Cheers, England – I’m Back

If you’ve read about my past trips, you know I fly Virgin Atlantic whenever possible. Their staff is great, the aircraft is well-outfitted, and the amenities are outstanding. Thank goodness for frequent-flyer mile upgrades! My flight Tuesday night did not disappoint and we arrived at Heathrow airport near London 30 minutes early. There was a huge crowd in the Border-Customs area, but we 1st Classers get a pass to the “Fast Track” lane, significantly easing the pain.

Over the years, almost every arrival here for me has been followed by a connecting flight a few hours later to Paris, Amsterdam, or wherever. So it was very relaxing to know that this time I had no deadline to meet after arriving at Heathrow. The Virgin Revivals Lounge was my home for a few hours and then, when I was ready, I caught the RailAir bus to Reading.

It ride was very smooth, the ticket was inexpensive (17 pounds), and the bus is quite comfortable. Forty-five minutes later I was checking into the Novotel Hotel in Reading.

When I moved to Reading eight years ago, the Novotel was my first home and office for a few weeks. It’s a nice, though not expensive, hotel with some weird European design stuff going on (the toilet’s in a different, tiny room that’s not near the “bathroom”,  funky sink design, etc.). But the staff is great, the location can’t be beat, the bed is comfortable, and the breakfast buffet is first rate.

After decompressing a bit, taking a shower, and ignoring the racoon-like dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, I went up to the central train station to get my Rail Pass validated. This pass, available to tourists only, allows unlimited train rides over a certain number of days and is very economical.

While at the station, I stopped into the nearby Three Guineas pub for my first English ale of the trip (Butcombe’s Rare Breed Pale Ale, 3.8%) and wound up in a conversation with two retired railroad guys. Now, before I left the U.S. I’d read that American tourists were being asked during their vacations about Donald Trump. So, I wondered just how long it would be before I had to do some “Trumpsplaining”. Well, it was only 1 hour and 15 minutes after I hit Reading. The two railroad guys and I had a jolly conversation about politics and the Nature of Man for about 30 minutes. They were fun to talk to and the beer was tasty.

I then dashed over to O’Neills pub to meet my former colleague and friend, Mike Mather. We talked business and the politics of both our countries. Mike is a great guy with tons of enthusiasm and he’s always overflowing with get-rich ideas. It was great to see him.

After bidding Mike goodbye, I strolled around Reading and let the nostalgia wash over me. It was great to live here and it’s always nice to come back and see its antique building facades and pedestrianized mall area.Eventurally, I grabbed a small pasta dinner at Ask Italia and returned to the hotel. I managed to keep myself awake until 9 pm before falling into what I hoped would be a deep and rejuvenating sleep. Tomorrow: Highclere Castle.

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