Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Getting Around

We bought Oyster cards when we arrived at Heathrow.  They are a distinctive blue and white, made like a credit card but instead of slipping it in and out of a slot, we merely swept the face over a yellow triangle at the entrances and exits for the Tube.  You have to use it to exit or the Tube people will assume you're still in there, riding aimlessly around and around.  Each card cost 20 pounds and the usual fare was around 1.44 pounds or approximately $2.16. 

Prior to actually getting there, I had kind of feared the Tube.  I worried that the cars would be filthy, the outsides covered in graffitti and an Arab terrorist in every car, lurking fiendishly.

Nothing could have been farther away from the truths that faced me -- spotless plastic seats, no graffitti at all and best of all, no apparent terrorists.

We hadn't had occasion to take a cab anywhere and I'd already read that the famous Black Cabs were roaringly expensive.  The drivers all have to pass an exam called The Knowledge, a series of tests on the location of every street in London.

But it was raining when we were ready to leave the hotel.  The Tube to Euston Station would require two transfers - during rush hour.  It would require me to pull a roll-on suitcase, topped by another bag while clutching my purse (the size of a satchel) under my left arm and then carrying an open umbrella over it all (and me.)   

It was imperative that we catch the train for which we'd bought tickets.  Richie was seriously annoyed; he hates spending money for a cab except in dire necessity such as to and from LAX.

The desk clerk called their pet cab company, but, alas - nothing for 30 minutes.  So the doorman was bid to go outside and flag one down.  The cab that stopped was a Black Cab!  Another tour goal score!

There is no trunk.  Instead the luggage is piled up against the driver's back seat with pull-down seats folded up behind the luggage.  No chance of your luggage being lifted at a long traffic light.

We had an uneventful ride to Euston Station, albeit in silence on Richie's part.  15 pounds and well worth it. 

Euston is a big station with an even bigger patio on one side.  This square is dotted with fast food restaurants, stone benches and people eating or smoking in the rain.

Our train was announced and we hastened to the track.  Other than a really long-looking snout, the Virgin train seemed no different from trains we've ridden in France.  The Brits did add a crescent moon shaped, hard plastic handle to the back of every aisle seat though.

After we got out of London, we saw rolling green fields bordered by hedgerows and short stone fences.  As we went farther north, the distant hills began to get steeper.  We were looking forward to new sites and seeing good friends.

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