Thursday, December 29th, London

Not a whole lot of sleep; flying from Dublin to London; getting to the City Jet desk at the airport too early to check my bags?; slight moment of panic; London City airport; a very pleasant chat with the cabby on the way to my hotel; unpacking a bit; over to the tourist/souvenir shop up on the corner for a UK SIM card vacation package; unpacking the rest but not getting it organized; by Tube to Leicester Square; picking up my tickets and discovering I'd bought two for tonight; dinner at Prezzo; a wonderful concert at St Martin in the Fields; back to Gloucester Road by Tube; snack run to Tesco Express

Best Western the Cromwell



It's now about 11:15 PM and I just got back here to my room at the Best Western Cromwell about 20 minutes ago after the first of my concerts at St Martin in the Fields, one of my favorite churches and favorite places to hear music anywhere.

I didn't sleep well last night, and woke up about 5 AM this morning and knew I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. I watched a couple of streaming programs on my Kindle Fire until about 7 AM when I got up. I took a shower and finished packing.

Even though I didn't get a lot of sleep last night I actually felt a bit better than I had all day yesterday, with less dizziness.

After I checked out and caught a cab back out to the airport, I was almost there too early to check my baggage in for the flight from there to London. At first I wasn't at all impressed with City Jet or its representatives at the check in gate. They tried telling me that because they had already delayed two planes this morning they were running out of room to store passengers' bags and suggested I come back at 10 AM, an hour and a half later. When I asked what I was supposed to do with my bags while waiting they suggested I take them back down to Excess Baggage and pay them to hold my bags for me. Excess Baggage is the same place I took my extra bags to have them sent home to Florida before I flew from Dublin to Scotland for the next leg of my trip this summer. The City Jet reps were going to issue a boarding pass for me and so I asked them if I'd have to go through security each time if I went into the terminal to wait until 10, went back to Excess Baggage to pick my bags up, bring the bags back to their desks and then go back into the terminal? It was at this point that one of them called somewhere in back and was told that yes, they could check both bags for me. I had to pay 70 Euros for my second bag and this is where I gave myself a bit of a fright.

I've been keeping my passport, Florida driver's license, Visa ATM/debit card, and two credit cards in a travel neck wallet. When I looked in it this morning to pay the extra bag fee I had a moment of panic when I saw that my ATM/debit card wasn't there, just my two credit cards, one of which I used then. The panic lasted only until I remembered that yesterday I had been wearing one of my flannel shirts, which has two pockets instead of just one. I had put my ATM/debit card in the shirt's right front pocket when I went to use the ATM for cab fare and put it back in that same pocket instead of back in the neck wallet and forgot to do so again later when I took the shirt off. Thank God when I dumped out my laundry bag after I got here to my hotel, there it was.

City Jet started out by primarily going after the business commuter and only a few years ago decided that if they also went for leisure, pleasure and vacation travelers like myself they could fill planes at times like now when business travel drops off quite drastically for a couple of weeks every year. The terminal we flew out of at the Dublin airport was one of those that remind me more of a bus station than an airport. There were six gates at our end, and no shops or restaurants but a small stall selling pre-made sandwiches and pastries and bottled drinks. As usual I made sure I could find my gate and any nearby restrooms before I went back to the food stall where I bought a banana, two small fruit smoothies, and a pastry that looked pretty good but turned out to be too hard. After the plane that had been boarding when I got there left I was the only passenger in that part of the terminal for over an hour before other people started showing up. I watched a couple of things streaming over the airport's very good wifi while waiting for my flight to board.

Our gate was on the ground level so we had to go outside and walk over to the plane. My seat was on the aisle of row 14. I went in the front of the plane, which was smaller than I had thought so row 14 was down towards the back of the plane. I was able to put both my hat box and book bag in the overhead compartments but not in the one over my seat. My hat box was across the aisle a seat down and my book bag was several seats behind me. Not having to put anything under the seat in front of me was a good thing because for some reason the seats aren't supported at the ends and under the armrests but at the ends and some odd place in the middle so I had my right foot on one side of a support and my left on the left side of the support.

The flight was pretty full but no one was sitting in the middle seat of my row which was quite a bit more comfortable. It was a pretty smooth flight, taking about 2 hours. I actually felt like reading for most of the flight. As we were making our descent I looked through the window and saw some very lovely, pleasant countryside on the way in.

We flew into London City airport which is only five miles outside of town and also felt more like a smaller, commuter airport. This, however, meant that our bags were unloaded almost directly from the plane onto the outside baggage belt that then went directly into the small terminal where we were waiting. This was pretty much the least time I've ever had to wait for my bags.

I had a very pleasant chat with my cabby on the way in to my hotel. He asked me why I came to London in the Winter, and I told him that I don't travel to places for the weather there. For instance, dermatologists have told me I have an above average tendency for moles and freckles and so should stay out of the sun as much as possible to prevent possible skin cancer, so I don't do beaches. I told him I travel to places for their history and culture. It turned out he's also a history and culture buff, and he told me that his wife is someone without the same love for history he has. For her, history is time–400 years ago is a number. He told me that the first time he went to meet her family at their farm and she was giving him directions by phone as he was driving she neglected to tell him that their farm was the one with an old castle on it.

I got here to my hotel about 3:30 PM and basically only unpacked some of my electronics. One of the first things I do is find and plug in my alarm clocks I can see in the dark, since the places I've been staying don't always have clocks provided.

I thought I remembered that the tourist/souvenir shop up on the corner also sells cell phones and SIM packages so instead of heading all the way over to the nearest O2 phone store (I had an O2 SIM package put in my new Samsung smart phone when I was here in July) I went to the store on the corner where they do have a range of SIM packages geared for visitors from several different companies. I went with a package from a different provider that should be more than enough coverage while I'm here.

After I came back here to my room, I sent my family and some friends an email followed by a text message from my Samsung with the UK SIM so they had that number also just in case. I then unpacked pretty much everything else, although I didn't actually get everything put away before I left again to catch the Tube over to Leicester Square, the station closest to St Martin in the Fields.

The Tube was quite busy most of the way from Gloucester Road to Leicester Square but I was able to sit down. Once I got to St Martin in the Fields I went to the ticket office downstairs to pick up the tickets I'd already ordered. I noticed that somehow I'd bought two tickets for tonight, one on an aisle not far from the front and one up in the balcony. I was able to exchange the balcony ticket for a credit voucher I can use if there's another concert that's interesting before I leave.

I've sometimes not had the best dinners when I've eaten in St Martin in the Fields' Café in the Crypt so I decided I'd eat somewhere else tonight. At first I thought I'd try the Chandos pub on the corner but the place was so busy I didn't find a table for one anywhere, upstairs or downstairs. A table for four opened up but I let another couple have it because I really didn't feel like sharing a table and having to be sociable. Instead I went to Prezzo, the Italian restaurant where I'd eaten when I was here last year and during my trip this summer. I was able to get a small table for two to myself after a very short wait and had a very good dinner and dessert.

Tonight's concert was the entire Brandenburg concertos performed by an ensemble I'd never heard of before, the London Octave. When I read the 1.50 GBP program I'd bought I was interested when I saw they were going to play the second concerto at the very end of the sequence instead of in its usual place. I read the description of that concerto again and it made sense–the second is the only one with a trumpet so they decided to save that for the end. The concert was very well done and very enjoyable.

The concert apparently finished at much the same time that several of the plays and musicals in the area did as well, so things were crowded back at Leicester Square and on the Tube again. Because as usual I had one of my walking sticks with me someone eventually gave me the designated handicapped/mobility impaired seat they had been sitting in.

After I got back up to street level and outside of the Gloucester Road station, I went across the street to the Tesco Express which was still open before coming back here to my room. I wanted a bit of a snack since I'd had dinner fairly early, some milk to put in some decaf coffee I was thinking of having, and small bottles of rum and whiskey or brandy for later. I got the milk, and some yogurt for my snack. Although they have a good if small liquor selection they only had one small bottle of whiskey. I'm pretty sure the Waitrose across the street carries some rum in small bottles. If not I'll just go down the street to the Sainsbury's.

It's now 12:45 AM. I'm pretty tired because I didn't take a nap this afternoon even though I'd slept very poorly last night. It will take me about fifteen minutes to finish tidying every thing else away and then it's time for bed. I need to wake up early enough to drop off a small load of laundry downstairs since I was wearing the good slacks I want to wear on New Year's when I had the larger load done back in Dublin yesterday.

I have two programs at St Martin in the Fields tomorrow night, Handel's Messiah at 6:30 PM and a Ceremony of Carols by candlelight at 9:30. I'm not sure what I'll do before my first concert, maybe go to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, both of which are on the same corner as S M in the F. Maybe I'll take a nap in the morning after dropping my laundry off downstairs.

Return to journal