Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting around

I won't say we chose the most economical options for moving around London and nearby points, but I don't think we went crazy and it sure was easy to get from place to place. We bought everything before we left the States, so we just had to haul out the right pass when it was time to use it. Here's a summary of what we did.

1. Getting to the hotel from the airport. We flew into Heathrow early Sunday morning. While it would have been possible, I think, to get from the airport to our hotel using only the Underground, I thought it best not to choose that route. My main concern was we weren't familiar with the Tube. The D.C. metro is pretty easy to navigate with luggage--though it's not much fun trying to squeeze into a rush hour train with a big suitcase. (I'm pretty sure I've rolled over at least one person's toes in my lifetime.) But Metro has escalators and "roll on" trains--no steps to lift the luggage over. When I've traveled to Boston, I've been able to navigate the "T's" stairs and steps because I'm usually up for only a weekend and have a small suitcase. But there was no way I was going to be able to carry my London suitcase plus messenger bag computer case plus purse anywhere. So we took Heathrow Express--bought the round trip (or, as they say in Britain, return) ticket from BritRail before we left home. The Express runs every fifteen minutes from the airport to Paddington Station. At the station, we grabbed a cab to the hotel. I'd never been in a London cab--you pull your luggage in with you--no trunks.

2. Getting from the hotel into London. The Underground, or Tube, is a dream--or was when we were there. We used an Oyster card--never did figure out why it was called that--which worked just like a Metro SmartTrip card. Unlike with Metro, though, we never had to wait more than about four minutes for a train.

3. Getting out of London for our day trips. We got a four day BritRail pass that let us hop on any train we wanted. I think we could probably have done this more cheaply. For example, it looked like the Oyster card worked out to at least one of our destinations. But I was looking for easy, and this was it.

4. Getting around London. We used the Tube some, but we walked most of the time. Fortunately, we've both been going to the gym regularly, because I don't think we could have done all the walking we did--I'm sure we walked miles and miles--without being in shape. My main concern was getting squashed by a car, bike, or bus. At some corners, the powers that be have helpfully printed in the pavement "look left" with an arrow, since I suspect I'm not the only directionally challenged individual or "look right." I also sought out crossings that had a "walk/don't walk" sign. That green walking man was my friend. But at lots of crossings, I just prayed and tried to stay with the natives.

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