London Calling

Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, February 13, 2009

A friend of mine, Jim, accepted a 3 month temporary position in England.  I told him I would be visiting and true to my promise I will be spending the weekend in London.  Jim will be taking the train in from Manchester and meeting me later this evening.  I, actually, flew out of DC on Thursday night.  Since I worked a 12 hour shift until 7am, I slept for most of the day and frantically tried to pack in time to catch a 6 pm flight out of Dulles.  Needless to say in my haste I forgot to take a printout of my itinerary.  I was not concerned because all the flight and hotel information was also entered in my Palm Pilot...Wrong!  When I got to customs at Heathrow, the immigration officer was grilling me on the fact I had no proof of a return flight or proof of temporary residency.  I was going to see if they would let me gain access to the internet so I can print out the needed information before she let me pass.  Unfortunately this is the new world reality post 9/11.

The hotel that we are staying is located near Heathrow Airport.  For 4 pounds, a bus will shuttle you to various hotels near Heathrow.  Later I found out that if I walked a short distance to the central bus station, I could have ridden their bus for free, since the hotel was located within a Heathrow free zone.  Considering I arrived at 8 am, I was pleasantly surprised that the Sheraton allowed me to check in and unload my stuff and shower in the room.  Perhaps the fact I upgraded to their Executive level room, made them more agreeable.  It was not a bad deal for an extra 40 pounds/day, I got to check-in early, free English breakfast (they charged 16 pounds otherwise) and free internet (they charged an outrageous 9 pounds/hour fee for WiFi).  In total Jim and I had breakfast both mornings plus I had breakfast Friday morning, so I believe I evened out on the deal especially considering I had what in essence is an extra day with the early check in.

After a refreshing shower, I headed into London for the afternoon.  Since Jim will not be arriving until 6pm, I decided to spend the day at the British Museum and the British Library because it is near the King's Cross Railway Station.  I caught the free bus to the central bus station, which is also located over one of the Underground stops on the Piccadilly Line.  Based on the recommendation of several travel books, I purchased a Three Day Travelcard for 21.2 pounds.  This card gives me unlimited access to the Underground and most bus lines within the city for the next 3 days.  The other alternative is to either purchase a one way fare (4 pounds), 1 day travelcard (7.5 pounds) or a 7 day Oyster card (23.2 pounds).

My other purchase at the central bus station was not as economical.  I needed a cell phone for the trip because my cell does not have GSM; therefore I could not purchase one of the cheap Simcards.  It cost me 50 pounds to rent a phone for a minimum of 7 days and another 10 pounds for the minutes.  It is funny that I dragged my feet in getting a cell phone, now I can not live a day without one.  Perhaps I should look into upgrading my phone because I plan on traveling a lot to other countries.  The lady at the kiosk tried to sell me an unlock phone under the table for 100 pounds.  I was a little leery of the deal and decline with a polite excuse that I needed to charge the purchase on a credit card so I can have a receipt for business.
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