Herewith an account of the adventures in England in 2019, written on the spot with scant reworking.
Why? Because. The plan this summer was for Daughter and I to go to Walbers, and then the whole family would take a cruise at the end of the summer, a Canadian jaunt. But that fell apart. Or rather the business model did. Long story. (And a sad one for your host, because I am temporarily out of the cruise business, and cannot convince anyone else in the family to ever do the Caribbean again.)
As with all travel bleats, we begin at the airport. Why? Because. I saw a new store that summed up this place quite nicely:
It's such an underwhelming attribute, but I'll take it.
We were early, because I am always early and drag everyone along so nothing can be missed, and of course the plane was delayed, but hey: instead of sitting home, we are sitting here. I don’t see what the problem might be with that, and there’s an advantage: it’s like airport time is spent in a decompression chamber. Or decontamination. You get the mood and spirit of the airport, which removes all the daily cares and concerns. You are in the Travelonia, a separate nation spread over a thousand archipelagos.
Now to board and go high up in the sky and over the ocean.
6:05 Bad news for the passengers:
After I took this picture Daughter touched her screen, and every monitor on the plane leaped to life. She has the magic touch.
8:18 Dark and heading east. Over Quebec. Outside temp is -53. Dinner is nigh. Chicken or Chicken, if I understand the menu. We are having wine, which I hope will make me sleep.
This is the point where everything's fun and the weary fun hell of jet-lag day is a vague idea you can wave away with ease. Oh sure, we'll be tired, but it'll be fine.
GOD IT IS NOT FINE I AM SO TIRED
Kidding. We're HERE, again. Seven Dials!
It’s the next day. Got in around nine, and discovered that the charming, if laborious, process of being personally interviewed by a border agent has been replaced by a machine that reads your passport, scans your face, and lets you in.
No inquiry as to your purpose here, no banter if the officer is so inclined. Then again, no stone-faced official who feels obliged to keep up a stern manner to let you know he’s on to you but can’t prove anything yet. But the last time we had a nice fellow who talked about birding in Suffolk. It seemed very British. A machine that flashes a light and swings open some doors is not the same.
Next step: the hike to the Heathrow Shuttle through a charmless labyrinth, a space that cries out for some commercial opportunity along the line. It’s just one mysterious tunnel after the other, one hallway to another branching hallway to an escalator down a few yards to get to another escalator that goes down half a mile, and so on. Heathrow is a cold fish, full of unexpectedly small places, choke-points, needlessly large rooms, and other signs of a place that's grown over the course of several decades.
To my amusement I did not have the train tickets I'd printed off. I had one, but when I’d cut them up I’d missed the other QR code. Good thing the Heathrow Express email had an “add to Apple Wallet” link! Except that hadn’t worked at all, so I’d screen-shotted the codes and put them in a special photo folder on my phone.
The trials and triumphs of the modern world. Nothing's perfect. But you can work around the imperfection with another miracle. It is a miracle to get your tickets sent through the ether to your Device. It is an obstacle that they will not scurry off, at your request, to the proper incorporeal niche. It is a miracle that you can take a picture of what you are seeing on your screen, and relegate it to another incorporeal niche.
From the Heathrow Express (hot and close; sign said "we beg forgiveness; air conditioning is not working") to Paddington. And here we smiled, because here was the first feeling of being, well, here. Everything was busy and old and new and full of life and English typefaces.
We came up this street, and headed to the Tube. Good ride; someone had cracked a window, and the rushing gusts moved the BO and cologne around a little. Came up here:
Tottenham Road Station. I’d been here last year, when the blocks around were being prepped for construction. Now huge projects are rising on the spot, and I’m reasonable sure you will be able to pop into Costa or Pret when they’re done, since the nearest Costas or Prets are two whole blocks away and hence might as well be on the other side of town.
This view is from April 2019:
Thanks to the miracle of the phone, we had a map that told us when we were going the wrong way. Recalculating! Eventually we staggered up to our hotel.
We are dead tired but it’s also 10:30 and of course the room’s not ready. No reason to expect it would be. You hope, but you know better.
Best start walking, then. London is ours.