London at last
28 May 2011
Spent the day getting ready to arrive in the UK, sorting out documents for immigration, etc, and then updated some photos to the on line diary (reached the 30 day limit, so it might be a few days before we can put more up).
Tony and Pol walk into the village to get some supplies for tomorrow and also a party tonight (a friend of Pol's has a birthday dinner). A late night, it doesn’t start until 9pm, and we arrive at 9.30 – but Pol's friends expect that. It is a late night, and when we get home near 1am Tony realises that there are still some documents he needs to download from our NZ banks, but has trouble getting the website to behave. Finally gives up at 2.30 and crawls off to bed, not much sleep tonight…
Up at 6am to see if the bank websites will play ball, and thankfully they do. Cynthea decides to go for a quick swim before she has a shower, but she doesn’t want to carry a wet swimsuit. There is no one about, the neighbours aren’t home and the guys digging the hole in the backyard (water storage) wont be here for another hour, so there is no need for a bathing suit!
Not long after getting into the water she is calling out to Tony, he thinks perhaps she got caught out, haha. But there is a wee mouse in the water with her, and she wants it out before it drowns. As the mouse swims over near the edge Tony grabs it by the tail and pulls it out, and there is a moment of panic as he realises the lounge door is open. But instead of running inside the mouse goes through the hedge to the neighbours place, and Cynthea can finish her skinydip.
Claudia arrives at 7.30 to drive us to the airport. We arrive in plenty of time, and Claudia knows the people on the Iberia check in desk, so she talks to them about our problem with the excess luggage. We are able to check in there (it is the internet check in drop off counter, and there is no long queue. The queues at Thomson's check in are miles long, so we are doubly pleased to be able to use this. The bags go on and we hold our breath as the weight comes up – 41kg!! Wow, we didn’t ditch much, and the only thing that wasn’t packed was Tony’s jacket, didn’t think it was that heavy, but there is no excess to pay, woo hoo!
The flight is delayed half an hour, but we have no connections to worry about. We will head to Beckenham when we arrive, just got to sort the transport as we read on the London Transport website that some train lines are closed for maintenance. Typical, just the sort of thing that is needed on a long weekend during school holidays… maybe that is the best time for them after all?
We say our goodbyes to Pol and Claudia, and head through to boarding. The flight is still showing delayed so there is no hurry. We wander about the duty free stores, but the prices still seem expensive, not that we are after anything much, We have our sandwiches and fruit, and head for the gate, but when we get there a different airline and destination is showing. But everyone else there is going to Gatwick on our flight so we figure they won’t leave without most of their passengers, and will realise something is wrong if there is no one at the right place.
Boarding time comes and goes, and we wait. Finally we are aboard at 11am, and we wait some more. And wait. And wait. Air Traffic Control has changed our take off runway, and we have to wait for clearance. Finally at 12.30 we are away. The seats are bloody cramped; they are not very wide either. At least there is an empty seat beside Cynthea, and she can move into that during the flight.
The flight goes reasonably smoothly, and two hours later we arrive in Gatwick. The airport is HUGE, and the plane taxis for ages. We come to a stop near the terminal and are kept waiting for the airbridge to be put in place, it seems to take ages. Finally we get inside, and we walk, and walk, and walk to immigration control. We fill out arrival cards for the first time since China, and head for the passport control. We hope we have enough paperwork and information to satisfy the powers that be. Cynthea is up first, and is through in a couple of minutes, Tony wonders if there is more to come elsewhere. His turn, and the passport is checked. He is asked if he just came from Palma (doh, wrote that on the arrival card), and he struggles not to give a smart arse reply. He asks if we are together, and Tony says how did you guess? The guy laughs and tells him to enjoy the UK. That is it, all over rover and with no hassles, bloody unbelievable! Not what we were told to expect at all, as others have been put through the hoops to the nth degree. Has there been a change recently, or are they just a good judge of character?
We stand at the baggage conveyor for the Thomson flight from Mallorca, but there is no sign of ours, and as Tony looks around he doesn’t recognise anyone from their flight, so he checks the flight numbers properly, and they are waiting at the wrong place. So we check the rest of them, and at the far end of the hall is the one we should have been at. The sign says all the luggage off the flight has been delivered, so our bags will not be too long, we hope. Less than five minutes later we have rut bags and are heading for customs. There is no duty free shop before customs, but we later figure that is before we came from an EU country. We head for the red zone, and no one is at the counter. Eventually someone comes over and asks what we are declaring, Cynthea says we have food and prescription medicine. What food? Muesli bars. Ok, carry on, and we are in the arrival hall. All very painless, and we are in mild shock having been expecting much more interrogation and delays.
The next challenge is coming to grips with the transport system. We have been told get an oyster card for travel in London, but the shop we go has only one, so we will leave it until we get to the train station. We go up a level and there is a shuttle train to the train station every three minutes. Just thirty minutes after landing at Gatwick, we are looking at the maps in the train station trying to make sense of it all. The information desk is really helpful, and Tony gets a print out telling what trains they need to take, and where to change.
We want to buy an Oyster card (for travel on the buses/trains/tube, etc), but the ticket desk said it wouldn't work here because we were not in London, but he could sell me a ticket to Sydenham.
It didn't take long to get there, and while waiting for Tina to pick us up we got our oyster cards to trot around London on. We are soon at Tina and Lloyd’s where we had a late night as Lloyd's , Andrew, arrived from Leeds. We didn’t get to bed until around 1am. The boys are off to a VW car show in Austria for a few days, leaving late Sunday afternoon.