London Day I and II

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 London 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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