London Day I and II

June 20th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The flight to Auckland was very amusing as I was in Row 1, which has no screens to view the Richard Simmons safety video on. So we got assigned a stewardess to talk us through the safety demo (not that I need it). Anyway we convinced here not to do the boring safety briefing but to emulate the Richard Simmons video, and she did. It was hilarious as she did all the moves and recited the words off by heart.

It turned out she was one of those who starred in the video, so no wonder she knew it well. It is one of the things I like about Air NZ, that their staff are friendly, and have personality.

Very happy to have my standby upgrades confirmed in Auckland. Slept most of the flight to Hong Kong. Had 90 minutes in Hong Kong, most of which was spent in the Thai Air lounge massage chair. Those things are seriously good.

Didn’t sleep on the flight to from HK, but got to see five movies and four TV episodes – plus emptied my e-mail inbox which had several hundred e-mails to file or reply to. There are some advantage to having no calls or incoming e-mails to distract your for a day.

At Heathrow had a stroke of luck as Anna’s plane landed at the same time as mine (was meant to land three hours earlier but was delayed), and we ran into each other in the luggage hall. As both our cellphones had flat batteries locating each other in the main terminal could have been challenging.

I had booked the rental car through Economy Car Rentals as they were so much cheaper. Basically 16 days rental for 450 pounds, including GPS. Their local partner was Easirent. We found out that they do not have an office at the airport. They send a car for you and take you to their office around 8 miles away. Office is not quite the right word – imagine a small piece of land, with a fence, and one of those portacom buildings in the corner of it. I started to work out how they get to rent for such a low price – almost no overheads.

Despite the cheapness of the lot, the car was fine. In fact it was brand new – only 300 miles on the odometer. The car was a Prius, which Anna (who votes Greens) was very happy about, while my focus was on more practical matters such as the fact there is no ignition key.

It takes a while to get used to a car with no ignition key – you just push the start button. It would be a bad key to leave unlocked somewhere. But once I got used to that, I have to say it handles very nicely and the built in GPS is excellent – even tells you which lane of traffic to be in for intersections.

Headed into Aldgate, staying at the Marlin Apartments there. Nice view from the 12th floor.

Caught up with Shane and Erica (whose wedding we have come over for) and after dinner went to two local pubs. The first was the Captain Kidd pub in Wapping, which has a garden bar next to the Thames. Very pleasant. Sadly the UK is third world with its closing times and despite being Saturday it closed around 11 pm.

We then popped into the Town of Ramsgate pub for a further hour. Both pubs are those classic English old pubs in neat brick buildings.

On Sunday went to Islington to try and arrange local connections for my Blackberry, iPad and laptop as paying roaming charges would bankrupt me quickly. Was planning to go to a Three store, but it was by a Vodafone store so I thought I would try them first as I was with Vodafone NZ for all three.

The store manager was brilliant, and he gave me just what I needed, for far less than I expected to pay.

For just 10 pounds I got a local sim card for the Blackberry which not just gives me free data for a month, but local prices for calls and texts. It is actually cheaper for me to call phones back in NZ from my cellphone in the UK, than it would be if I was back in NZ. A good reminder of how outrageously high local mobile charges are.

The iPad only cost 5 pounds to get me a mini-sim with 500 Mb of data. Compare that to $10/MB roaming charges.

The laptop was a bit more complex, as using a local sim would mean deleting my software for Vodafone NZ mobile connection back home. I decided to leave it as is, and just use hotel wireless.

If you are travelling to the UK in future for more than a few days, I absolutely recommend getting local sims. It will save you heaps.

People trying to contact me should note that my NZ phone number is effectively turned off for the next two weeks – calls and texts will not get through. If you need to call or text me, then e-mail me for the UK phone number.

Had a nice walk around Islington. They had a flea market operating so I hit the second hand bookseller’s stand. Islington is a very nice suburb – hadn’t been to it before.

Now back in Aldgate. A quiet dinner tonight and off to Cardiff tomorrow. We deliberately haven’t planned the trip in advance (apart from the wedding) – we choose each new location from the one before. So probably in Cardiff for a couple of nights and then might head to elsewhere in Wales.

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24 Responses to “London Day I and II”

  1. Longknives (4,744 comments) says:

    I miss English pubs….

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  2. Christopher Thomson (376 comments) says:

    You mean English Ale? The best I can remember is called ‘Doom Bar’. Far too easy to drink too much last New Years eve. Great times…

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  3. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    DPF- if you get the chance, check out http://www.inamo-restaurant.com in Regent St. Outstanding food, and the in-restaurant technology is very very cool. Everyone kiwi I’ve sent there has raved about the place & the concept. I should be on commission..!

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  4. Andrew (31 comments) says:

    Captain Kidd and the Prospect of Whitby were my 2 locals for 5 years. Great Pubs!

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  5. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    “The laptop was a bit more complex, as using a local sim would mean deleting my software for Vodafone NZ mobile connection back home.”
    Nowadays we use a 3G smartphone as a modem and ‘tether’ it to the laptop via bluetooth.
    Info here (if you have bluetooth on the lappy)
    http://www.3gtethering.com/

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  6. pdm (844 comments) says:

    I thought touring Scotland was part of the plan?

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  7. James Stephenson (2,177 comments) says:

    I once asked a Kiwi girl out after an evening at the Captain Kidd…13 years on we’re married and living in Auckland.

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  8. Bed Rater (239 comments) says:

    “It would be a bad key to leave unlocked somewhere”

    I thought those vehicles had a proximity key, that is, if the key/tab wasn’t in the vicinity of the car, the pushbutton start would do nothing.

    This marks the first time I’ve read a DPF personal post from start to finish.

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  9. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    ” For just 10 pounds I got a local sim card for the Blackberry which not just gives me free data for a month, but local prices for calls and texts. It is actually cheaper for me to call phones back in NZ from my cellphone in the UK, than it would be if I was back in NZ. A good reminder of how outrageously high local mobile charges are. ”

    I did more or less the same last time I was in London. fortunately my brother in law had a spare cell phone and a 10 pound pre pay connection ment that they could contact me without ringing my New Zealand Vodafone. As you say the call rates back to not only NZ but fairly much the rest of the world excluding the UK were very cheap from memory 8 pence a minute to NZ. I now consider taking a second cell phone when traveling a golden rule.

    London brother in law recently sent me another must have travel item a ” Power Monkey ” that pretty much allows you to recharge your gadgets on the spot. From the marketing stuff on the Power Monkey case.

    ” Imagine you’re on an important business trip and you have left your mobile phone charger at home, or trekking through Thailand about to take that life defining picture and your camera dies…”

    Actually it is a very good product. You not only get connections for every known device in the world I suspect, but also the adapters to recharge the Power Monkey just about anywhere in the world.

    Wellington sister ( very technology literate ) has already made it clear London brother in law, about, but not quite as useless as me when it comes to technology made a huge mistake and the Power Monkey was actually bought for her. She is of course correct as London sister will happily attest and London brother in law caught between a wife ( London ) and sister in law ( Wellington ) and me will choose the only sensible option. I am the temporary owner of a Power Monkey.

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  10. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    Quite rightly Farrar hasn’t mentioned the piss poor weather here at the moment during our supposed summer. Rain and gloomy grey. I hope it improves soon!

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  11. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    And yes, mobile connections and service much cheaper because we have and encourage competition here. Everything is cheaper here except public transport (expensive due to union control) and housing – but only in London.

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  12. Nigel (514 comments) says:

    That was a good deal for the iPad, I paid 10 quid for 500 Mb of data ( full size sim, u2 and vodafone ) Basically the same price as in nz with telecom, i really was surprised that uk cell prices were so high as they were when was there a few months back, though back then the weather really was fantastic.

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  13. Jeff83 (745 comments) says:

    One of the advantages of the new generation Android phones over the Iphone is you can use it as a modem for your computer (either through a cable or tell it to create a wireless network which you can log into). Means you only need to get one simcard when roaming.

    You would think with the EU and UK being so close roaming charges would be more reasonable, but they aint. Data is pretty extragant (not as bad as using it in Turkey, £20 in 1 min of google maps!).

    Final pointer would be to avoid Orange and its sister company in the UK. They are incredibly slow.

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  14. libertyscott (359 comments) says:

    Excellent, the UK needs some hard currency. NZers should come over and spend the fickle commodity price (and NZ must be like Australia currency dealer attitudes) NZ$ to help rescue the heavily depreciated pound.

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  15. Mike Johnson (44 comments) says:

    Everything is cheaper here except public transport

    What? London’s public transport is very affordable. I never visit without my Oyster card. Never use anything but public transport in London. How do you get around?

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  16. Mike Johnson (44 comments) says:

    You would think with the EU and UK being so close roaming charges would be more reasonable, but they aint.

    The UK is part of the EU.

    Data is pretty extragant (not as bad as using it in Turkey, £20 in 1 min of google maps!).

    Turkey is not in the EU, though wants to be.

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  17. ephemera (557 comments) says:

    @Jeff83

    The iPhone supports internet tethering. Simply go to Settings/General/Network to enable this function through USB or Bluetooth.

    The iPhone can also be turned into a wireless hotspot with the MiWi app, which is available on jailbroken handsets.

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  18. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    @ Mike Johnson you are taking the piss eh? Public transport is the most expensive in the world for what you get for it. The price increases over this decade have been astronomical. The Oyster Card is cheaper than cash fares by all means – but compared to the networks of Europe, Asia and the US, it’s a rip off. Same with the bus network.

    Sure it’s easy to just walk, as too many people forget how close everything is in Central London, but it aint cheap bro.

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  19. Clint Heine (1,570 comments) says:

    250% more expensive than the Tokyo network Mike… http://www.londontourist.org/transport.html

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  20. Nigel (514 comments) says:

    Cash price on the underground is 10 times the price in Singapore, oyster drops that to only 5 times ( 4 quid vs 2.4 from memory, $1 sing for a single ride ).

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  21. Rich Prick (1,701 comments) says:

    Try a pound per minute on the Heathrow Express. Which leaves me on the wrong side of town and a five pound tube ride to contend with. These days I have a company car collect me, sod London’s public transport.

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  22. poneke (280 comments) says:

    Try a pound per minute on the Heathrow Express. Which leaves me on the wrong side of town

    I wouldn’t dream of getting that expensive train. I take the tube to and from Heathrow. Gets me exactly where I want to go.

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  23. Jeff83 (745 comments) says:

    I realise Turkey is not in the EU, it was why I used it as a point of comparison, rates in EU roaming are limited by law over here, where as in Turkey being out of the EU they aint, and the result is pretty extortionate.

    As for cost of public transport, highest in the EU, but its because like NZ in the 90s nothing was invested on it, so it got overloaded and now it needs very expensive upgrades. It is when you need to use trains however going out of the tube area that things get expensive. On the positive using public transport is still cheaper than running a car back home.

    Only things that are really expensive over here are rent, petrol and movies. Apart from those most things are cheaper than NZ, but more expensive than Europe (except junk food which is stupidly cheap here, like 40p for a chocolate bar / crisps).

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  24. beautox (422 comments) says:

    I suppose a Prius is OK if you want to reduce emissions of harmless CO2, while stinking up the planet with Cadmium and other heavy metals.

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