Mind the Gap…in Service

After leaving Cabourg in Normandy where my transportation was limited and dependent on my friend, I was really looking forward to being alone in London where I could continue my work of regaining my balance and be able to get around on my own.

FAT CHANCE.

Well, I exaggerate. I can get around here, but it is an exercise in frustration. In Texas, one drives everywhere. In Paris, the Metro is seamless and convenient, unless you want to travel after 1am. In London…O.M.G!

It started Friday when I arrived in Portsmouth on the Brittany Ferry from Normandy. The fast one, so it only took four hours. Four hours of screaming, sea sick kids, turns out. So I ended up sitting out on the back open-air deck on the concrete floor where the sound of the motors propelling through the Channel drowned out everything else but Beethoven in my ears. Yep. $150 ticket to sit on the floor.

When planning my trip back to the UK online, I had a choice between catching a train to a London from the Portsmouth Station or the Portsmouth Harbor Station. Since I was coming in by boat, I figured that Portsmouth Harbor was the closest. Logical, right? After all, I didn’t want to take an expensive taxi. Surely I’d be able to walk there…wrong.

There was a bus, though, and thankfully, I had given myself an hour after the boat arrived and before the train left.

It. was. the. furthest. station from the ferry. The bus arrived with barely five minutes to spare,but it did arrive! So I was on the train to London Waterloo, and all my transportation issues would be at an end! Once in my beloved London, I’d take the tube from Waterloo, change once, and then just a few blocks carrying my bags to my hotel. Right?

HA!

After walking for.ev.er underground to catch the Northern line, I took my bags off my aching back and waited for the change to the Circle line just one stop later at Embankment. Not much time to rest, but I was almost there. Got to Embankment and walked for.ev.er underground to the Circle line only to see upon arrival at the platform that the Circle and District lines were out of service after Kensington High Street until August 23. But, of course they were.

So I got off at Kensington High Street with all my bags and went topside, trying to see if I could figure out the bus line. But after walking a block, and seeing a very cool Whole Foods there, I decided…fuck it. I’m getting a cab. And it wasn’t insane, either, just £6.10.

Check into my hotel and found that my closet back home was bigger than my room. So not kidding. This room is even smaller than the one in Brighton had been. But, such is basic lodging in Europe. Not terribly surprising. And for what I paid for this closet, I could’ve been in a four star hotel in the states. Yep. My money is very, very quickly disappearing, and I’m not quite sure how to get more cash. Gotta figure that out soon.

I did catch a break, though. Since my hovel is just beneath the office, the WiFi bleeds through! Yippee!

The following day I was to meet a friend at Camden Town for lunch and shopping. I walk down to the nearest tube that is working, Notting Hill Gate, and head East planning to switch to the Northern line at Tottenham Court Road. I was on my way.

Um. You should really know better by now, Christine.

At Oxford Circus, the station right before Tottenham Court, there was an announcement to remind passengers that there was no exchange for the Northern line at Tottenham Court Road! But, of course there wasn’t. I got off the tube at Oxford Circus, passed several more signs saying that both the Bakerloo and Victoria lines were closed, and decided that I was going to embrace uncertainty and just see where the universe led me.

I walked around and saw this glorious Tudor building called Liberty and a huge Apple store, where I pilfered their WiFi to shoot off a tweet or two, before wandering into Carnaby Street. Cool shops and street musicians. I saw the most awesome shoes EVER, but didn’t have the courage to ask the price. I ended up at the Shakespeare Pub and enjoyed a PIMMS and some bread. While writing this post, a man asked if he could sit with me. Hungry for company of any kind, I said sure. He was hilarious. A self proclaimed “stupid, fucked up [perfectly delightful] old queen.” and he was fucked up, too. But then aren’t we all. He asked what I was doing in London, and I told him I was supposed to be writing a book, but I was unable to create much after the troubles on my travels. To which he responded, “Honey! Is that all? My ex committed suicide on my birthday two years ago.” From there we were best friends for the next 45 minutes, telling each other our life stories and fucked up issues. So here’s to you, Robert the Queen, you’re fucking awesome. Thank you for brightening my day. X

I figured out the bus system enough to make my way to CamdenTown, which was wall to wall people on a Saturday afternoon in July, so my friend and I just looked at a few shops and found a pizza place in a quieter place and had a nice afternoon. there was the COOLEST Steampunk shop in Camden Town, though. And as soon as I take a second mortgage out on my house, I’m heading back!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael says:

    Hi Christine,

    I was just reading about your adventures in London and the size of your hotel room. I’ve only been there once, but stayed in a great hotel that most people have never heard of called “Club Quarters”. They have them in San Francisco and they are pretty small rooms there, but the room I had in the Gracechurch Street Club Quarters I stayed at in London was huge (by far the biggest room of my whole trip). The price was also really good (at least it was when I was there), and I was very happy with the quality of my stay there. They also have a second location in Trafalgar Square that looks pretty nice (although I didn’t stay there). Anyway…just thought it might be something to look at for your next stay there…especially after all the long walks past closed Tube stations. 🙂

    By the way, I have read the first two books of the Rowan of the Wood series and just purchased Fire of Fey recently. I have really enjoyed the series and am looking forward to reading more.

    Wishing you all the best!

    Sincerely,

    Michael

    1. christinerose says:

      Thank you! I’ll look into it!

  2. ElaineTurner says:

    I’m really glad you posted all the hassle of transport. I’m going to Dublin in March (it will be my first trip to Europe, yay!) And I’m still debating on whether to travel outside the city by bus/train or rental. I’ll also be on the watch for small closets.

    1. christinerose says:

      Everything is much smaller in Europe, but I’ve never been to Dublin. I’m sure it’s the same. Mass transit is certainly the way to go, but it does take some getting used to. Congrats on the new trip!

  3. Hi Christine!

    When I was in London a few years back, the tube station closures were on the weekends, and I’d wondered why they didn’t offer an alternative, like a bus. Still, the mass transit in London is much better than we have here in the Bay Area. Reading your post has me itching to plan another trip to the UK. (Love the butter there.)

    Jen (one of your Twitter followers)

    1. christinerose says:

      Even with the Tube inconsistencies, I adore London. I want to go back as soon as possible.

  4. Jo Abram says:

    Hi Christine,
    I whole-heartedly sympathis with your frustration over our transport system. As a Londoner myself, I try to avoid extensive travel on the weekends, but sometimes it’s simply not possible and so the Transport For London website becomes my god-send. The sooner they finish these upgrades the better, I’ve been putting up with this rubbish for four years.
    But on the up, the transport porblems forced you topside, and you saw a lot more of the city than you would have done otherwise.
    Hope any future visits go smoother.
    Jo

    1. christinerose says:

      Exactly! I loved LOVED taking the buses. I was rarely in a hurry, so the extra time was getting to know your amazing city. I miss it so much.

  5. I love London, I am a Londoner. I live in Sussex and it costs me a fortune to go back. The transport is rubbish. The cost too high and I know people who ‘work’ on the underground, getting paid unbelievable amounts for doing nothing! They hold the city to ransom threatening strikes, They have won huge bonuses during the Olympics just for doing thieir job!!
    Now off soap box, when you get past the underground, London is fab; pricey but fab and i’m just off their now the the closing gig in Hyde Park adn I shall walk from Victoria to Hyde Park rather than suffer the tube!
    Glad you want to come back and visit again! AN using the buses means you get see all the magnificent sites and history. xx

    1. christinerose says:

      I adore London. ADORE! I’m trying to find a way to live there 1/4 of every year. Any tips?

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