Journey to London

Last Hours in Venice

I woke up shortly before 6am to the sound of seagulls outside our window. Matt opened the wooden shutters to reveal a sunny, clear sky day!

We had breakfast and tidied up the apartment. I took the garbage and recycling down to the “Trash Boat” in the canal behind our apartment. There was a garbage man overseeing the boat and nodded to me as I signalled to my bag and the boat. I tossed our bags into the boat and it bobbed in the water.

Photo of a boat in Venice

School children and teenagers were on their way to school. One little boy was singing Beethoven as his mum walked him, holding his hand. Another bounced around the pathway with a red balloon. Locals were out walking their little dogs – or letting them run wild to chase the pigeons!

Once our bags were completely packed, we walked down to the bakery. Matt loaded us up on cookies, we got two savoury tarts, some olive focaccia, an almond croissant, and I picked out a little pistachio cake. We did one last walk through the apartment before leaving our keys on the table and heading down to the ferry dock.

Photo of a canal in Venice

Alilaguna Ferry to the Airport

We took the 9:02am B ferry to the airport. I amused myself snapping my last shots of Venice on my camera before our boat came. We were first in line – which is just as well as the boat left practically as soon as we boarded. We felt sorry for anyone who had been stuck at the back of the line! There were a number of seats left on the boat, including some at the very front. We nabbed those two, enjoying what view we could through the splotchy windows.

Marco Polo Airport

Soldiers with big guns were strolling up and down the airport ferry dock. Both Matt and I couldn’t help but stare at those guns, the soldier’s fingers posed on the trigger.

We took the escalator up to the moving sidewalk with classical music playing all the way. The entrance to the security check was right at the exit – and it was the most chill place ever! There was no lineup and the staff were in no hurry to get people through.

My bags didn’t get flagged this time, but they had me skip the metal detector and a female staff member gave me a very thorough pat down. “Do you need a smoke after that?” Matt joked with a smile.

We picked up some souvenir gifts at the Duty Free and wandered around the airport. It was small, quiet, and no one seemed to be in a rush to get anywhere. Food was very expensive, so we were happy to have our goods from the bakery with us! We found a table overlooking the airstrip and ate our olive focaccia with cheese as a snack, with pastries for dessert!

When our gate was called, we had to go through a passport checkpoint – but as with the rest of the airport, there was no lineup and staff were blasé. When our group was called, we took a shuttle bus to the plane.

Photo of a plane wing and the Alps from a plane window

Flight to London

Our row was situated between animated Italian seat kickers and a loud, whiney, entitled American preteen boy. His sunburnt father was totally disengaged and his mother (who had a Tinkerbell tattoo) was exasperated. My noise cancelling headphones did nothing… On the bright side, the sun was warm on my face and the Alps looked beautiful outside the plane window.

Matt and I had a picnic on the plane, finishing off our bakery goods from this morning. I worked on writing some postcards and Matt watched a movie to bide the time.

Gatwick Airport

Security at Gatwick wasn’t as easy breezy as Italy, but we beat the lineup! Once we had cleared customs we went to buy our train ticket to London. The Gatwick Express was a whopping £37.50! Ouch. They also sold Oyster cards for the London tube (subway) for a £5 deposit. The seller put £10 on each, which would get us started in London. It was handy to have it all done at the same desk.

Gatwick Express

The Italian ladies next to us bought tickets for the wrong train. Apparently there is a similar train that does the milk run for £3.20 less.

The train took us through the English countryside bordered by green houses, community garden plots, little houses, and white blossoms in the trees. Many houses had yellow forsythia and pink magnolia trees abloom in their yard – and a few had what looked like palm trees too! It is so nice to see spring flowers after such a cold winter back home.

The countryside melted away to condos and old stone townhouses shortly before Battersea. There were cranes and towers as far as the eye could see! Before we knew it we were at Victoria Cross Station. We got off the train and followed Apple Maps to our hotel.

Blades Hotel

Blades Hotel was down a long quaint street of classic white English townhouses. Our hotel was just like I expected – also classic. It was oddly laid out with the reception on the third floor and lots of stairs, but very quiet and sunny. The receptionist was full of traveller advice on where to go and what to do! She was very friendly.

The Tube

I left Matt to have a nap. I walked towards Pimlico Station, savouring all the spring flowers that I passed. London was in full bloom everywhere I looked and smelt stunningI felt so free and happy.

The tube felt like home – and it was rush hour! Just like PRESTO back home, I swiped my Oyster card and followed the signs to the train to Oxford Street. I enjoyed studying the transit ads on my way – many which advertising similar things as back home. Just different how have to tap off here.

Oxford Circus

Oxford Circus was indeed a circus! The streets were chalk full of people! I was very happy I’d preloaded GPS directions to my destination as there were so many shops and people everywhere! I quite appreciated how they had “Look right” painted below each crosswalk.

John Lewis on Oxford Street

Of all the sights and experiences of London, the thing I looked forward to most was… picking up our stroller wheel caps! The stroller I have chosen for our baby is fully customizable from top to bottom. I found the wheel caps I wanted at a deep discount online at John Lewis department store – a fraction of its cost in Canada! I was very excited and had preordered them for in-store pickup before we left on our trip.

I eventually found John Lewis, passing numerous Babyzen Yoyo+ strollers and one Bugaboo. The Customer Collect counter was in the very back corner past gorgeous menswear and a florist. The woman called up my order and I eagerly awaited my new wheels!

Wheel caps in my bag, I mopped up quickly to the nursery floor to oogle over the furniture, baby gear, and strollers. I’d never seen so many tastefully designed baby items in a single place before! I merrily built a fantasy nursery in my mind, gave my favourite stroller on display a gleeful little push, then went back to the hotel for dinner.

The Hunt for Dinner

The receptionist had enthusiastically recommended a bunch of pubs and restaurants in the neighbourhood. We went to the White Swan first, but it was loud and crowded with the afterwork crowd. Then we went to Pimlico Tandori, but it didn’t open until 6pm. Next we went to CASK, but it was so popular that the sidewalk all around the brewpub was full of people overflowing into the street. So, we decided to go to a place not our receptionist’s list, but had good reviews on Yelp: the Gallery.

Photo of bangers and mash at the Gallery Pub in London

Gallery Pub

The Gallery was a regular pub, with two floors of seating and listed as a one pound price point on Yelp. You ordered and paid at the counter and they played nothing but artists from the UK. When Sail Away came on, the table next to us started signing along. I’d never heard anyone be so enthusiastic about Enya!

Matt ordered fish and chips and I had the bangers and mash. We both enjoyed our food. I’d had a hankering for sausages for over a week! With a lager, it came to £32.40. We googled CAD to GPB and balked: £1 = $0.56! So basically we need to double every pound we see from now on. Bread and cheese for the rest of the trip!

Photo of a red phone booth at night

Night Walk

I was feeling nervous about our early morning bus tour tomorrow, so we went to scope it out ahead of time. Google Maps brought us to a car dealership at the Victoria Coach Terminal, which didn’t seem right. Inside the terminal was an Information desk with a very friendly cockney fellow who answered everyone’s questions with a big smile. I showed him the address I was trying to find, and he happily pointed me around the side to Evan Evans booth. “You check-in there tomorrow and they will tell you what gate to go to! They open at 7:30.”

I felt very relieved to have that all sorted! Matt suggested we do some nighttime sightseeing, so we walked down to Buckingham Palace. After some snapshots, we walked along St. James Park to the Supreme Court, Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, then along the Thames and back home. It was just short of 7km and both our feet ached by the end of it!

We climbed three flights of stairs (more like six with all the landings) to our hotel room and collapsed in bed. I fell asleep right away and did not wake up until 5am the following morning – 6am Venice time!