Lundun Town — The Final Stop

Well I’ve made it to the culmination of the tour de force.

Out my hotel window is the River Thames… in my pocket is the Oyster Card… at will-call are my tickets to Aston Villa v. WBA and QPR v. Chelsea… plans also on the horizon for maybe some Bears/Bucs action after the QPR/Chelsea game (Loftus Road is 3 miles from Wembley Stadium).

But before I go on my excursion today, tomorrow and Monday, I simply have to report my findings getting to here.

Because, well, they sucked.

So, first of all, let’s talk about American ingenuity and how to triumph over evil. Since it was looking gloomy in Stockholm, I left for the Airport early, so as to be there 4 hours prior to the flight. I checked in at 2:50 (flight is at 6:40). Then I start maneuvering my way to the Gate. Which, because apparently they knew I was coming, so it was Gate F69 and, naturally, the furthest gate away from the terminal. The gate to nowhere. The gate that took an hour to get to because of the security checks and one customs agent.

this is a proper airport...

So I make it to the gate at like 4 pm. I sit down. Within 5 minutes, there’s an announcement in Swedish, then I look up and boom — flight is delayed. Not going out until 7:10 pm. No big deal, 30 minute delay, I’ll just surf the internet. Nope. Not at 100 SEK for 20 minutes. Okay, I’ll just play FreeCell or Spider Solitaire… for 3 minutes before the power light starts blinking. Okay, I’ll just look for an outlet… for 40 minutes.

Arlanda (Stockholm) airport – not exactly people-friendly. And by that I mean that it costs money for the wifi (not surprising) but it also doesn’t have any places to eat inside the terminal gates (very surprising)… and there aren’t any charging stations or outlets in the terminal. So my poor little entertainment sources are not getting juiced.

Now I could have gone back to the main area and then have to do the customs thing all over again – but fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck that… or I could have just done what I did: camped out in the Men’s bathroom and horded the only outlet in apparently 5 counties.

I was in there for 20 minutes charging my computer and my iPod. Airport security checked in on me twice because it was shown that I walked in but still haven’t emerged — whereas others did. They asked me why, while my computer was open and charging. I say, “Well you are the first airport I’ve been to that did not have any usable outlets for passengers to use while in the terminal.” They look confused.

Apparently they aren’t travelers.

Anyway – side note, six guys walked in and out – and four of the six definitely shit — yet none washed their hands. That right there is disgusting. And you wonder why places have salmonella outbreaks. And why Contagion is completely plausible. I’m not like these people, I washed my hands before I left. Which was about 15 minutes later after two more security people checked in on me.

It’s been raining a lot in Stockholm — and its been cold rain (which sucks). So, of course, when I emerged from the bathroom, the sun was shining and the clouds had dispersed. Been here the whole week and I’ve seen sun for about 13 minutes tops. On the day that I go to leave, it is beautiful; probably still chilly, but beautiful.

Oh well, I guess it is just a dick tease to try to throw me off my game… but oh no Sweden, you will not succeed – for I was going to the UK… the land of overcast and dreary days… with attitudes to match!

And when I did leave, the number was up to 13 people, eight shitters, and only one hand-washer. Gnarly.

Since there was nothing to do and nowhere to be entertained, I did what any American would do. I bought chips and crap food from the newspaper stand/magazine store and binge ate from boredom.

So that was last night. Right now, I’m in the Hilton Docklands on the South part of the River Thames. In and around Canary Wharf. As I was a diligent little traveler, I learned that I needed to do a certain route to get to the hotel so as to save money. You see, the last time I was in London was November of last year with my Mom and my sister. Well, as would be the case, we were staying at the H10 Waterloo hotel (a fabulous fucking hotel by the way). However, when buying tickets, my sister decided to make a run for the Heathrow Express train — which takes one directly to Paddington Station.

Fine — sounds like a smart play, until you start to pull back the layers. I have no idea whether or not my sister bought first class tickets or express tickets. So to save face, I’ll say she bought express tickets at 32 pounds for a RT (51 bucks). If it was first class you are looking at 50 pounds (80 bucks). Doing so puts you in Paddington, as mentioned. Then you have to jump on another line to get to Waterloo Station.

Turns out, had we not allowed the NYC-star dictate the route, we would have sat down, figured it out and been way more sensible.

Last night, I was sensible. I bought an Oyster Card at 30 pounds (5 being the activation fee, and 25 being the amount put on the card). Anybody that lives in a city would recognize this option. Then, instead of going on the Heathrow Express, I went on the local commuter train — the Piccadilly Line. Just like the Heathrow Express, I had to change and hit on another line… but no big deal. Granted, it didn’t put me in “Paddington in 15 minutes” (its actually 19 minutes, but who’s counting?), but it put me on the more direct, yet slower route.

I changed at Green Park for the Jubilee Line and then took the Hotel’s suggestion to get off at Canary Wharf. It ended up being 2 pounds 70 pence (so less than 5 bucks). As I emerged I started walking in the general direction to a cross street and asked a cab how to get to the Hilton Docklands. Black cabs are supposed to be the most knowledgeable cabbies in the world. “Um, your best bet is go back on the Jubilee Line to Canada Water and then take the bus.”

But there is a ferry.

“Ferry’s been closed for over an hour.”

On a Friday night? Hmm. Okay, well I guess that does make sense since it is a hotel ferry.

Okay, fanks.

So I hoof it back to the station, down the escalator, onto the Jubilee line, back up the escalator at Canada Water, and wait. Another small chunk of a ride — no big deal. Then I ask a nice British girl where I go for the Docklands Hotel. If I just read a sign I would’ve known, but she pointed it out — “Take the C10 and you’ll have a stop off right there.”

Can I walk?

“Yeah, but it’s gonna take about 25 minutes so you’d be better waiting for a bus.”

Okay, fanks.

Should’ve fucking walked. The C10 comes “every 20 minutes, at 00, 20, 40 of the hour.” Except on the day that I need it. After waiting 55 minutes, the C10 finally shows up. Then proceeds to reroute its course and change drivers. It took 30 more minutes to drive about 2 miles from the bus station.

So I get out of the bus and walk up to reception at 12:03 am. My plane landed at 9 pm. After the customs delays and waiting for my bag, I was at the Piccadilly Station at about 9:43 pm. I was on the train within 10 minutes. So from 9:53-12:03… god knows where the fuck I was.

Only, to piss me off further, I look at a panoramic view of the River Thames, and see the building that I was looking at just over an hour ago, and a ferry traversing the water getting ready to dock.

All knowledgeable, my ass.

Still, all in all, it barely cost me anything. And since I’m in Zones 1 and 2 (which are cheaper fares in and around the city because I’m already in the main part, I’ll probably be able to use up just my Oyster Card before leaving, without ever having to top it off).

So it is 11 am right now, and I’m going to start heading over to the main parts soon. Football, pubs, live music, women, English humour and proper sausages. I’m so ready.

Soundtrack of the Moment: Long Way Around (Dixie Chicks)

In the meantime…

What kind of stench will come out of my arse later when I, myself, drop bombs like Hiroshima? I’m pretty much like clockwork with the pooping schedule. So I know that I’m going to be popping one off sometime after the Villa game.

Here is what that will be packed with:

1. Sour Cream and Onion Chips
2. Turkish Kebabs
3. A Chinese Buffet
4. An Indian Buffet
5. Swedish Meatballs
6. Chinese Dumplings
7. Carlsberg Beer
8. Bananas Foster
9. Baklava
10. Airplane meal
11. KFC (that I trekked out to last night near the hotel)
12. Breakfast Buffet (consisting of orange juice, pears, pineapple, melon, grapefruit, bacon, proper bangers, HP sauce, scrambled eggs and Activia)

Note the Activia. It helps me poop. So it only begs one question : Will it smell more like the Great Depression or Slumdog Millionaire?

Please feel free to vote.

Results will be verified later on today or tomorrow. Cheers.

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