9/16 and 9/17 - Outward Bound and Tally Ho!
More pics here.
In the morning on Wednesday 9/16, we drove from Davis to Walnut Creek. Ty dropped me and the bags at Bart, then took our car to Patrick’s, where it would live for our trip. Patrick generously donated his space in his complex to us and drove Ty back to Bart. We rode Bart for an hour to SFO, and that might have been the most diversity I saw on this trip (although parts of London and Dublin came close). The Bay Area is a truly amazing place.
We flew SFO to Toronto, had a nice and reasonable layover there, then Toronto to Dublin redeye. Sadly this plane was smaller and less comfortable than our first flight and sleeping was tough. Once we landed in Dublin, we sweated through a slow customs line and raced to our next terminal, where we almost immediately boarded an Aer Lingus flight to London. We then took the tube in to Kensington to our hotel, arriving around 6pm on Thursday, 9/17. From home door to hotel door took about 26 hours.
We were able to navigate the Oyster card system for the tube after talking to an agent and as always the London tube was easy to use, efficient and comfortable. It was nice to see the outskirts of London turning into the city as we rode in. Our hotel was not far from the Earl’s Court station and easy to find, on an adorable side street in Kensington. Despite being a pretty posh neighborhood (chosen for walking around safety at night, being relatively close to attractions in London and rugby, and hotel value), it was pretty diverse, at least in restaurants and markets. There was a Lebanese market we would visit often just down the street. I wish we had more time to explore the side streets, shops, and food in this area. Would definitely stay there again.
Our hotel, the London Lodge, was the most expensive of the trip but reasonable for the city, accommodating, and comfortable. It’s built into the row houses of this neighborhood so felt somewhere between a hotel and a B&B. We had great breakfasts – very large continental included in the room price, and the staff were kind and helpful. The room was smallish but perfectly fine and the bathroom was great – including a great old tub for soaking. We had a nice view of the Kensington row houses out the window, and the neighborhood and hotel were quiet. I think it was a great value for the cost and a good location – out of the bustle of Earls Court station area but just a five-minute walk away.
We did find the tip to stay awake until local bedtime helpful on both ends of this trip. We weren’t completely immune to the time change but the big city, being happy to be off a plane, and the general confusion about time zones over the last few days made it easier to stay awake. We took the tube down to the London Eye, where I’d read about a river cruise that I thought might be a nice introduction to the city and a low-key event if our bodies pooped out on us. We didn’t realize the London Eye was such a tourist trap – there were so many people! The Eye’s pods were decorated with flags for each rugby team nation in honor of the games, and the usual Red and White (Coca Cola owns the Eye) night lights were changed to the RWC colors. While we didn’t feel the need to ride the Eye, it was fun to have such a large visual reminder of why we were here.
The area around the Eye and cruise is in the South Bank neighborhood, which has restaurants, street performers, festivals, tourist traps (wax museums and tchotsche shops) and views of the great historic buildings along the Thames. We had touristy food at an international café and walked around while waiting for our cruise. There was a lot of hub-bub, and Ty noticed a food truck for a restaurant we’d had our eye on, reportedly the best burger in London. The idea of great burgers in London was funny to us – but we went back later and it was very, very good.
The cruise was cold but gorgeous – at the tail end of sunset, with big blustery clouds changing from white to red and orange, then to grey and then dramatically lit by the city. We sailed past Parliament and Big Ben, under the Tower and London Bridges, past the Tate Moderne and the Tower of London, all narrated by a funny Brit who only we laughed at. Most folks were presumably non-English speaking, and/or were too busy taking selfies, to hear the bad jokes and constant admonitions to stay seated. After the tour we crossed over the river and took our obligatory pictures with Big Ben and his clocktower, and then caught the tube home.