In November, I went over to London to visit my brother (who is attending the London School of Economics), and my trip was documented by my posting a handful of photos while I was over there. And then the rest of my photos have been sitting on my computer for the last 4 months waiting for me to sit down for an hour and given them a good pass-through. I took hundreds, but here are the 40 or so that I thought were worth posting. Full images and descriptions when you click on the thumbnail.
On Monday, I decided to go super-tourist and spent the day taking tours of the tower of London, which is one of the few things I hadn’t actually seen in my many prior trips to this city. On Tuesday, I met up with my brother in camden town, where we got lunch and I proceeded to take zero pictures. But I did stop at covent garden on my way back and snapped a few shots there. I also met up with some colleagues from my new job for drinks last night, and may now be regretting the bottle of wine we split. But that was quite fun as well.
The tower was actually quite fun. The beefeaters who give the free tours are clearly chosen for their personalities, because our guide was a complete blast. As usual, pictures of the full days will get posted when I’m home, but here’s a sampling of a beefeater guarding the jewel house and an entrance at covent garden.
Today, my brother was very excited to take me to borough market, which is essentially the green market on the south side of the Thames. Of course, remembrance Sunday put a damper in those plans, as pretty much everything was closed. Including the train to take me to borough station, forcing me (the horror) to walk from Bank station, where I accidentally emerged at street level in the middle of some sort of procession/parade across London bridge. Which was, in actuality, quite lovely.
So then, in search of something to see and/or eat, we ended up walking all the way down Thames walk to black friar bridge, back across, and taking a tour of LSE, before having a classic pub lunch.
Again, more pictures will follow once I arrive home, but today’s photo of the day is the view of the millennium bridge and st. Paul’s. And I didn’t even edit this. It’s really this beautiful out here.
Last night I arrived in London, on what amounts to my first real vacation since 2009. I’ve said it elsewhere, but it really took having a job again to appreciate having time off. As much as I tried to ‘enjoy’ my period of unemployment, there was a constant undercurrent of worry, and I certainly wasn’t going to travel anywhere extravagant, if for no other reason than the thought that the minute I stepped away from New York would be the exact minute a headhunter with the perfect job would come looking for me.
So anyway, I’m in London, ostensibly to visit my brother, and to see a few other folks, including meeting some people I actually work with but have never met in person, and catching up with a few former colleagues on this side of the pond.
Today, since my brother had a conference to go to, I took myself to the British museum. A full set of photos will get uploaded once I can edit them properly on my computer, but I thought I’d start off by testing my camera to iPad adapter by showing photographic proof that I’m actually here.
another oddity bought at the tate modern back in 2001
I’ve run out of random things on my desk, so I’ve moved on to my overwhelming collection of refrigerator magnets. This one was picked up during one of my many work-related trips to London – after a week and a half of all-nighters, we finished our deal, got about 12 hours of sleep, and then had almost an entire day to waste in London before our late-in-the-day flight back to NY. We hit all of the big spots – we actually ended up watching a huge procession at Buckingham Palace in honor of a state visit by the Chinese government, but no one had a camera. So I bought this magnet at Harrod’s to commemorate the trip.
I tried not to sleep on the plane, because I knew it would screw me up, but then? I fell asleep. for most of the flight from London. Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to take some sort of power nap later today, as I woke up at 5:30 this morning once I did go to bed in my apartment.
As always, traveling home from Europe is a singular experience. This time, I didn’t have to sit next to a senile old lady, but people may have thought that I was crazy, with the muttering under my breath at various points in the process.
To start off. When I booked the trip, I opted for the latest flight out of Milan possible. I didn’t know what my schedule was going to be the last week there, given that the deal I was working on was supposed to close that week (and when I was booking, the schedule was still a bit up in the air). Given that, I thought having as much time to pack over the weekend would be the ideal option. But we ended up closing on Wednesday, so after that, I really had nothing to do except pack. Taking the latest flight though, meant that I would have to change planes in London. Given what happened last time I had to change planes in London from Italy, I was, shall we say, a little nervous.
OK. So I get to Malpensa plenty early (no traffic). the BA flight from Milan to London is scheduled for 5:35pm. at 5:20, they haven’t started boarding the plane yet, and I start freaking out a bit (just to myself). Amazingly, at 5:25, they start boarding, and actually get everyone on the plane and seated in about 10 minutes. I’m duly impressed by this, and given our estimated flight time, we should land on time, at 6:35 UK time. Now, this gives me just under an hour and a half to get from terminal 1 to terminal 3 at Heathrow. The little pamphlet I get with my ticket says that it should take 75 minutes to get from plane to plane. OK. I’m cutting it close, but still within the allowable time frame.
Miracle of miracles, we actually land on time. The flight attendants, knowing that I have to hurry, actually move me up right near the exit door (along with another gentleman transferring to dublin) so that we can be the first ones out of the plane. And then we sit there. because there’s no one at Heathrow to operate the jetway so that we can actually get off the plane. For 25 minutes. 7pm rolls around, and they finally start moving the jetway. To the other door. So now I’ve got to push my way through an aisle full of people (A flight attendant actually pushed, I just followed in her wake). And of course, I’ve now got less time than the little booklet says, so I’m just a little stressed. I literally run off the jetway, through the terminal following the signs, and then I get to the security checkpoint. Where they tell me I can’t go through unless I somehow figure out how to make my carryon and my backpack (purse sized) into one bag. Because apparently at Heathrow, you’re only allowed one bag, even if your transferring between two different airports that allow two bags. And your flying business class, which usually means that you can bring a damn steamer trunk on board and they’ll just smile at you. And your in danger of missing your connecting flight if you don’t hurry. Needless to say that while I was cramming my backpack into my carry on, there was a bit of vulgar muttering. As soon as that’s done, I don’t even look at the guy and just push past him to be able to get in the actual security line. I knew there was a reason that I didn’t want to overpack my carryon before I left.
Security goes pretty quickly, as there are only three people in line.
Book it down the escalator, to the bus. Where the bus is sitting there, but the doors won’t open (the terminal doors leading out to the bus, not the bus doors). When I ask the woman why the doors won’t open, she basically tells me she’ll open them when she feels like it. There are now three other people with me, at least one of whom is trying to get on the same flight as me. Apparently, the door lady has been saying this to everyone. three seconds later, she opens the doors. Nothing like a power trip to stress me out even more. The bus ride takes about 10-15 minutes, and then we’re at the new terminal, in the main shopping area. If you’ve ever been to Heathrow, you know that it’s about 100 miles from the shopping area to the actual gates. So my new friend from the bus and I just start running. get on those moving passenger walkways, and push people out of our way (seriously, how hard is it to read the sign that says stand on the right, walk on the left?). Get to gate 16, check in, and realize that it’s only 7:30.
That’s right. I did a 75 minute connection, including a terminal change, in 30 minutes.
We boarded shortly thereafter.
And then we sat at the gate for another hour and a half.
Frankly, I was so happy about making it onto the plane and not having to stay in London overnight that I didn’t care. Plus, I had been able to do a mileage upgrade to business, so the free champagne was a pretty nice relaxant. No wonder I fell asleep.
Flew to London Sunday night, landed 6:30 Monday morning. Was at my firm’s London Office by 10. Stayed until about 10:30 pm. Drank about 17 cups of espresso over the course of the day.
Worked from London Tuesday until about 9 pm.
Flew to Rome Wednesday morning. The plane takes off from Heathrow at the awesome hour of 6:40a.m. Get to wake up at the even more awesome hour of 3:45 a.m. to finish packing, dress in client-meeting appropriate attire, check out of my hotel and meet the car taking me to Heathrow at 4:45 a.m.
Work in Rome Wednesday. Go to very nice dinner with co-workers at restaurant I tried to eat at about 6 times the last time I was in Rome, but could never get a table. Our arriving at the somewhat late (even for Italy) hour of 10p.m. after checking into our hotel seems to do the trick.
Work in Rome Thursday. Go to even nicer dinner with clients and others. After, of course, spending an hour not figuring out how to send a fax from my client’s office and having to go back to the hotel to send it from there. Dinner is at the practically early-bird special hour of 9:30 p.m. I arrive late.
Get back to the hotel Friday a.m. at about 1:30 a.m.. Wake up at 6 to continue working. work right up until I check out at noon, taxi to Fiumcino airport, ask ticket agent to let me check in early so that I can go through security to get to the BA lounge for a 2pm conference call. Explain that if I waited until after the call to come to the airport, I wouldn’t make my flight. When said ticket agent says it’s “absolutely impossible and he will never ever help you”, after doing nothing to check for me, escalate fight with the ticket agent for another 20 minutes until he finally calls his manager (which is all I wanted in the first place) who manages to get me through security in time. Said fight includes ticket agent trying to hide his airport ID so I can’t see his name (classic move of someone who is totally (sarcasm) being straightforward and honest), and then telling me that if I had only smiled, maybe he would have tried to help me, because apparently, instead of actually being impossible (as disproved by the fact that, um, it was possible), his helping customers is contingent on said customer’s willingness to stroke the ego of someone who works in customer service. You can guess how much I just love people telling me to smile when they’re not bottlenecking my ability to do my job.
Work from the BA lounge until 4pm. Then go to catch plane.
Discover that plane has been delayed by 1:15. Remember that time to change planes in London, including going through customs and getting my Virgin Atlantic boarding pass at another terminal from the one I land in, is 1:30. Realize that I will not make the flight in London. It’s the last flight of the day. Spend two extra hours at Fiumicino rearranging my flights and getting a hotel room in London. And calling everyone who I had even tentative Memorial Day weekend plans with that I might be a bit…missing.
Finally fly to London. When the customs and immigration officer asks “how long are you staying in London?” try not to either (1) cry, (2) burst out laughing. Try to figure out whether “Heathrow Airport” is an appropriate destination address for my third stay in the UK in less than two weeks.
Get to Heathrow Marriott. Discover that 2 of the 4 elevators are broken. Also discover that the medical conference taking place at the hotel has just dropped off about 200 participants 3 seconds before I arrived. Finally push some old people out of the way when the 4th elevator I’ve been patiently waiting for gets rushed by said old people while I struggle with my luggage.
Get to room. do more work.
Get work done at about midnight. Decide that it’s time for a blog entry.
Looks like I’ll be heading back to London tomorrow…but just for a few days. I’m actually scheduled to fly back to NYC wednesday night, at which point I’m going to take a limo from the airport all the way to Massachusetts. Hopefully I’ll get up there by 3 or so in the morning.
Some people have wondered why I don’t just go up Thursday morning, and I have to point out that my new living situation makes that impossible. Living right next to Central Park is wonderful in many ways. One of the ways it’s not so wonderful is the fact that Thanksgiving morning is going to be a zoo. And I’m pretty sure my street will be closed. For a little thing called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If I was staying in the city it would probably be cool, but trying to get to the train station, which requires crossing the parade route, is pretty much a physical impossibility.
Of course, I also envision all of my careful planning being completely thrown off by getting stuck in London for longer than expected…
And as an example of how awful the last two months have been, I totally and completely forgot about the events on my trip home last time until the other associate I flew home reminded me…
We had actually had a pretty uneventful flight – sat in the bulkhead row of the business class section (which did kind of suck – for some reason the seats in the front row don’t recline as much), but otherwise, it was fine. They had re-routed our plane further north because there was some choppy air in the middle of the atlantic, which made us about a half hour late. Not a big deal, and I’d rather sleep for an extra half an hour than wake up halfway through because I’m getting bumped around….
And just so you get the full picture, we were on a 777, and I was in the very middle seat (the business class section is 2-3-2, and I was in the middle of the 3. My co-worker was right next to me on my right). About a half an hour before we land, the stewardess comes over and asks the woman to my left if should would be willing to switch seats for the landing, because there’s an elderly woman who they want to get off the plan as quickly as possible. No problem…
Until they seat the lady next to me, and it turns out she’s suffering from senile dementia or some such thing, and is trying to get off the plane, because "her sister is meeting her at 11, so she needs to get off the plane to meet her". nevermind that we’re still 10,000 feet in the air. She keeps trying to escape from her seat and the stewardesses keep buckling her back in. At this point, I’m trying to ignore what’s going on (because really, what can I do?), by chatting with my co-worker…but apparently, the woman wants me to help her get off the plane, and since I’m not paying attention to her, she starts…hitting me.
We call for the attendants, but at this point, the plane is in landing mode, so they’re all strapped in…It was all I and the guy across the aisle from the woman could do to keep her in her seat (mostly by talking sternly, but also by keeping her from taking her seatbelt off).
Afterwards, the attendants told us that she should have never been allowed on the plane without at least some sort of family or aide, but that they didn’t know until we were already in the air…
I think the most amazing part is that I forgot about this. Normally, this would the the highlight of a crazy trip. Yeah. I can’t wait to go back.
I’m home again…
Returned to Rome on the redeye monday night, and worked pretty much constantly until this morning. Including pulling an actual all-nighter last night in rome, working straight through until it was time to leave for the airport, where I proceeded to sit down in my seat and pass out, only waking up for the food service and wondering how I could sleep through the plane actually taking off.
Here’s the crazy part though. We’re finally going to London.
Everyone in my group came home for the day, and the whole week we were all…"no, no really, we want to go home". Basically we were all so crazy that we felt we needed the mental health break of a day at home. And then on the plane, we were all like, "what the fuck were we thinking?".
At least I don’t have to go back to Rome.
It’s a beautiful city, and I highly recommend spending a week or two there on vacation. Or elsewhere in Italy. but six weeks of poorly air-conditioned conference rooms in an office park halfway to the airport is not visiting rome.
I don’t have to leave until fairly late in the day tomorrow (one of the benefits of London? It’s several hours closer, so the redeye leaves much later in the day). And, I just realized that daylight savings time ends tomorrow, which means that I get an extra hour to my day. And when you’re counting the time at home in terms of hours instead of days, that extra hour is a really great thing.
Anyway, my apologies for not updating more regularly, but I’m obviously distracted. My doorman asked me today why I bought an apartment if I was never going to live there…I told him that wasn’t exactly the plan when I moved in…