Returning to England

I had a relatively nice train ride from Amsterdam yesterday to London. “Relatively” because on the leg to Brussels I had to sit with my back to the direction of travel, which I dislike. On the French Thalys train web site it’s always a roll of the dice for me when trying to select a seat facing the “correct” way. Then there was the lady in the seat behind who hacked and coughed like she had pneumonia all the way – and the car was full so I couldn’t change seats. No ill effects for me, though. At least the service was good, my changeover to Eurostar for the run to London was easy, and Lady Phlegm did not follow me to London.

The “chunnel” train is always nice, the staff is very pleasant, and the food is reasonable. When we got to the tunnel mouth at Calais, I was particularly interested to see the high number of track-side security guards and all the additional new razor-wire fencing. There have been a lot incidents in recent months of illegal immigrants trying to get onto Eurostar trains (under the carriage, on the roof, etc.) to get to England. There’s a squatters’ camp with some 3,000 of them nearby, and some have died in the attempt. I saw none.

On the ride from St. Pancras Station to the Paddington Hilton, my Black Cab driver had some strong opinions about Uber. Mostly along the lines of how unfair it was to regulate the professional cabbies but allow Uber into the market with little or no regulation (and I agree with him). At the moment, there’s a London court case in progress affecting the Uber app but any decision is not expected to seriously impede Uber. 

I was shocked upon arrival to see that Paddington Station is under seriously renovation, with large areas of “The Lawn” blocked off. I also had unprecedented difficulty getting a decent room at the Hilton, which was shocking. Their app for online check-in and room selection is misleading and apparently interferes with getting a Hilton Honors member room upgrade. In the end, I had to go to and reject two rooms before getting a decent one. The second rejectee was on the top floor with a terrace and rock-star amenities, but sadly it came with rock-star damage: stains down the wall, shower stall mold, abused furnishings, and a plastic bag wrapped around the ceiling smoke detector! Thank God for the cell phone camera, as I was able to document all this in pictures when I returned to the lobby to speak with the hotel manager. 

One amusing thing about that room was the 55″ flat screen TV mounted on two columns right at the end of the bed. You could get a suntan from it while sleeping! Too bad if you wanted to watch it without being in the bed. I’m now in a regular, nice Hilton room. 

Honey, I’m home!

I went upstairs to the Mad Bear and Bishop pub for a pint of good English ale and was not disappointed. The Rugby World Cup was on the TV and it was fun to watch while enjoying my pint. The sign above shows when casks of ale were tapped (opened to allow some air in and start secondary fermentation) and when they were subsequently first served. Nice to see that kind of information and rare, too. I’ve never seen a sign like that before. 

I’m off Oxford and Reading for the day tomorrow.

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