Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tactical Error and politically incorrect baggage

Well, leg one of the great trek to sub Saharan Africa is under way. Pretty much uneventful flight from Phoenix to Heathrow yesterday if you discount the packed plane and problems with the cooling system. I've mentioned before that I'm the queen of the traveling light tribe - not this trip! family, and especially 20 month old Maxine, had shopping lists to be filled with essential items not available in Ethiopia (was surprised to find a cocktail shaker on the essential list) so I've gone from a one bag and my small backpack to three creeping in at the weight limit bags to check plus my carry on. Since I'm breaking this outbound trip with a visit to my brother in England BA would not/could not check the heavy stuff onto Addis Ababa so I'm stuck with an excess baggage bill for each leg of the trip. Furthermore had the schlepp the whole load to left luggage at Heathrow and face a bill close to $100 to retrieve it on Saturday when I continue the journey - that and I checked it at terminal five but leave from terminal one. Woe is me but I'll figure it out.
Took a mini bus that I pre-booked from Heathrow to Kings cross station on a glorious early summer afternoon. ( - really good a reasonably priced door to airport services throughout the greater metropolitan London area.) London looked beautiful; great views of Parliament, The London Eye and the Thames. Traffic was much lighter too now that a lot of vehicles are deterred from central city by the "congestion" tax. Also got an earful from the driver on the hot topic here - namely members of parliament abusing the system to claim for all sorts of housing expenses not really related to their need to live in London. Seems politicians look out for themselves world wide!
Ran afoul of the mysterious pricing system for rail tickets at Kings Cross. I had a choice - leave within 45 minutes for Grantham at a cost in excess of $100 or wait an additional 45 minutes and travel for $40. I waited and was pleased to find a spotlessly clean and guarded (?) waiting room. The ticket seller advised me that I could apply for a 'rail card" that would give me a senior discount. Great, I thought - "how long will that take?" - "about six weeks" was the response.

It's light until about 9 p.m. here now and the train ride was through lovely rural countryside...great patches of yellow blooming rape creating a brilliant contrast to green fields ...a genuine feast for the eyes of a desert dweller. The English countryside is truly beautiful. Long walk with brother and dog planned for later this afternoon. It feels good to be here with family.

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