belated 50th Anniversary Cruise vacation
Saturday at Southampton, still nice weather forecast, we have an early breakfast and are off the ship by 7:30, find our two large suitcases in the terminal facility (by the farthest wall from where we entered, and catch our transportation (bus) to Gatwick airport - about an hour away since we didn't encounter any traffic delays. Our itinerary was to fly from Gatwick to Edinburgh, have a ten hour layover, fly to New York Kennedy, have a six hour layover, then fly home to Las Vegas.
While checking in with British Airways, the clerk suggested that the inter-airline bag transfers at Edinburgh were "not the most reliable", so we booked the bags only to Edinburgh where we would have to retrieve them and manually transfer them to our check-in at American Airlines. So here we are at 10:00 AM at Gatwick, big bags checked in, booked on a British Airways flight leaving at 9:55 PM. We checked with the in-terminal hotel about booking a room, but their "day" rates ran from 4:00 PM (we'd need a two "day" stay - not cheap!). We were asking a security person about where we could "camp" for eleven hours and she suggested that instead we should take the train into London and do some sightseeing. Bonnie figured out how to use the ticketing machine and booked us two round trip tickets to Victoria Station. I asked an attendant where to find the right train and he said that "down there" is an express leaving soon. Just as we got down the stairs to the platform, the doors closed. But someone must have jammed a door in another car because the doors opened momentarily and we scooted aboard.
It took just over half an hour to get to Victoria Station. The weather was gorgeous, so we started walking (yes, dragging the carry-on bag behind) - we had no idea what was in the area so we had no plan, just go where "that street looks interesting". One of those streets was Buckingham Palace Road - that sounded interesting - and as we walked the buildings got more and more interesting until we were standing directly in front of Buckingham Palace. WOW! We were a few minutes late to see the changing of the guard, but it was a perfect day to walk in the gardens. As we left the gardens (by a different gate than the one we entered), we didn't know quite how to get back to the station, but some orienteering got us to a recognizable area, and to the station (OK, we could have asked someone, but what's the fun in that?) On the reader boards at the station we saw that the express trains to Gatwick were cancelled because of "a security issue", but that the locals with stops at Gatwick were still running. Plenty of time. We were going to have a beer and some snacks or sandwich at a restaurant in Victoria Station, but after sitting there for many minutes and having the waiter walk by many time and ignore us (even when I specifically asked him for a menu) we left. So having wandered in the area earlier, we had seen pubs "sort of over there". Within a couple of blocks we found a likely candidate, had a really good fish and chips (again sharing just one large portion), and a couple of good IPA's - unusual for Bonnie to like an IPA, they're usually too sharp. When we got back to the station, the express to Gatwick was running again and there was one about to leave. As we walked onto the train, the door closed behind us. Being electric there was quick acceleration, and running on continuous welded rail, the ride was smooth. When we got to Gatwick we still had a couple of hours to kill, so we bought a couple of best seller novels, went through security and found a "Quiet Zone" where we could sit and read. We couldn't go directly to the gate because the gate number had not been assigned - it was not assigned until forty five minutes before departure time. No problem boarding. (I remembered this time to take my glasses off before doing the iris scan, even though you are supposed to be able to leave them on. Two failures to read at a previous checkpoint led to my caution.)
As I was trying to take a photo of the church, I accidentally got this great photo of a London bus.
The half size sample of ale was replaced by a full glass of IPA
Note the diameter of the old tree