Saturday, January 05, 2008

London Jan. 4: VIctoria Station

I just arrived and posted the blog updates.

Internet access here is 1.50 GBP for 30 minuutes and then 50p for an additional 30 minutes. Expensive. The good thing is that I can use my own computer which I am doing.

I checked on the train fares to Bristol and it is 18 GBP one way and 29 GBP return if I buy it from an agent. Online I could get it for 8 GBP each way. A moot point anyways since I have not heard from my friend there.

So I am heading to the hotel. Later.

London Jan. 4: On the train to Victoria

Southern 05JAN08 10:55a train service London-Gatwick to London-Victoria

I walked about two cars back to the 10th car where I found a seat facing the direction of travel. I took the window seat and placed my bag to the right of me taking up that place. I did not want to place it in the luggage rack behind me. I’m just a bit leery of someone walking off with my luggage and having to constantly look behind me to ensure that it is still there.

We pulled out ontime and I commenced writing this blog entry. It was kind of weird as the side on which I am sitting was the sunless side at Gatwick and now the glare is quite annoying, making it difficult to see the screen.

The plan once in Victoria is to find an Internet café; see if I can use my computer, upload these blog entries, check e-mail and see if I got one back from my friend I intend to visit in Bristol; if there is a message, head there otherwise stay in London until Monday and then head back to Houston either directly or via some other country in Europe, typically France or the Netherlands.

On the train, it was interesting hearing a dad parent his child, he would tell her that if she did not do something he would take away something, but he kept giving her multiple chances, which was weird. The little girl seemed to know how to get what she wanted as most children seems to learn somehow.

We are now at Clapham Junction (Britain’s busiest rail station says the sign), the last stop before London Victoria. I am checking for a WiFi signal and they are all secured and very weak signals. There is also a paid T-Mobile signal.

London Jan. 4: London-Gatwick International, London England (LGW)

London-Gatwick International, London England (LGW)

We taxied back to the terminal to our open gate. There were a few airplanes sitting around; an American Airlines Boeing 777 looks like it was waiting for a gate and there was a British Airways Boeing 777 that had just pushed back with the two engines running. There were also two Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300s at the gate, plus a Continental Boeing 777 and two Boeing 757-200s with the winglets.

The usual fare of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A340-300s were also seen, plus an Astreus Boeing 737 and an’s Boeing 747-400s.

We taxied up to our gate and then disembarked through the middle door; the same one through which I entered. I quickly made my way to the Immigration counter and again the IRIS system was down. Luckily there was no queue so I was the third person to be processed. I got the usual questions and then was motioned forward, with a firm “goodbye.”

Customs was a breeze as well as I noticed a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream for 11.99 GBP and two fro 22 GBP. Pricey, I thought as I made my way outside. There were not many meters and greeters there today, so I did not have to push my way through anyone.

As I was thinking of heading to Bristol to see a friend of mine, I wanted to check on the buses from National Express, but there was a line so I did not bother to do so. I figured I’d just do it in Victoria.

I took the escalators up to the next level where I took the transit which arrived in 1 minute to the South Terminal. I checked for a WiFi signal and found a few that were secured and a three that were paid services. I was hoping that I could get one from the Airport Clubs, but alas I was too far away.

At the South Terminal, I headed for the ticket office and got a ticket on the Southern train to London Victoria and got a London Underground all zone day pass for one pound extra. The total cost was 10.50 GBP; I asked the agent if the price went up and he said yes as it used to be 50p less only last month.

That agent and I have a history as he was quite rude to me once when I asked him a question about directions to a city in London. He appeared annoyed that I did not accept his first choice and asked if there were any other more efficient way and indeed there was. I had complained to another agent about him and she said that he is older, set in his ways and is a pain in the neck at times. On that same occasion, as I was a bit flustered, I left my computer at that same desk and luckily I got it back once I realized it was missing.

I had noticed that the departure time for the next train was 10:38, but it was delayed to 10:40. I tried to rush the transaction to see if I could make it. At 10:40, my transaction was complete and I rushed for platform 2, obstructed by a lady who was blocking the entire escalator.

I got to the platform, but the doors were already shut; seconds later, the train departed. I noticed that the arrival time was 11:20a. The next one at 10:55a would arrive at 11:27a as it made one less stop; foiled by the lady on the escalator I thought, but oh well.

The 10:55a arrived and I boarded the 12 car train.

London Jan. 4: Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to London-Gatwick International, London England (LGW)

CO4 4JAN08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to London-Gatwick International, London England (LGW) 6:55p 9:55a+1 777 N??012

At Gate E4, I boarded the airplane and turned left at the entrance door to the BusinessFirst cabin with its 2-2-2 configuration and 30 seats. I had a window seat so I said hello to the passenger at the aisle and made myself comfortable.

As I settled in, I was offered an arrival drink; I chose water and a menu with an amenity kit. Later I was asked what I wanted for dinner and I chose the Halibut along with peppercorn dressing for my salad.

There were several late arriving passengers about thirty-five so a delay of about ten minutes was announced in order to accommodate those passengers.

The couple in front of me arrived late and was commenting to the Concierge about how long the lines in immigration were; they were coming from Cancun, Mexico (CUN). The Concierge assured them that all was well now and to relax and enjoy the flight.

I fell asleep as we waited for the airplane to depart. The delayed continued and we pushed back at 8:01p. We had a short taxi to the runway and took off at 8:12p.

The flight attendants first came by with hot towels; I missed it as I was still asleep, but once awake I motioned that I did not get one and one was brought to me. I looked through the movie guide (Private Screening), deciding on “Rush Hour 3.” It had already started, so I missed a few minutes of the beginning. We were then offered nuts with a beverage of choice after our table cloths were laid.

Each of the seats has its own video monitors with a handset for controlling the system. The video entertainment for this flight was on 17 channels would be:
1. 3:10 to Yuma/Premier Destinations
2. The Brave One/ Really Big Things
3. The Heartbreak Kid/What It Takes
4. The Drama Channel
5. Continental Presents HBO: The Sopranos, Da Ali G Show, Deadwood
6. The Good Night/The Office
7. A Fine Madness/Hollywood’s 10 Best
8. Continental Presents Independent Films: The Great Match/Health Solutions for Sleep
9. Continental Presents House
10. The Game Plan/Cookin’ in Brooklyn
11. Continental Family Channel 1:Secondhand Lions/The Jetsons, Foghorn Leghorn’s Fractured Funnies
12. Balls of Fury/Still Standing
13. Rush Hour 3/Behind the Scenes
14. Continental Presents CSI
15. Comedy Programming: The Class, The King of Queens, Everybody Hates Chris, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Simpsons, the New Adventures of Old Christine
16. The Entertainment Channel
17. Airshow
There are also 19 music channels and 10 games to choose from.

After the nuts were cleared, we were offered appetizers; a tandoori chicken skewer with ancho chili sauce, seafood bisque with lump of crabmeat and a mini beef wellington. I asked for and was able to try all three, they were all very good! We were also offered bread during the service; I had the white first and then the garlic.

The salad (fresh seasonal greens and frisée with sliced tomato, red onion, corn and a Kalamata olive with Parmesan peppercorn dressing) arrived next followed by dinner which was the Herb-crusted Halibut with extra virgin olive oil, parslied potatoes and braised fennel, served over tomato and olive ragout and fine green beans.

I fell asleep and missed the crackers and cheese plus fruits and after dinner drink portion of the meal, but made the ice cream sundae portion. I had strawberry topping with two cherries. After the meal was cleared, we received a bottle of water, then the cabin lights were dimmed so we could get to sleep.

I fell asleep as “Rush Hour 3” finished and awoke when we had 1:30 to go as there was an announcement on the PA that our arrival time would be 10:10a, 15 minutes behind our scheduled arrival time. We were then served breakfast; first juice of choice, then linens were added the chair table and then a platter was placed with water, salt and pepper, utensils including a cloth napkin, butter, an empty bread plate and a bowl of fruit (orange, grapefruit, cantaloupe and pineapple).

A choice of croissant, cinnamon roll or bread was offered with a choice of coffee or tea; once can also have an espresso at any time. I chose the croissant plus tea with lemon. Next I was offered a choice of an omelet with potatoes or cereal with a banana and milk. I opted to just have the banana from the cereal choice. My seat mate who was asleep, when offered, refused breakfast and went back to sleep.

Soon the breakfast was cleared so I had a chance t use the lavatory as that was much needed; too much liquid at dinner and now at breakfast. U.K. Immigration landing cards were distributed to those who needed them, noting that if you are in transit to another country at Gatwick none if needed, but if you are transiting via London-Heathrow (LHR) once is needed.
When we were about halfway between Ireland and England, the Captain came on the PA and said that we would start our descent in about 10 minutes, so that means with about 37 minutes to go and that we would be landing at 10:10a. The local weather is partly cloudy skies with a temperature of 7C which is 45F. Not too bad I thought.

An arrival video was then showed that highlighted the arrival process, documentation, how to get from terminal to terminal and how to get to the city of London plus a brief film about London.Our descent took us over the countryside for a tour as is usual coming into Gatwick. We made a sweeping left hand turn and then landed away from the terminal.