Day 1/2 - 15-16 Sep,
The first day of the 2016 edition of our seemingly annual pilgrimage to Europe was taken up with our similarly standard route - QF1, Sydney to London. While spending around 22 hours in a cigar tube in the sky is not everyone’s idea of a fun time, the Airbus 380 certainly eases the pain, as does the thought of the seven month journey in leaky sailing ships endured by the early colonists (and convicts) to cover the same journey. I think it’s better our way!
A comfortable flight, excellent service from the Qantas cabin crew, a few good movies and an unexpectedly solid five hours of sleep, all combined to make the flight unusually good. Even the meals, while not spectacular, were on the good side of satisfactory.
As a result, we arrived at London Heathrow on 16 Sep., tired but not totally exhausted, in good humour and ready for a smooth transit of the capital to our friend in Kent. Sadly, our happy expectations were rapidly shattered. We cleared immigration and collected our bags in good time, despite the multiple planeloads of aliens clamouring for simultaneous entry, and made our way to the ticket machine at the Heathrow rail station to collect our pre-paid tickets to Gravesend.
Annoyingly, all machines were out of order, but the helpful staff at the Heathrow Express (HE) counter advised us that the underground staff would let us through on the strength of our voucher and that we could then collect our tickets at King’s Cross station for the balance of our journey. No way! After dragging our bags to the underground station, we were sternly refused entry and referred back to the HE counter. The HE staff consented, after a brief battle, to allow us free travel to Paddington where we tried once - no three times - to again collect our tickets from fiendish, uncooperative machines. OK, total technology fail, so off we went to see totally disinterested humans who, to give them credit, rapidly solved our problem and sent us on our way.
Despite record hot September weather, just 48 hours previously, London managed to welcome us with it’s more familiar clouds and rain. So much rain, in fact, that the ever-reliable Underground struggled to cope and our trip to St Pancras Station was sufficiently delayed that we missed our intended train. Now, a half hour delay in a journey that spans the globe is hardly something to whinge about, but the broken machines, poor communications and worse problem management, all contrived to leave a somewhat disappointed feel to the last leg of the journey.
Nevertheless, Rosemary soon fixed everything in her usual high-energy way. A cup of coffee, a good lunch and a stroll around town - in the rain! - soon washed away the cobwebs and set us up for a lovely stay.