Across the Pond

What an amazing day. Or two days. Just over 24 hours ago, I was saying goodbye to my friends in Portland. And now I’m sitting in a flat in London writing this blog. Here’s the details.

Shut Up and Eat Italian Grinder
Shut Up and Eat Italian Grinder

Before I left Portland, I had one last meal at Shut Up and Eat. Got the Italian Grinder again, which you can read all about in the last post. Suffice to say, it was just as good as the first time I had it.

My flight from PDX to LAX was a story in itself. I originally had 3 hours between arriving in LAX and departing on my next flight. But then I received a text in the morning that my flight had been delayed half an hour. And then another text that it was delayed another half an hour. Then another half an hour. Then I got a text that it was delayed a full hour. Which gave me only half an hour to get off my plane, pick up my checked-in baggage from the baggage claim, check in to my international flight and make it to the gate. So after a few minutes talking to the attendant, I had a flight on a different airline leaving immediately. I also had my $25 refunded for my checked bags, and the next airline had no check-in fee!

Then I arrived in LA. Which was interesting, as I never wanted to enter that city again. I got to see the smog, the endless sprawl, and a city that I’ve just spent too much time in. So I got off my plane and 20 minutes later I was at the gate for my next flight. With my bags picked up and checked in. I guess there is one thing good about that city. LAX is actually slightly, decently efficient.

Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner
Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner

The next flight was fantastic. Traveling on Norwegian Air, I got to fly on a new Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner. And it was definitely a dream. Among some of the features, it has great cabin pressure, it’s economical in fuel consumption (so it can fly direct from LAX to LGW), it has a built in Android tablet with tons of media (I watched 3 movies) and the windows (which are 60% bigger) have digital dimming, which made it great to watch the sun rise at 41,000 feet.

Sunrise at 41,000 feet
Sunrise at 41,000 feet (which can never be successfully captured with a point-and-shoot)

One piece of advice I would give for this airline is come prepared. While it is one of the cheapest flights I’ve ever seen from the US to Europe (just over $200 from LAX to London, and just under $200 from Seattle to Osl0), prices for in-flight purchases are outrageous. $4 for a can of coke, and $5 for a blanket. Not that I bought anything, but I wouldn’t want to see anyone else buy anything either. And I would definitely recommend bringing your own food too. The food on the plane is not that bad, but hardly sufficient for a 10 hour flight.

Bus from Airport
Bus from Airport

Then I touched down in Gatwick. My first time outside North America! FINALLY! I arrived in a nippy 8° Celsius and sunny skies. I bought my bus ticket to London, which brings me to my next piece of advice. Buy your bus ticket a week in advance, and print out your ticket. Tickets are about £2 a week early, and £9 the day of. The driver needs the hard copy to get paid for the trip, so he won’t accept your e-ticket. If you’re like me and don’t know that, you can always go to a car rental company, e-mail them your ticket and have them print it out to you. There are always ways to make things go right.

And finally, an hour and a half later, I was in London. And I was ecstatic. I’d been wanting to come to this city for most of my life, and I was finally here.

Walking Through Hyde Park
Walking Through Hyde Park

As I had only slept about two hours on the flight from LAX, I decided just to head straight to my couchsurfing host and call it a day. But to save on my precious money, I decided to walk the 11 km, which also afforded me more opportunity to see the city, including a wonderful stroll through Hyde Park. It also put me in a hail storm, and the first snow of the year. Which is exactly what I wanted. There’s a reason why I chose this time to travel. And I love snow. Plus it cooled me down while I trekked 11 km with a 20 kilo bag on my back. Oh yeah, I’m going to have to whittle down that weight, and fast, or I’m not going to survive this journey!

I arrived at my host at 6 PM, just as I predicted. What a great guy. 3 years training as an Israeli paratrooper, and a world traveler with nearly a dozen languages under his belt. Very accommodating. From what I can tell, he almost never doesn’t have a couchsurfer staying with him. Before me was a guy from Israel, before that was Sweden, I forgot who was before that, and there’s another guy arriving tomorrow. Now that’s a dedicated host. The only time he’s not hosting is when he’s traveling himself.

Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips

My night ended with a meal I’ve been dying for since I realized there was something better than what came out of my mom’s freezer. Real English fish and chips. Funny enough, I found it at an Indian restaurant only a block away from where I’m staying, and for only 5 quid! Dinner was delicious, I met a great friend, and even offered some advice to marketing his new restaurant, which he randomly asked me for as soon as I walked in. All those years studying marketing definitely paid off.

Italian Gelato
Italian Gelato

And if that wasn’t enough, I passed by a restaurant on the way back to my flat selling the most incredible displays of gelato I’d ever seen. And they serve crepes and Belgian waffles with all the trimmings, so I know what I’ll be getting for breakfast tomorrow morning.

Pizaza Pizza Parlor
Pizaza Pizza Parlor

The restaurants are definitely creative in London. There’s not a lot of space in the city, and the establishments are just as cramped as the flats. Here’s a great example of a pizza joint making the best of its tight quarters.

So that was my day (and a half). Not even 3pm Pacific Time, and I’m in bed barely keeping my eyes open to write this blog. Tomorrow I’ll go explore the city, and begin my travels in earnest.

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