Parting day. Heavy sighs. One last walk to the Tuck Shop. Head up the Street if you wish; it's not far to the co-op.
As for today's plans, whoa:
Many moving parts. So: Darsham to Ipswich. No problem; done that many times before. But every time before it’s been this: get off, drag bag up the stairs, go over the tracks, bump the bag down to the platform. This time, I am assured, the train to London will be on the same side. NO IPSWITCH SWITCH.
As we stand at the platform we run into a friend of Astrid’s, because of course; she’s going to London and she is taking a bike. Because when she gets to London she bikes to her destinations. Well. I make a note to watch her, to make sure I get on the train.
After we are underway the friend and the conductor come back to my car, to ME, to explain that this time there is the Switch, because they’re coming in on 4. Well, that’s the first complication, then. Watch for Helen on her bike! We are late to the station because of some unknown contrusion, and then it’s up and over. I do not see Helen on her bike. In fact the train to London arrives a mere minute after I’m down the steps, and I wonder if she made it. Off to London.
Change at Stratford Station . . .
. . . to Farringdon via the Elizabeth Line.
Very new and clean and interesting.
A bit over-scaled, if you ask me.
Now another moving part: from Farringdon to the Thameslink to Luton. There are no signs that say Thameslink, but there are signs that say National Rail to Luton, so I figure that’s it.
Train station enthusiasts like it, I'm sure. I do.
This is an older part, and a bit careworn. The cars are spare and tired.
We move along at a good clip and an hour later, or less, I am deposited in beautiful Luton.
I will spend the night here before taking the next flight. (Long story, but I did not want to get to London, spend a lot on a room, not see Daughter, figure out how to get waaaaay up to the airport the next day. Rest assured everyone made fun of me for this.) According to the maps the hotel is a 12 minute walk away, so I start. It is apparent after a while that I absolutely cannot get there, because of highways and roundabouts.
Go ahead, you try it.
There is a staircase that looks as if it might connect, but it is about a half a mile high and I am not, cannot, do that. Grey skies, charmless part of town. So I hail an Uber and stand there in this place, too tired to be amused at where I am and what I am doing. I am standing alone with a big blue suitcase next to a Vauxhall dealership, and I am almost there.
But. It all was easy, really - aside from a late train because there were miscreants on the tracks, it was a nice example of a functioning rail system. So complex, though. So many tracks and tunnels and stops. It’s quite amazing and I wish we had it in Minneapolis instead of the meth-den of a light rail we currently have, but there’s not much point. We’re just not built that way.
Anyway, a short ride. My hotel.
After I got to my room I laid down for a bit, snoozed, woke, put on the kettle and had some powdered coffee, then went down to the gym. I am now becoming a connoisseur of hotel gyms. The one in the Kensington was ridiculously small, but it had the basics: you can run on this or you can pick up these heavy things and then put them down again. Or both! But not at the same time please.
As I may have mentioned, I ruined the spiritual stretching time for the lady who was there. The Luton Airport facility is much bigger and nicer, and has what I believe is the same spirit that characterizes them all: underuse. There was a big beefy guy conspicuously grunting over some 65lb weights. Big arms and big gut, which always makes you think “possibly criminal.” Then it was all mine, and I had a half an hour looking at the stupid travelogues on the treadmill. It’s like I’m really walking in Iceland!!! Then weights, which are kilograms - it's either not enough or too much. Then dinner here in the Bonvoi dining room.
It’s a nice place. Evening of column writing ahead.
It's clammy and cool, intermittently drizzly.
It'll do. That's the budget joint next door. I don't think it has a bar or a restaurant. My hotel seems to be favored by airplane crews, perhaps because it has a bar and a restaurant.
Well, I am done with England after this. I checked in to the flight, with the usual trepedation - always convinced I've entered the passport info wrong, so I have to check it three times. Always convinced I need to build more time into the trip to the airport, but it's just up the street. I still set the alarm, and I wake too early with the interchangeable traveller's view.
I consider what the day will require, and where it will end, and get up. I had three reasons for this trip. One down and two to go.