This morning came a bit to early I think. Darcy and Layla were dead to the world and even the prospect of breakfast hardly woke them. Our hotel stay included a nice full breakfast, not terribly different from food in the states, but with the addition of baked eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, various sausages, real Cheddar cheese and various other variations on what we’re used to.
I took a quick drive into town to get a SIM card for the iPad. Must remember to look right before pulling out. If you’ve driven on the wrong side of the road you’ll know what I mean. I think I’m getting the hang of the road system here; I owe my time and the National Lab a thank you for acclimatizing me to roundabouts.
Today is going to be a high of 60 in Canterbury and Ramsgate. We’re looking for a lunch spot called Peter’s that has the “best fish and chips.” Judgement reserved. Then after a leisurely day we head back to the far side of London for our hotel before heading to Hampton Court Palace tomorrow.
More to come from the road.
Our touchdown in Gatwick (London) was uneventful. We headed out a Peter speed (I have long legs and like to walk fast) only to find that most of the disembarked passengers from our plan were keeping up with us. This never happens, anywhere, ever. It was somewhat akin to the experience we had at CPH where I was surrounded by tall, mostly blond, people such that I didn’t feel tall. Refreshing; change.
One other difference between the UK and the US. Their signs are horrible. Seriously, after the airport and the drive to Maidstone tonight I am convinced that these people just like messing with tourists. Such a signage fiasco took us on a tour of the airport in order to find the passport station for people not from the EU. We had to fill out forms and answer questions very unlike Denmark where they just let us in.
Once through all the mess we found ourselves at National picking up our brand new Vauxhall diesel. At that point it was starting to hit me that I was going to have to learn to drive on the wrong side of the road while navigating a foreign country, operating a stick shift left-handed, read crazy road signs and generally figure out what the heck I had gotten myself into. The gentleman at National was nice enough to give me a map to Tesco, where I would be able to get a SIM for me iPad, and then I’d be able to get data and navigation so we could find our way to Maidenstone before 10pm.
Wrong. I still don’t have working cellular data and it took us an extra 2 hours to find our hotel (remember when I said I hated the signs here?). Luckily, we found a couple of guys leaving a pub who were enthralled with us being Americans and seemingly unable to understand why we’d leave California to visit their “shit hole.” They let us follow them and we made it to the hotel in short order. Thus far, everyone has been very friendly and I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t want to visit.
Upon arrival at the Hilton Maidstone we were greeted with a nice note from the manager, two micro bottles of Australian Cabernet and Shiraz and some Pringles. How did they know I like Salt and Vinegar, but more importantly how did they choose the pairing of Salt and Vinegar crisps with a Cabernet and a Shiraz? I thought a Merlot might have been more up to the task, but oh well. Further, someone went above and beyond to make an origami elephant out of a towel just for Layla. All in all add in a hot shower and we had a nice ending to a long 2 days of travel.
After arrival at CPH we quickly made for the metro to Copenhagen proper. Layla and I both received our first passport stamps. With only 7 hours until our flight and less until we had to be back at the airport a quick tour was in order. Up first was figuring out how to use the Metro ticketing system and a Chip and PIN credit card.
With that under our belt the actual trip was not dissimilar to a ride on BART, sans turnstiles. We rode eight stops to King’s Square (Konegs Nyvorsten?) and withdrew some Dannish Kronnor from an ATM. Aside from everything being about 50% more expensive and there being all dollars with no cents, it works the same.
We took a canal boat tour for about an hour (pictures to come when I can access the DSLR camera at a hotel). We met three very nice Swedes who were in Copenhagen for a Depeche Mode concert tonight. The had an extra ticket and I think Darcy had to think seriously about joining them and missing the flight to London.
After the canal tour we found a canal-side eatery. Layla was still not feeling quite well so we got her a tea and bread while Darcy and I split the fish an potatoes pictured above. We told each other we’re try the herring sandwiches on our way back through Denmark at the end of our voyage. Our meal devoured and a small, yet American tip left for our server (as it feels strange not to tip) and we made our way back to the metro with a quick stop along the way for some impromptu art (I’ll also upload those pictures later from the DSLR).
What we encountered at the Metro was cause for panic. Denmark is rather bilingual but when the Danish description if something over a loudspeaker is obviously multiple sentences and the English version is “everything is fine, the train will be here soon” then you know you’re in for it. Evidently there was a train stuck on the tracks just outside the airport.
Layla was nearly trampled more than once by otherwise well meaning people as we waited in no less than three different stations along the route. I think they were trying to disperse the crowd over various stops. We made it to the airport will only an hour before our flight and had to clear baggage check-in (Norwegian only allows a single piece of carry-on), security, passport check, the half-mile of duty-free mall shipping and out gate check-in in 30 minutes. Surprisingly we made it just in time thanks to nice agents at check-in who ushered those on our flight to the front on the line and a security agent who gave me the choice of throwing away my water bottle or chugging 1.5 liters of water. I opted for the later and may yet regret that decision if there is a line for the bathroom on the flight.
To our pleasant surprise, the Norwegian flight, which charges for our bags and every beverage on-board provides free wifi Internet in-flight. And with that I think I’ll take a nap.
Me not fitting in a Scandinavian airplane bathroom (I thought these guys were tall too?)
We’ve just passed over the island nation of England while eating breakfast. Yeah, sandwiches again. While SAS couldn’t have known we had sandwiches for lunch and first dinner yesterday both, the sight of another cold sandwich was a bit disappointing. That said, the American carriers could learn a thing or two about air travel customer services from the Scandinavians. What a difference between the two aircraft and the style of service.
Our Airbus A300 is probably 20 years newer than the ancient 757-200 we flew from SFO to EWR. While neither fits my 6’5″ frame well, SAS made an effort to provide a bit more than the a Greyhound bus with wings. Darcy’s low fat meals were served before regular meals and dinner came promptly, albeit at 11:30pm. We caught Jack the Giant Slayer on the personal video screens while Layla watched Rio. Tuck in with a blanket and we were woken to breakfast a few hours later. Aside from the obligatory sandwich, Greek yogurt and coffee (pronounced cafe by the swedes) were a nice treat regardless of what time we were pretending it is.
And then we landed, in style. Unfortunately no barf bag could be found so Layla left bits of her sandwich all over me, her backpack, herself and the plane. Once cleaned up here we all are upon arrival.
We’re sitting on the plane in Newark waiting for the throngs of people to clear so we can proceed on to the next stage of our journey. I’m finding TripIt to be quite handy. As I sit here typing it notifies me of which gate our next flight departs from and that we have 2 hours and 4 minutes before we get stuck in Newark forever. I’ve never been to Newark but it doesn’t sound like where I want to spend my vacation.
Layla handled the last 6 hours like a champ. She says that “flying is exciting” and wants to know if she sounds weird. Her ears must be plugged still.
I forgot to order a UK SIM card for my iPad before we left so I’ll get to figure that out on the fly. I also have no idea what we’re going to do for 6 hours in Copenhagen tomorrow between flights.
The family was treated with a nice home cooked breakfast by Papa, Darcy’s father, this morning. The spicy breakfast burritos were a nice added touch. Part 1 of today’s trip was an uneventful drive to the Concord BART station. I learned that children Layla’s age are entitled to a discount on BART to tickets — if you can find an attendant, as the machines do not sell them. (Oh, you can buy them via mail)
Layla’s first ride on BART (part 2) was exciting, quickly followed by boredom. Dad came to the rescue with a movie on the iPad. The better part of an hour later had us on and off the tram (part 3) quickly moved trough check-in and security at SFO. A bite to eat and here we sit in the first of two planes waiting for everyone to finish boarding. United no longer offers pre-boarding for families with children…
A final bit of wisdom imparted by our flight attendant, “sometimes it is just best to step away from the mess!”
Today saw us as far as the in-laws’ home in Davis, CA. Darcy looked at me knowingly as we drove out of Elk Grove and commented that this was the first trip we’ve taken in almost 14 years where we haven’t bickered over something as we packed the car and left town. Strange that this trip is much bigger than anything we’ve attempted before. Hopefully we got it all packed; I suppose we’ll find out what we missed when we need it.
Today is Day 0, as we officially depart for Europe tomorrow. By this time tomorrow I think we’ll be boarding our trans-Atlantic voyage from lovely Newark to Copenhagen, Denmark. Cross your fingers for us.
Sitting here in Davis, downloading movies for the long plane ride, I’m listening to Layla talk with her Nana. Of particular note is the conversation about whether or not you can feel tomorrow coming. I’m reminded of my intense excitement as a child around her age waiting for things like Christmas morning. I didn’t sleep well last night, I can only image that Layla woken up every bit as often as I did.
Every day I think we’ll be planning a few days out in advance. Tonight I reserved tickets to the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour, London – Harry Potter. Evidently it is an amazing 3 hour tour of many of the sets used filming the movies. I know Layla will be amazed. You can check it out here.