After all the horror stories I’ve heard about Heathrow for the last six days, I arrived at the airport this morning, got through the security outside the terminal, checked in, went through the normal security checkpoint, cleared an emergency passport control, and arrived at the departure lounge in … wait for it … 20 minutes. I could have stayed in Oxford for another two hours, but oh well. I took advantage of the time to eat an enormous breakfast. It’s going to be a long day, and I’ll need more than three meals.

They are letting passengers take small bags on board as hand luggage now, but still no liquids, since I’m heading for the US.

All journeys end

I’ve just boarded the bus to Heathrow from Oxford, where I’ve spent the past two days with a buddy from college. It’s here that I begin what will probably not be a pleasant journey home. The security situation at the airport is very fluid, and I’ll find out when I get there just what I’ll be allowed to travel with. As a precaution, I’ve packed as much as I possibly could in my checked baggage, leaving only a handful of essential items in my small backpack. Continue reading “All journeys end”

London, part two

I met my friend and two of his friends at 6 yesterday evening at an incredibly trendy sushi place near St. James Park called Nobu. His friends were great. I liked them immediately.

I like sushi, but I had only had it once before, so I had no idea what to order. Fortunately, the way these guys eat sushi is to order a bunch of stuff, put it in the middle of the table, and everybody picks. Works for me! Turns out I liked everything.

After dinner we went to a bar called Butterfly where we met some of my new friend’s coworkers. More drinking. Then to a club. More drinking. I think I danced a bit. Around 12:20 in the morning, someone reminded me I have to catch the last Tube to the airport where I was spending the night. After beer, champagne, sake, more beer, wine, more beer, more wine, and much more beer, I’m not sure how I found the airport, much less my hotel, but I did have enough sense to hail a cab at the airport rather than try to navigate the shuttles.

I slept really well again last night.

This morning, after breakfast and a shower, I tried several more times unsuccessfully to reach my other friend. London is just too expensive a place to hang out indefinitely, so I hopped a train.

I’m sitting at the ferry terminal in Harwich, which apparently is pronounced Heh-rich, waiting for the 7:20 sailing to Holland. The trip is about 3 hours, 35 minutes, so before midnight, if all goes well, I’ll have finally set foot on the European continent. I’ve never been on a ferry before, so I’m quite excited.

London, part one

After about a 44-hour whirlwind through London, I’m on a train to Harwich, on the coast of England, where I hope to catch a ferry to the Netherlands either tonight or tomorrow morning.

When I arrived at Heathrow Thursday evening, I had been thinking I would head for one of the campgrounds on the outskirts of the city, since I had a tent already. However, I arrived about an hour later than scheduled, and I was exhausted from five days with little more than one- and two-hour naps, so I wasn’t relishing the idea of spending another hour or more on a train to pitch a tent in the dark. So I booked a hotel at Heathrow. Accommodations at the airport come in two types: outrageously expensive and frighteningly expensive. I chose outrage over fear.

It turns out the place I booked, the Marriott London Heathrow, had only opened five weeks earlier, and it was beautiful. I took a very long shower, had two pints in the hotel bar, and went to sleep. And I slept. And slept. Straight through until my alarm at 10. I guess maybe I was tired.

After breakfast, I decided that since I hadn’t gotten in touch with any of my friends in London at that point, I decided that it was just as good a place as any to spend the night again, so I extended my reservation. Then I went into the city for the day.

I took the Underground to Leicester Square, which was a good central spot for seeing a number of sights in London. I saw St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, and so on. In the meantime, I managed to get in touch with a college classmate who lives in London, and we set up a time and place to meet.

Actually, I’m going to stop here for now and catch up later. I’m feeling a little sleepy. Last night was a little rough.

Preparing for my summer fun in Europe

In my recent posts, I’ve hinted I’m doing some traveling this summer. I won’t leave you in the dark any longer. In the next couple weeks, I’m leaving for a month-and-a-half-long backpacking trip through Europe.

Yes, Europe again. Yes, I have the bug, and I have it bad.

On my way to Europe, I’m spending a few nights in Iceland, which I’ve been wanting to see for years. There’s 24-hour daylight there this time of year, and I’m very curious to experience it, as well as taking part in Reykjavik’s infamous nightlife.

Although I have usually chosen Paris as my gateway to Europe, I’m flying to London this time to change things up. From London, I plan to travel by rail and ferry to Amsterdam, which is another place I’ve wanted to see for years.

From there, it becomes a little vague. I expect to visit Copenhagen, several cities in Germany and Austria, and Budapest and Bucharest before traveling west again toward France. Italy, Switzerland, and Spain are maybes. I plan to see a lot of places I’ve skipped on past trips, but I’ll also go back to some favorite places, like Montpellier.

As a side-trip, I’m thinking of making a pilgrimage to the Bushmills distillery in Ireland. We’ll see!

I’ll be filling in a lot of the details as I go. I expect to meet up with friends occasionally while I’m there, so some of my itinerary will depend on their schedules.

I’ll definitely be blogging my travels, so this is the place to get the latest scoop. If you want to keep up-to-date, consider snagging an RSS feed!

Finally, if any of you would like to meet up with me at some point during my journey or share a stretch of the trail, please send me an e-mail. Soon.