We are all leaving the castle today, with everyone heading to London. We hadn’t actually coordinated our transport, so some were taking the train, some were flying, and we were driving.
Literally, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Thus it immediately became a race to London. We had a 7.5 hour drive ahead of us, but we didn’t have to wait for a shuttle, or a timed departure. That gave us an advantage. We ate breakfast and got out of the castle early. I had Google Maps plan us a route optimized for time, and we headed out.
We drove straight over the Scottish countryside, not backtracking to Glasgow. The roads were barely two lanes, and I had to keep an eye out for approaching traffic. It was beautiful, but a little tight for comfort. Once we stopped heading due south, we turned on a slightly wider two lane road, and began tracing the coastline. This kept widening into a nice two lane highway, and we were making great time.
We had actually joined the main Highway (the M6) before we heard from our group chat: “We are on the shuttle“. They hadn’t even left the castle yet. We still had a long way to go, but by my estimates we had a chance to beat them to London. We were making great time on the M6 – right up to the point where we hit construction. I tried to use Google maps to rout around the mess, and it helped a bit. As we were on side roads the text came in, “On the train“
We lost around 45 minutes in the construction mess. We hit a rest stop for Diesel and some snacks, and shortly after that we got the next text, “Planes has landed” That pretty much meant we were out of first, though I didn’t have a lot of hope to start with. The good news was that they lost their luggage, so they were stuck in the airport for an hour or so, and that gave us a chance to close our time.
We were 20 minutes from Heathrow when we got the text from Trains. The construction really screwed us. They had to mill about the station a bit, but soon they were in their taxis and heading to the hotels. Planes had been in their hotel for about an hour. We pulled into the Hertz at Heathrow, dropped our car, and shuttled over to the Express Train. We were last, but ther was only about a 2 hour difference across the board. That’s better than I expected.
We caught a taxi to our apartment from Paddington Station. It was a three floor walk up (no lift). We went inside, and it was awesome. We had a three bedroom apartment, newly remolded, right off Oxford Circus. It was spectacular. Out back was a patio with a view of the neighboring rooftops that looked like the chimney sweeper set from Mary Poppins. We were genuinely in a state of shock how nice this was. Sometimes you just get better than expected.
Once we unpacked and cleaned up, we investigated the neighborhood. We were in Marylebone, just north of Mayfair in Central London. We were surrounded by great shopping and restaurants here. This was a perfect location. We went out as Sasha was going to meet one of her other friends (Deirdre was still with us) who was in London. It was pretty cool for me to be here with a group of my friends, and now Sasha could do the same. With Yulia’s cousin coming here for our last two days, it was a real reunion around the world.
But first we found a pub. I love eating at pubs, mostly because I love English Real Ale (slightly warm, flat, and served from a Beer Engine.) We had some nice pub food (Fish and Chips, Hunter’s Chicken, etc) and it was just what the doctor ordered. If your doctor was worried you were drastically underweight that is. With any risk of anorexia prevented, we continued walking in London. Sasha got a text from her friend, and they were all meeting at Buckingham Palace. It was dark out, and the city lights were up. so we took a long walk through Mayfair towards the Palace.
About halfway we passed the entrance to Carnaby street. I could almost hear the Austin Powers theme playing. We need to visit that later in the week. We kept going until we reached the entrance to Green Park. It was dark out, the park was unlit, and shadowy figures were lurking about. It did not look safe.
So we went in.
It was totally fine of course, people were laying about on the grass looking at the few stars that the city hadn’t drowned out. We could hear bottles clinking in the dark, I’m sure there were some creeps in the park, but they left us alone. We got to Buckingham Palace at the same time Sasha’s friend arrived. The girls were all super excited, and there was also a boyfreind in tow at this point, so we let the four of them take off into London.
Yulia and I called it a night, and rode a Black Cab back to our apartment.