There is no greater blessing in a peripatetic existence than to have a convoluted travel day go off without a hitch…
Puppy and I went to bed early last night so I could be up early and finish preparing the house for my host since just washing the sheets would need 90 minutes and she was coming in “around 10:00” and wanted them to be drying by that point.
Well… I had no sooner fallen asleep that the neighbour slammed his door and woke me right up. My heard was pounding so hard it took almost three hours of tossing and turning to fall back asleep and then I slept fitfully because he was being loud. So I basically got no sleep and I was equal parts annoyed and disappointed by that!
Puppy knew I was leaving and stuck close all morning. She did something she’s never done before: drag something of mine into her crate to curl up around it! My heart almost shattered at that. When everything that needed doing was done and I plopped myself into an armchair to read for a bit, she was immediately in my lap.
10:00 passed and before I knew it, it was almost 11:30, with my train being at 1:30. I knew my host was driving straight from the airport and likely knackered, so I wasn’t too worried. Sure enough, she eventually turned up. I did the handover and while Puppy was obviously happy to see her mom, she wanted last minute cuddles with me too. Oh, she’s such a sweet soul and I will miss her. I feel truly blessed that I got to spend with her the time I did.
I finally left around 12:40. My host offered several times to drive me to the train station, but it’s not far nor a difficult walk and I wanted to spare her even such a small chore at the end of a journey around the world. I made it to the station at about one and collected my ticket, which didn’t look complete. So I went to an attendant and she confirmed that I had everything. I then asked her what would happen if I missed my connections and she rolled her eyes and said to take it up with the train operator as that had nothing to do with her. I need to add “customer service, or lack thereof” to my getting around the UK with public transportation post, for which I have a rough draft.
As I reached the platform, I realised that I was ravenous! I’d had breakfast around seven, so it was no wonder. There was a Starbucks on the platform and I decided to get food there even if their food is crap. Well, their food is crap in North America. My warm ham and cheese baguette with creamy Dijon (not Dijonnaise) was fantastic! I paired it with a hibiscus lemonade and was very pleased with my impromptu lunch that I ate on the train before we pulled out.
It was a quick ride to Wolverhampton, with the platform to Stafford being right by my arrival. So even though I only had a 10-minute layover, it was enough and there was even enough time to use the bathroom. The ride to Stafford was only about 10 minutes and, get this, I got upgraded to first class! I got leg room and a HUGE window for that. I wish the pauper seats had windows like that.
I only had eight minutes in Stafford and it’s a bigger station, but I also made my connection, phew! I was not happy with my seat for the hour-long ride since I couldn’t see out the window on my side. But on the other side, I could just see sky and I don’t know what was going on with the clouds today, but what a show! It was like watching deity dance and it was absolutely mesmerising.
About midway through our journey, I started regretting not getting a tea in Stafford. I’ve been drinking a lot of tea since I got to the UK! Well, there was a drinks cart! I knew I’d pay a train premium, but didn’t care. Well, the guy went right by me without offering me anything. I called out, “I’d like a tea please!” and the guy jumped as if I had materialised out of thin air. We got quite a chuckle out of it. Tea cost exactly what I expected, £2, but there is a twist to this story…
Best tea ever. I’m not kidding. I have to remember this brand! I’ve been drinking Tetley and PG Tips and find them both a bit flat, but this “Eros” was full bodied and very rich, more like drinking a coffee. It actually tasted like what I would have expected a £2 cuppa to taste like.
We pulled into London Euston right on time and I had an hour to get to London Bridge. A friend of mine who likes “Sherlock” asked me, if I had time, to go take for her some pictures of the building used as the façade of 221B Baker Street since it’s so close to London Euston and I had been before. So I walked the block from the station to do that for her and after much debate, decided that delicious as they are, I would regret having a cappuccino from Speedy’s Cafe at that hour, plus I didn’t want to juggle a hot cup and all my luggage.
Pictures taken, I returned to Euston station and followed the signs to the Underground entrance, where there was barely a lineup for purchasing tickets. I’d cancelled my Oyster card, so I bought a paper single, which cost me twice what the fare would have been with Oyster (almost £5), but I knew that so it wasn’t a shock. I also knew I had to take the Northern line southbound, which has a split in it. So I followed the signs for the Northern line until I got to signage that told me which of the two lines I needed to take for London Bridge and arrived at the platform just as the train was taking off. We were getting close to rush hour, so I suspected I wouldn’t have long to wait for the next one and I was right. I could still hear the first when the second one pulled in. I had about five stops to make and had to stand the whole way, positioning myself on the doors opposite the side I’d boarded. As it turned out, I had to get off on that side. Couldn’t have planned it any better!
London Bridge was shut down due to suspicious activity yesterday, but all appeared normal today. I followed the signs for the rail station. I love how easy it is to get around London! I finally got to the ticket barrier. You have to feed your paper ticket into the machine to be let on the platform. You then keep that ticket as proof of purchase and then feed it to a machine at your destination to be let off the platform.
Well, the barrier refused to accept my ticket, declaring it invalid! I had about 25 minutes left at this point and my heart sank. Based on my past experiences with customer service for issues like this, I wasn’t going to make my train without buying a new ticket. I decided to try the ticket again on another barrier, just in case. No good. And then, I heard the most magical words one can hear when dealing with UK public transportation customer service, “Let me see your ticket, love, so I can get you sorted.”
I showed my ticket and my “collection receipt” for it and the lady confirmed they were good, so she manually opened the gate for me. She then said that I needed to go to “platform 13, all the way to the right, just after the Costa.” What a wonderful woman! She got some very profuse thanks!
There were still 20 minutes left before the train would leave and it was already at the platform, so I got on and snagged a window seat. This turned out to be a commuter train and not only was there no designated space for oversize luggage, the train ended up being so full that many people had to stand. A fellow passenger helped me find a spot to stash my suitcase and my coat, food bag, and computer bag fit in a bin overhead while I held my purse in my lap.
The landscape as we headed to the Sussex coast alternated between urban enclaves and rolling farmland until it got too dark to see anything. With the train packed to the gills and my not being able to hear the stations being announced, I started to track our journey when we got to about 20 minutes of arrival so that I could get up ahead of time and get my luggage sorted. Which reminds me, my Jackery Bar paid for itself today! After my phone kept shutting off around the 80% charged mark, I just left it plugged in all day.
At the station before Hove, I told the guy next to me that I wanted to get to the aisle when we pulled away. He snootily replied that he was getting off at Hove, too, and he would move when he was ready. I explained my luggage situation and he rolled his eyes, finished whatever he was working on, packed up, and got out of the way. I had just enough time to sort myself out before it was time to get off. We arrived in Hove about four minutes late. That would have been disastrous earlier in the day!
My Airbnb host had sent me directions for getting to her place and while it wasn’t far, there were so many stairs! My arms are rather achey tonight. But I got there and she took about 30 minutes to explain the house to me and make sure I knew what my options were for dinner in terms of eating out tonight. I’m going to have very low food expenditures in the next weeks, so I’m giving myself permission this week to not do much cooking. I don’t intend to go out for pricey meals every day, but I think there will be a lot of ready meals and takeaways. But for tonight, I wanted a nice sit down meal with a beer.
The closest place to get that was Nando’s. Since I’d been less than impressed by their dry roasted chicken, I opted for a rather fancy chicken burger with a spicy-sweet chile sauce that I paired with that supergrain salad I fell in love with. Add in the Mozambique beer and my second Nando’s experience was a world apart from my first. It genuinely tasted gourmet.
Replete, I wearily retraced my steps all the way to the train station and just a ways past to get a few things at Tesco and then I was finally about to get in, have a hot shower, and start to decompress.
I thought I wasn’t going to have any work for the rest of the week, but some materialised while I was having dinner. My host is out most of tomorrow, so I’ll try to get the bulk of it done before going exploring. She said she has a lot of things to recommend to me and will help me maximize my time here. It’ll be nice to have that freedom to go exploring!
Well, it’s been a very long day and the internet here isn’t great, so I think I’ll hit post before my connection craps out again, then get some much needed sleep. It is going to be so strange not to get Puppy cuddles tomorrow morning, but yay for being able to have my first lie-in in weeks!