06.04.2012 - 06.04.2012
Friday 6 April 2012
Friday night - got through check in at melbourne and timed it nicely to get onto the plane. The first leg of the trip to Singapore went by with me sleeping a good deal of the way. The seats were roomy, with enogh room for my big bum to fit comfortably and not to feel I was encroaching on the space of the next person. Plenty of leg room, but remember that I have duck's disease and ergo do not need much space.
I changed seat bookings when I checked in online and had the very back seat of the plane on the middle row of seats, on an aisle seat. There was room to move in the back galley area and I got up four or more times to walk and exercise my legs. Had no problem with swelling, or stiffening or anything else with my knees or feet. Amazing as I fully expected issues. I was very with how easily I was getting around, thanks to good shoes.
The cabin crew were plentiful and very nice. Food was good, although it never seemed to arrive when I considered it meal times, mostly because I became unaware of what time it was.
PHOTO - DIDN'T TAKE LONG TO NOTICE THIS ON THE STREET IN EARLS COURT
My only small criticism was that there wasn't a great deal of selection in movies and television shows to watch on such a long haul flight. There were plenty of video games though which kept me amused for a while. I found there was more of a need to keep the mind busy as the body was too inactive.
Would I recommend Singapore airlines. You bet. I spoke with a couple that I met on the tube coming in from the airport. They flew Etihad and said it was good, but room was limited. I felt that Singapore offered a good deal of space, given that it's a plane and space is a premium concern. However, after about hour ten in the air, no amount of room was going to be enough, particular for me as I like and need plenty of personal space. My thanks to Marian Tobin in particular for her information on her experiences that helped me choose a good airline.
I arrived at Singapore airport at 5.00 am and walked off the plane into humid weather. With a four hour stop over I didn't have the opportunity to get out of the airport terminal. However there was a lovely impression left from my short visit, mostly by the tidy and neat airport with it's lush treed surrounds.
I headed for the loo, as you do when you get off the plane. I was struck by the opulance afforded to the facilities, marble look sink tops, plants, some with lounge seats in the waiting area. I walked into the last cubicle and was stopped short in my tracks. Behold, in front of me was a traditional sink pit toilet (porcelin hole in the ground). I looked at it, then at the conveniently placed shower hose beside it, possibly for cleaning the toilet and yourself, or both? I thought to myself, 'not going to happen, Kez', and moved to the next cubicle. Yes, it was a western toilet, to my relief..... literally.
I was on my way out when I saw a video screen with pink smiley faces, asking for input into what I thought of the airport toilets. I touched the 'Excellent' smiley, all the while thinking, 'you wouldn't find one of these screens in Australia'. Maybe we should take a leaf out of Singapore's book when it comes to public facilities
I walked the twenty minutes from my landing gate to the departure area for my London flight. The airport is huge, very airy and full of shops and businesses. The airport staff run passengers up and down the terminal via big golf carts, which gave me the giggles everytime I saw one. The first one I saw sat six people and had a flashing light on a pole. The people sitting on it had bright orange jackets as they sped past. I know I watch too many movies because it was just like a scene out of Austin Powers, with the electronic cart being the same type. Made me chuckle for ages.
I sat and read for a while and then went off for a walk to explore. I found the butterfly house, a two storey arberitum type environment, filled with butterflies. It was a little like the forest walk at the Melbourne Museum. It's free, as a lot of the children's entertainment areas are, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
I thought the 7.5 hours to Singapore was long, but oh my goodness, the human body is not designed to sit for 23 hours. The 15 hour flight to London seemed to take forever. It wasn't bad, just tedious because of the lack of inactivity. I sat with a young couple from Brisbane (Kenmore) and we got on well. It was her first visit to London but her boyfriend had lived there for 18 months. We spent most of the time watching videos, documentaries and using the computer consule for amusement. I slept on and off, and the flight went on and on and on.
When the stewardesses brought around the heated towels early in the flight I thought it was polite, but unnecessary. However, the heated towels were refreshing and quite welcome as the flight went on.
Arriving in London, finally, on a overcast and cool day. 16 degrees, although not that cold. Retrieved my case and was not surprised to find it slightly dented. Could have been worse as it was one of the last out and I was becoming concerned that it had gone on holiday somewhere else.
Getting through customs was pretty quick. When you enter the room there are about forty consules to service passengers, with the rest of the huge room full of nothing but barriers for the lines of people to use. I thought it a bit of overkill until with only about 100 people in front of us, but within ten minutes of our flight lining up, the room was almost half full of people. The wait to get through could have taken an hour or so if the line filled up.
Singapore was a big airport that makes Melbourne look small in comparison. Heathrow is enormous, with trains to get from one terminal to the others. I asked which line would take me to Earls Court and then went down to wait on the platform. I met a family from Sydney who asked if I knew which train went to Earls Court, I gave them the advice I was given and then was asked by a gentleman who didn't speak much English, how to get to Earls Court. I decided that I must have that look of 'I know where I'm going' about me, despite the case and backpack I was carting around.
PHOTO - TYPICAL OLD BUILDING IN LONDON
I kept saying to myself that I'm in another country, but it didn't sink in as the train was travelling. The scenery could have been anywhere in Melbourne, However, as we moved closer to Earls Court, it was the chimney tops that gave me that certain feeling that I was somewhere new. The chimneys are very different here, with that Mary Poppins look about the skyline. The chimneys have multiple ceramic pipes atop them, giving the tops of buildings a very unique look. I then saw the most lovely streets and classic old houses all alike. Neat and wonderful to look at as I travelled.
PHOTO - LOVELY OLD ARCHITECTURE
The other thing that finally convinced me that I was indeed in London - the accents. The rhythmic sound of a few different areas around London came though in the snippets of conversation drifting through the carriage. I would not have been surprised to see the cameras as it felt like a scene from Eastenders. Quite a few Jamacian accents too.
It was an easy trip to Earls Court, which is jam packed with closely built shops and houses, and very popular with ex-pat Aussies. I heard the Australian accent every few minutes which was noteworthy given that there was a lot of tourist in and around Earl's Court speaking a myriad of languages.
PHOTO - ANCIENT CHURCH ON GLOUCESTER ROAD
The hotel was easy to find. All the houses in the street are the same. The West Cromwell has a blue awning and the others don't. Simple to find. The Romanian desk clerk was very nice and helped me with the bags up the stairs. There is a lift, but so far I've coped with the steep stairs.
I was prepared for a small room, as these houses are old and rooms were never big. However, I have shoes that live in bigger boxes than my room. I'm not complaining, just saying it's so very tiny. For some weird reason you open the door to a small antechamber and then have to open another door into the room itself. You can't open both together as there isn't enough space. On the plus side is the big bathroom, which is clean and has a good shower.
I had brought ear plugs with me as the road outside was six lanes wide. To my utter astonishment, the quiet was almost absolute, with only the odd siren noticeable. I woke at 3.00 am as my body clock was running on some other time zone. At about 4.30 am the blackbirds were loud and persistent, singing their beautiful melody outside the window. Such an English sound but one I didn't expect to hear in the city.
One of the first notable noises in London is the almost constant srens. Police, ambulance, fire, all going off regularly as they speed through impossible gaps in the traffic. The roads are very narrow. It's a marvel how all the buses, and there are hundreds, not just a few, make their way around without collecting a taxi or a car. The on and off bus came so close to the cars in the next lane that you could almost see what the driver had for lunch if he yawned.
PHOTO - SOME OF THE SMALL BUT PRETTY FLOWER BEDS
I was struct by how clean such a big city could be. I am in a nice area so this may not be the same for the rest of London. There are rubbish bins in homes, but most of them put their rubbish on the pavements in plastic bin bags for council retrieval.
I took a walk to Tesco's, a supermarket not more than a hundred metres from the hotel. It's a huge double story building with supermarket lines, computers, and electronics and upstairs is a bookshop, dvd and giftware shop and a coffee shop. I was pleasantly surprised at the large range of fruit and vegetables and the deli lines went on and on over more than four counters. I had fresh blueberries and raspberries with cream for supper, which was delicious.