Friday, March 27, 2015

March 26, 2015 - We've Arrived: Planes & Trains & Subways

We've arrived safely in Winchester in Southern England after a long day's (night's) journey.  
  • Madison-Chicago-London via American Airlines went as smoothly as possible considering how uncomfortable it is to sit in a narrow little seat for 6 1/2 hours. We arrived 8:30 am London time (that's 3:30 am our time) not having slept much and after going through passport control and customs (easy-peasy) we headed off to find the Tube (London's subway) for our next leg of the journey. 
  • Ooops. Need to change money first in order to be able to buy tickets. No problem - ATM worked just fine with our debit card. And now we have British pounds. 

  •  On to the Picadilly Tube line - about a mile away from where we left customs. At least it felt that far as we followed maze-like underground hallways that were thankfully well-marked. 

  • Tickets in hand, we catch the next train. I'm noticing that the Tube is much more handicapped friendly these days - we were able to use elevators rather than escalators - important since some of the escalators go up multiple stories to get to street level. 

  • Of course we have to change lines to get to our final destination of the Waterloo train station involving more long maze-like hallways and more escalators. 

  • My luggage solution worked great - the new suitcase rolls great and was easy to handle, even with the backpack strung on top. Dave's arms got tired from pulling 2 suitcases behind him - the kind that only have 2 wheels. 
  • Once at Waterloo, we had to retrieve our tickets that we'd purchased online a few weeks ago. Also turned out to be easy-peasy. Using a self-serve ticket kiosk, Dave put in the credit card used to purchase the tickets and a transaction number and the machine spit out our tickets exactly as requested. 
  • Next challenge - get out our cell phones and 1) let our friends know we would be on time at the Winchester train station and 2) make sure Lynn's phone worked. (My phone was purchased the last time we were in France and has a sim card that only uses European frequencies.) Ta-da! Success on both counts. Although we must have looked rather comical while we fiddled, because not one, but two helpful Brits offered to help us old geezers figure out our phone's settings. 
  • Next step, the train to Winchester. Waterloo has trains leaving every minute or so and has more than 20 tracks. I was really nervous because they display the departing trains on a big board, but trains are not assigned a track until the last minute. 
  • Our train departed at 12:05 (Doors close 30 seconds before departure the sign warned.) and the track for the train was posted just after 11:57. 

  • And you have to enter the track area by putting your ticket into one of the gates at the track and then get your luggage through the narrow door.  Luckily we found a gate that allowed for wide baggage.
  • Biggest obstacle on the train is to stay awake so we get off  at the right stop. We pass through miles of London suburbs with red brick buildings - apartments and attached homes mostly splaying out from both sides of the train tracks. The train is comfortable, fast and quiet. After half an hour we are starting to see fields and stands of trees - the grass here is green already and the trees are budding. The temperature in London was in the 50's but damp and grey. As we moved farther south, the sun appeared and it felt warmer.

  • By 1 pm we were in Winchester. Ron met us at the station and we were soon at their house in South Wonston. 
  • We've arrived!

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