Tuesday, September 3, 2019

London & Paris 2019 - Day 1 (9/1/2019) - To London

The trip actually began the night of August 31, a Saturday.  After spending the day sightseeing in New York (and a brief visit from my friend Eric), my mom and I took an overnight flight from JFK to Heathrow.  The flight pushed back right on time at 11pm, but ended up arriving somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes early.  After a hassle-free immigration checkpoint, we grabbed our luggage and found a Globus representative that was waiting in the arrival hall.  Because our flight was so early (our plane was due to arrive just after 11am, so they weren't expecting us until closer to noon), we had to wait until noon for the driver to return to the airport.  When they were ready, the lady walked us out to the parking garage to meet the driver.

The van held up to 9 total people (driver + 8 passengers), and the group used every single seat.  There were already 3 passengers in the van when he pulled up, and we added 5 more.  It turned out that we were going to 3 different hotels for 3 different tours, though.  The driver turned out to be quite knowledgeable about London and its history in his own right, and point out many things to us along the way (though I'm not completely sure that he knew everything that he claimed to).  He was also a very friendly guy, and moved very well for a man of 75 years.

Our hotel, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, was the last of the 3 stops.  The driver took us (and a couple from Houston) to the Globus desk, where he dropped off our luggage and the staff took us to meet our tour director, Doug.  We huddled around while Doug gave us an introductory logistical briefing, and then we went up to the lobby to check into the hotel.

After getting into the room and having our luggage delivered, we still had almost 3 hours until we were due to meet the group at 5:45pm for dinner.  We were tired from not really having slept much over the shortened night on the plane (I almost dozed off at one point on the van ride), so Ma lay down to try for a nap.  I figured that I would have a better chance of adjusting to the European sleep schedule if I held out until night, so I took the opportunity to go find the Bloomberg European headquarters building.

I walked across Westminster bridge and caught the Circle Underground line heading east at Westminster station.  I took the subway 4 stops to Mansion House, which was a short walk from the Bloomberg building.  I had a quick look around the outside before heading in to explore.  The security guard at the front could tell that I was lost, so he (and another colleague at the turnstile) pointed me in the right direction.  I took the elevator up to the 6th floor pantry, had a bit of a look about that and the 7th floor, chatted a bit with another security guard (Henry), and then slowly made down the central spiral ramp/staircase - while also having a wander about a couple of floors, of course.  I then reversed my route back to the hotel, this time taking the District line along the same subway route of 4 stops.

I made it back to the hotel room a little after 5, with plenty of time to spare before the dinner meetup time.  When the time came, Ma and I headed down to the ground floor to meet up with the rest of the group - 36 people total.  Doug gathered us all and took us onto the coach parked on the driveway, from there the driver took us over to a restaurant in the City of London called Factory House (with Doug providing narration along the route).  Dinner at the restaurant was 3 courses, with 2 or 3 choices for each course.  I had the soup of the day, an aubergine/eggplant main dish (thankfully they had a vegetarian option), and apple crumble for desert - overall it was pretty solid.  We sat at a table with the couple from Houston, Dan and Merle.

After dinner we all got back on the coach for a transfer to the river boat for a cruise along the Thames.  We were joined by three other Globus tour groups.  It had grown cold by this time (maybe 60 degrees F), though Doug had warned us to bring an extra layer during the intro briefing.  I slightly regretted not changing from the t-shirt I had worn all night/day into some long sleeves, to go along with the track jacked that I had brought on the trip as my only extra layer.  Mom was a fan of the cool weather, though, and eagerly took the seat at the front of the outside top deck.  I stayed up top with her briefly before seeking refuge inside while we waited for all of the other tour groups to arrive.  I did rejoin her once the boat got going, but didn't quite last the full tour up there.  The tour began at a pier on the north bank between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges.  We first headed westward until just before Lambeth Bridge.  The boat then turned around and headed the other way until just past Tower Bridge, before returning to the pier.  Of course there was a guide narrating throughout.  It turned out to be a more interesting way to see the city than I expected.

After the boat ride we got on the coach and headed back to the hotel, making it there just after 10pm.  We were quite sleep deprived by then, so we both had no trouble falling asleep.


Pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/hk6N4X5QW6gkSLxP9

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