I’ve been missing in action last week. Partly because thinking I can travel from Bermuda to the UK and write my blog, while reliant on hotel wi fi and trying to cram in two days of sight seeing in London was a bit futile. Reminder to self – I’m not super girl!
So last week it was packing, cleaning the house, frantic laundry in between rain and sun, and then ready to fly British Airways directly from Bermuda to Gatwick. It was time for us to use up our return ticket, and go ‘off island’ for break. I like this flight for two reasons, firstly it’s direct, over night so you can grab a bit of sleep, and you wake up first thing in the morning, six o’clock first thing, and hit London for a full day. Secondly, I don’t have to go through America, who have a tendency to have extremely long waiting times to clear border patrol. I don’t like the meals, as I select a special meal and I’m always lumped into the ‘people who can’t eat anything flavoursome category’. But the Airline has the loveliest staff, a really good service and it’s for me, a short flight of just seven hours. I’m beginning to know the staff now, and they say ‘welcome back’ which tells me I’ve flown it a bit too often this year, three times to be exact. I don’t like my reception at Gatwick border patrol. I have a ‘red flag’ on my passport, because I’m married to a British Citizen, and don’t have residency, so I will always have a stint in the glass box until I gain residency again. On top of that, because I get upset about the glass box, I can’t think so I end up sounding suspicious. It goes like this ‘when was your last flight into the UK?’ ‘Er, um, I think it was around Easter, just a minute, I’ll look it up’. This time I wrote out all my flights, and I did look it up. I questioned why I’m made to feel like a victim each time I come in. I expressed how I’ve never done anything wrong and only ever followed their advice, and I was tired of sitting in the glass box which takes away our holiday time. I also showed my return flights booked, so it was surprisingly quick. It helped of course that my lovely husband comes with me now, and refuses to go through until I’m cleared.
So we were in! We dropped our bags off at the hotel, and they looked after them for us for the day, as we can’t check in at eight o’clock in the morning. We could however have breakfast, and we treated ourselves to the hotel’s delicious breakfast of beans, hash browns, mushrooms, eggs, bacon and toast. That’s enough to keep going all day, and actually saves you money not having to pay expensive London prices. We then took the Gatwick transport, that’s a bus that does a circuit to both terminals and the local hotels for four pounds each way, to the South Terminal. From there you can purchase an all day zone one to six ticket for trains and buses. This entitles you to travel on the main lines, underground and buses within London to Gatwick. You have to buy a separate ticket if you want to take the Gatwick Express, and if we were in a hurry we might have done that, but we weren’t, so the district line was just fine. Our ticket for the day, going anywhere we wanted was £17.70 each. So really once we travelled to Victoria, we’d already nearly had our monies worth.
At Victoria station, we then took the underground to the British Museum. This was my choice. I have been before, but it was in 2009 and we only saw a small portion of it. Today the plan was to see as much as possible, then when we got too tired go back to the hotel for dinner and an early night. We got about three hours sleep on the plane, so hitting that brick wall would happen, and it pays to be ready for it. Or it spoils your day. Now when using the underground it goes like this: use the map to find what line you need, then as you go through the ticket barrier there’s smaller maps at each entry point with a list of stations it stops at, so you can determine whether you’re going east or west, then go to that platform and step on. Hold on though, the trains take off fast, keep your bag at the front, because pick pockets work the trains, and occasionally you will get a seat, but be prepared to stand. Our tickets were off peak which means you can use them any time after nine thirty, but not between four and seven at night. I was told by one staff member that if your ticket lets you through the barrier off peak doesn’t apply, and another told me that it doesn’t apply to Gatwick, so we used ours all day no problem. I love the underground. It’s always hot in there, it smells of diesel which makes me sneeze, and black crap comes out my nose the next day. The trains squeal on the tracks, and lope from side to side, with people hanging on for dear life, trying not to look at each other, or god forbid accidentally touch you as the train hurls you sideways. One time on a very packed train on a Friday night, I was squeezed into a tiny gap by this huge bloke who’s underarm was glistening wet as he held onto the railing. I was slammed into him as the train stopped suddenly and I said ‘I’m so sorry’ and he said with a grin ‘don’t worry love, I’m not!’ Lovely.
We got off at our stop and the notices didn’t have the British Museum anywhere. The Science and Natural History Museums and the Albert Hall, but not the one I wanted. The realisation that the man at the information centre heard ‘Museum’ with my accent and nothing else, was slightly annoying, but I love the underground so I got to have another train ride. My lovely husband wasn’t quite so delighted as me, but never the less we were on our way to the right station this time. Now that’s when the zone one to six cards come into play, it doesn’t matter how many times you use it, there’s only one charge. You can also get an ‘Oyster’ card too, but these have to be ordered in advance, and preloaded with money. You tap these as you go through the barriers, and it only takes up to a certain amount for the whole day then you go through free after it hits the maximum. It is cheaper, but we go so infrequently that I find the other card just as efficient, for the money saved.
The British Museum is a wondrous place. It is completely free. You will get your bag searched, so no pocket knives, or spray cans please. My favourite part is the Egyptian mummies, but I find there’s too many. In my home town we have one mummy, and I have always felt sad that she can’t be in her intended resting place, but is in a glass box thousands of miles away, being looked at by strangers every day. The British Museum has one hundred and forty mummies, so by the time you see three or four, it’s ‘oh look there’s another one’ and ‘oh and another’. It’s a fantastic example of outright grave robbing. I understand that back then, the only way to show people was to bring the mummies to them, but these days they could give a few back. The one I like the best is the mummified cat, how cool is that! Some of the artefacts are as big as a house, and how they managed to ship it all in one piece is amazing. We also saw the Grecian and Roman displays, the European artefacts found in Britain and had a quick look at the Pacific area to find out what they have displayed from New Zealand. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but with a stop in between to rest my feet, and have a cuppa, and it getting dark at four o’clock, my brain was done for. I really think that if you lived in London, you could spend a day just in one room of the British Museum, and it has three floors, so it would take about a month of dedicated viewing to see it all.
We went back via Oxford Street to see the Christmas lights, but it was a bit drizzly rain by then, so we didn’t linger. Back to the hotel for a delicious dinner, and bed. Boy were my dogs barking! It turned out their had been a stabbing on London Bridge, which we walked over earlier in the day. Honestly we didn’t go back that way so the only difference we noticed was an increase in Police presence. We had seen hardly any before that. You wouldn’t know it had happened, life just carried on as usual.
Two things about being in the UK that I enjoyed: Being able to let the water run the whole time I stood in the shower, and not sweating! Next we’re off to a very special exhibition.
More soon – Sally