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Working on the road across this great big world, I've been rolling like a stone... - Walk Softly and Carry a Big Schtick .

August 2nd, 2005
09:28 am

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Working on the road across this great big world, I've been rolling like a stone...
Part 1 of 4

Did I mention that Sunday we mostly spent in the City of Westminster? The same one that the town in Orange County, California is named after. And one of the themes I recognized that the Croydon Steel Orchestra played was the "Axel F Theme" from Beverly Hills Cop.

Sprite is from Berlin, Coke is from Armenia. Well, the can of Sprite Lynn had the other day, and the bottle of Coke I had at the same time, were from those parts of the EU anyway... I had Coca-Cola, because iced tea is hard to find. Hot tea is plentiful, of course.

The police cars here are certainly bright and colorful. I guess the neon colors are for traffic visibility; haven't seen a plain black and white ("panda") squad car yet. We've also seen a paramedic on a motorcycle with siren going down the lane.

Favorite instructional sign, posted at numerous places in the Underground: "Dogs must be carried." So far we haven't been cited for not carrying a dog, fortunately. Another thing I've noticed about the signage in London: the traffic signs and so forth use a lot more Upper/Lower Case letters, and it changes the whole typographical feel of the place. We have a lot more ALL CAPS back home on our signs.

My bruised ankle is coming along nicely; it's progressed to splotches of dark red. library_lynn is taping it up for me with her ace bandage.

At the Belgrove, we're next door to the California Hotel. Belgrove Street isn't on the maps. Because everyone uses the map data the government compiles, it's not on any of them. There's a "Belgrave" street or two, and Belgrove Square is on the map near where Belgrove Street is. And it's in Camden, for what that's worth.

Did I mention the door squeaks? And the bed creaks. We're in room 26, which is the closest to the door -- and at that, there's two steps down and one step up between the reception desk and our door. The bathroom's fan seems to pipe air up from downstairs, so if someone's smoking you get their secondhand smoke in the toilet. (The shower is a different little room, and doesn't seem to have a fan bringing air into it.) The power outlets here (which are 220V and shaped differently) have switches on them, each one. We have the room's little lamp plugged into one, and we just use the outlet switch to turn it on and off instead of trying to find the switch on the cord. The headroom to get in and out of the room, and the clearance under the ceiling lamps in the room and the shower, mean that I'm at just about the height limit for this room. "Must not be taller than this" should be posted outside the door! Or "mind your head."

But the breakfast is certainly a step up from the continental thing we had on our first morning. We got sausages, some big pieces of hammy bacon, cereal, stewed tomatoes if we wanted them, beans likewise. Also eggs, either over medium or scrambled. The juice was very watery -- we suspect it's from a concentrate and that the locals don't like their o.j. very strong. There was jam for the toast -- it was either strawberry or "mix", we're still not sure which. It was a tasty breakfast, and it turns out it was only the first breakfast we'd have that day...

We went over to Euston Station to catch our train to Birmingham. King's Cross is adjacent to St. Pancras Station, and Euston station is just up the road a little bit. It's a different Underground stop from King's Cross St. Pancras, but it was close enough that we walked it. We were also leaving very early; we got to Euston an hour earlier than our original intended departure. On the way to Euston we saw the St. Pancras church. I kept trying to put an "e" before the last two letters of Pancras in my head, and with that I had to get a picture of the church itself. Which is just across from Euston station. (Not St. Pancras station.)

St. Pancras (I believe) and King's Cross look mostly like railway stations tarted up. (On the inside. I'll talk about their outsides another time.) Euston looks like a modern airport with all of the conveniences and none of the disadvantages. A nice lobby with various useful businesses, such as a number of places with convenient take-away foods. Starting with the Marks & Spencer "Simply food" store; Marks & Spencer is a supermarket with their own good-quality house brand of foods. So if you stopped there on the way homel, you could get something to pop in your oven when you got there. Like, for example, the Cajun Chicken Pizzatilla. As a fan of Cajun food, pizzas, and mexican food (as in, tortillas), I had to wonder what this entree's therapy bills might be like... but as it was from Marks & Spencer, I knew if I tried it I'd probably like it.

We got some bottled water there, and admired the rest of the food. We got "still" spring water. (Still is the opposite of sparkling, and has nothing to do with it possibly being distilled water.) We went to Delice de France and got two pain au chocolate, and a "chocolate and vanilla" pastry thing. (Lynn wanted the pain au chocolate for the journey, and so did I, and I wanted the other thing for right away.) We saw a Krispy Kreme kiosk, and both the West Cornwall Pasty Co. and another pasty hut.
Then we strolled down the platform as soon as they'd announced the train
that would take us to Birmingham.

I may have mentioned that we have First Class Britrail tickets. These are good on just about all of the railways except the Tube. They're flexi-passes -- we can pick any 8 days and use them on those days all we want. (So tomorrow after we arrive Glasgow, if we felt like it we could take a same-day roundtrip to somewhere else.) library_lynn had worked out that we'd need train tickets on at least seven days: From the airport to London, Cadbury World, to Glasgow, to Inverness, to Sue Mason's house in Cheshire, to London, and back to Heathrow. The extra day is for a day trip out of Inverness, possibly up to the Talisker distillery or something. The first class passes are more expensive than coach (or "Standard" tickets), but having them means we could make reservations and be sure we'd get a seat.

It also means that on unreserved trains we can just walk right on and sit down. And in the unlikely event that First Class is full, we can sit in Coach.

First Class is a nice way to travel. Virgin Trains operates the trains to Birmingham. The standard one-way fare if you walked onto the train without a coach ticket is 50 pounds, not sure what a first class ticket would have cost but I'm sure it would be more. (There are discounts available if you purchase in advance, of course.) Their trainsets are Alstom trains (from Sweden) and they look like they were designed by a Star Trek set designer who wanted to try building something a little flashier. Especially inside. The vestibules have these nifty blue light-up things, the buttons to open the doors are touch-sensitive things ringed with LEDs, they've got futuristic-looking comfy seats. Even the toilets have an interesting feature I hadn't seen before: the flush button is behind the lid, so you have to close the lid every time. They also have automatic water, soap, and hot air machines for the sinks, just like I saw in Missouri last year. There's a little two-line LCD readout above our seats that said "001 AVAILABLE 002 AVAILABLE." I won't be surprised if our train on Tuesday, where we have reserved seats, we see "BADEN" written instead of "AVAILABLE." (They assign letters to the carriages, and then number each seat in the car. So we sat in K-1 and K-2 on that ride.)

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