before I got to "I think I want to travel Europe but have no idea how long I'll put up with being alone or unable to speak the local language so I'm playing it by ear for that reason as well as being feckless". Changed currency, at first I think unfavorably ($1.77 to buy a pound, $1.45 if you sell one) then a bit better ($1.68 at an ATM.) Found a vending machine and bought a T-Mobile SIM card, which didn't do anything by itself. Spent 3 pounds via credit card to access an Internet machine for 30 minutes, and tried to register so I could buy time; lost time to figuring out a valid postcode, and then it wouldn't take my card. Did the fraud computers pass a 3 pound purchase but not a 15 pound one? Managed to buy time from a store, and didn't have to spend any of it on belatedly informing my credit card company of my travel plans; they have a collect number. Discovered I could buy unlimited web for 5 days for 2.50 pounds, did so, started restoring my application list on the phone, which ended up taking an hour or so. Texted Wren from Caltech, who's around. Finished that, decided to explore the arrival lounge that my first classness entitled me to. Shower! More food I didn't want! Also, some photocopies I needed to make.

Trains! It was getting late, so I splurged for the Heathrow Express, 15 minutes to Paddington station at 100 mph or something. Of course, I needed two more trains to get to Bethnal Green, so it was predicted to take 50 minutes vs. the 70 of pure tubes. Then I tried loading saved maps on my phone, which failed or just took forever, decided to play it by ear following 'north' by the sun, eventually checked GPS and online maps from my phone, and realized I was *going* west. Backtracked, found the right direction and eventually building, had some confusion as to how to get in, finally got in. It's a loft room I found on http://www.airbnb.com I guess someone else has the other loft. A bit of food is provided for me. There's a deep bathtub and flexible shower attachment and no shower curtain. There's a T-Mobile branded USB mobile that is supposed to be my Internet but it didn't do anything when plugged in. Fortunately, USB tethering through the phone turns out to work, which is what I'm using right now.

train
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4876168264/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4875559451/
loft
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4876167760/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstalk/4876168732/


I'm somewhat bothered by the lack of railing. I forsee one of my flashlights turning out to be useful.

'travel2010' is the tag for this adventure.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
dsgood
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
On going in the wrong direction: I carry a compass with me. In my own city, in case I get confused.

The first city I lived in was NYC; in Manhattan, uptown is north and downtown is south. Then I lived in the Los Angeles area -- where, if I recall correctly, downtown is east and uptown west.

And then I moved to Minneapolis, where Uptown is north of Downtown. (Oh -- and "uptown" and "downtown" aren't directions here, at least for some natives.)
mindstalk
Aug. 9th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
I actually have a compass on my backpack, I just never remember. Not sure how reliable it is either.

What I used to always get right away was a map. I even got a Paris one for this trip, when I thought I'd be going there first. But GPS-phone is nice.

Edited at 2010-08-09 07:08 pm (UTC)
februaryfour
Aug. 10th, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
I think I recognize that bag from eBags, but I can't be sure. XD

That looks like pretty awesome leg room, though. You Americans need it. I on the other hand am small enough that the picture looks more-or-less like economy with me in it. ^_^
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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