Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far
Sep 06 ~ Day #119
Budget to date
Total to date
Miles by Road
Miles by Sea
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Current Location: Custom House Hotel, London, England
Today’s Total Expenses: $147.94
Transportation: $37.72 (£24.00 – train from Gatwick to London)
Food: $34.58 (£22.00 – real English Fish & Chips)
Miles Traveled Today:
Air Miles: 762 (Madrid to Gatwick)
Train Miles: 24 (Gatwick to London hotel)
Madrid to London
We didn’t have a direct flight to London from Miami. We opted to change planes at Madrid because that was the least expensive flight we could get and we didn’t need to arrive in London at a specific time. Our hotel was already booked and they would hold our room even if we were late arriving.
Lots of Waiting
Even though we only had a two-hour layover in Madrid it seemed like a lot of time to wait around. As we were simply changing planes we didn’t have to go through Spanish customs or immigration.
After a nine-hour flight, though, the thought of just sitting around simply didn’t appeal, so we started walking along the corridors and browsing in some of the shops.
Sleep on a Plane?
As Geoff mentioned, the flight to Madrid was an overnight flight in pretty cramped conditions. If I got an hour’s sleep I think myself lucky. I just couldn’t get comfortable.
However, it seems, that by the time we arrived in Madrid I was way passed tired and had gotten my second wind.
Now I just wanted us to be on our way again so we could finally get to England.
First Glimpses of England
Geoff had often mentioned the English countryside but I just couldn’t envision it. It seemed to me that in a country so small there really couldn’t be much countryside left.
Well, I was certainly wrong.
As we were coming in to land at Gatwick Airport I noticed it was surrounded by countryside. One field I noticed seemed to have little white dots all over it and then it finally dawned on me – sheep – those were sheep!
It was nothing like flying into Toronto or Chicago or LA.
Then the plane touched down and I was in England! And, Geoff was back after an absence of 47 years!
Customs and Immigration
I always hate this part of flying, almost as much as I hate going through security to get on a flight in the first place.
There were two lines – one for those with EU passports and one for everyone else.
Our line actually seemed shorter but we figured it would take longer. We had filled out our customs and immigration form and just waited in the line until it was our turn.
It seems that no matter where we have to queue up for anything we always get behind the wrong people. And, this seemed like it would be no exception.
The people being interviewed by immigration just ahead of us were really being given the third degree. A supervisor was even called over for one person.
Even though there were three officers on duty for our line, they all seemed to have people that required rigorous questioning.
However, when we finally got our turn, we got the most pleasant officer and were through in no time. When we picked up our backpacks we were just waved through customs. It was really almost painless.
Getting from Gatwick to London
We knew there were trains or buses from Gatwick to London. Now we just had to find out how to get one that would take us to our hotel.
We found a British Rail desk and spoke to the person on duty and told him where we needed to go.
He said it was no problem and then very quickly explained to us what we needed to do. He spoke so fast, and, of course, with a lovely British accent, so we had to ask him to repeat his instructions – and slowly this time.
Apparently we could catch a train from the airport and take it to London Bridge, from London Bridge we would pick up the Tube and from the Tube we would pick up the Dock Light Rail to the Custom House Station.
Perfect! Our hotel was right at the Custom House Station.
We purchased our tickets – one ticket that would be good for everything – the train, the tubes and the light rail – and headed off to catch our train.
The British Transit System
Another thing that Geoff had always told me was how good the British Transit System is. He’s always said you can get anywhere using local transportation.
Our trip from Gatwick to our hotel was a fascinating experience for me. A fairly long train ride and the train took us right into the Tube station, then on the Tube to the Dockland Light Rail.
We only did one thing wrong along the way. We didn’t realize that at the light rail station there was a choice of two different trains with, of course, different routes.
We just got on the first train and it was, naturally, the wrong one. However, people on the train, seeing our confusion, explained what we needed to do to get to our destination.
Custom House Station Closed
After getting on the correct train, we were then informed that the station we needed – Custom House Station – was temporarily closed. Yikes! What do we do now?
A helpful gentleman on our train told us not to worry. We could get off at the station prior to Custom House and walk – apparently it wasn’t that far.
So, we did just that. Got off at the station before Custom House and began our walk. Now, don’t forget, we both have full backpacks. However, we made the walk in a decent amount of time and happily checked in to our hotel where we ‘ll be spending the next four nights while we explore London.
Custom House Hotel
We had booked our hotel through CheapOstay.com for a very good price for a London hotel.
The room was small – but, hey, we’re now in Europe and that’s to be expected – but functional and clean.
The shower, however, was not at all what we’re used to. There was barely enough pressure to get wet.
Real British Fish & Chips
After checking in and taking a quick shower we no longer felt tired and decided to go to the pub attached to the hotel to have dinner.
Hey, we were in England, so what do you suppose we ordered for dinner? You guessed it – fish and chips!
Well, my first encounter with real English Fish and Chips was incredible! The piece of fish was not only huge, but it was also recognizable as a piece of fish. Not the uniform frozen fish and chips I have been used to. The meal was served on square plates and the fish, which was just lightly battered, went from point to point on the plate. The chips were hand cut and done to perfection and there was also salad and mushy peas. We enjoyed it thoroughly and washed it all down with a pint of Strongbow Cider.
Although the pub was quiet, after all this was a Monday night, it still felt authentic, to me anyway as this was also my first English pub!
We were both happy with our first day in London but jet lag was starting to set in so we headed back to our room, made tentative plans for the next day, let our marvelous supper digest and then drifted off to sleep.