Lesson learned: London metro

I’m all about the metro. I love having a set map that tells me every stop clearly and a mode of transportation that is not dependent on traffic. But I also learned a few things about the London metro.

  1. Wear your walking shoes. The London metro, and many European metro sysems actually, has got some long connections at transfer points. Sometimes it’s a mission just to get up to the street! Take into account an extra 5-15 minutes for your commute up and down hallways, stairs and escalators.
  2. Pass on the Oyster card. Contrary to Rick Steves’ advice, a metro employee told us (under strict confidentiality since the metro promotes and wants you to buy the card) that the Oyster pass isn’t really worth it for tourist. Go for the one-day pass if you’re really going to be using the metro that much.
  3. It’s hot. It is freaking hot on the metro. And being confined in a hot metal box underground = lot of sweaty people. And you know what, you’re going to be one of them, so deal with it!

With these key learnings, go ahead and experience the London Tube yourself!

Day 1 in London: Agatha & Daniela’s walking tour

We didn’t let our exhausting flight across the pond deter us from exploring London on our first day/evening. But first things first…food! We stopped by a pub for our first meal in London.

First pub dinner in London

After dinner, our romantic stroll continued along the Thames River, past the Tate Museum. Then we crossed over to the South Bank and walked along the river trail (which is a very nice & romantic walkway) to catch our first glimpse of the London Eye and Big Ben.

London Eye & Big Ben

As we approached the London Eye, that was as close as we needed to get to that attraction. There would be no sky-high trips on a frail metal wheel for us! Instead we crossed back over the river to walk past Westminster and Big Ben. There, I took one of my masterful self-pictures of us:

Big Ben

We then continued down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, and we were quite pooped at this point!

Pooped!

Although we were exhausted, for some reason we kept walking! We ended up heading back towards our hotel through St. James Park. Finally, we gave up and just hopped into one of London’s cool black cabs to take us the rest of the way. Of course, our day wasn’t complete without the six-flight climb up to our hotel room!

Reunited and it feels so good

Since Daniela and I took separate flights over to London, we had a brilliant idea to just meet at Heathrow airport. Just the largest and/or busiest airport in the world. What could go wrong?

Well first of all, as I was getting ready to board my flight in Chicago, I got a call from Daniela that her flight was delayed and that she was going try and switch flights last minute. So as I was flying over on Aer Lingus, I didn’t even know when she’d end up arriving in London or on what airline or what flight. At least my Aer Lingus flight went quite smoothly. Those Irish sure are a lively bunch!

I was hoping to tap into free wifi at Heathrow, but appartently airports do not provide that service! So my dumbass uses a credit card to call my mom on a pay phone and find out Daniela’s updated flight info. I knew it would be expensive, but not till I checked my account online did I see that my five minute conversation cost $32!

Anyways, the original plan was that I would arrive at London first and wait for Daniela at her gate. We agreed that I would not have flowers or balloons for her, nor a sign with her name on it. I did, however, picture us running into each others’ arms as soon as she came out.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. Having gotten Daniela’s updated flight info from my mom, I sat down by the gate that said “international arrivals” and waited. And waited. After an hour and a half, and way past her scheduled arrival time, I finally got the bright idea to confirm with the information desk that I was in the right place. Sure enough, I was not. Apparently, Heathrow has international arrivals coming into various terminals.

So I trek over to the correct terminal with my heavy-ass backpack, my purse (aka second, smaller backpack) and a mini suitcase. I almost died! After wandering around that terminal, and finding out Daniela’s flight had arrived even earlier than scheduled, I called it quits. Obviously we had missed each other.

I trekked it over to the Metro, and after several failed attempts to buy a ticket, I was finally successful! A hot, sweaty and exhausting train ride later, I finally arrived at our hotel, and luckily Daniela was there too. We were finally reunited (six flights of steps later)!

Lesson learned: do not book your flight after a bottle of wine

I repeat, it is NOT a good idea to book your international flight (or any flight for that matter) after drinking a bottle of wine. Especially if you’re trying to coordinate your arrival with someone else. So, although Daniela and I are travel partners for three weeks, we ended up not taking the same flight over to London (which may have been a good idea to give ourselves some personal time before our journey). But we were planning to leave and arrive within an hour or so of one another.

So we each booked our flight accordingly, and thought everything was fine. A few weeks later, I double-checked my confirmation email, just in case, and noticed that my flight was exactly one day off from what I needed!

In my defense, I had booked the correct flight number, correct departure time and arrival time, just the wrong date by one day! Why do these airlines use the exact same flight numbers and times?? How was I supposed to know they do that??

Well, after talking to Expedia about my options, then waiting on hold for Aer Lingus for a good 30 minutes and having a futile conversation with an old Irishman, I finally paid the extra fees to have Expedia change my flight to the correct date.

Lesson learned: do not book flights after drinking alcohol.

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