Friday, July 13, 2007

Travel to Britain

April 25, 2007 – First Day in Britain - London, England
The Airport
My flight left Philadelphia the evening of April 24th. It was hard to leave Barry in Philadelphia. This was my first visit to the United Kingdom. I was feeling very nervous about traveling by myself. This was my first trip on my own since my surgery and pain in my back. It was difficult for me to lift or carry heavy items. I arrived on time at Gatwick Airport. My time in immigration went relatively quickly and smoothly. The ticket counter for the trains was located right outside of immigration. The ticket agents were extremely helpful. The gentleman who helped me called the Scala House (the building where I was spending the night) to get their exact location so he could help me purchase the proper ticket. He showed me where and which tube to take after I arrived in the Victoria Train Station. I thanked him for his help and went to baggage claim to get my suitcases.
I arrived at the right moment because a baggage handler was placing the unclaimed suitcases on a cart. He helped me put my bags on my cart. Those of you who know me know I don't travel lightly and this trip was not exception. I pushed my bag to and through customs. It felt strange because there were no agents in customs so we just walked through. This was a new experience for me.
Travel to London
When I entered the main area of Gatwick there were crowds of people, many announcements over the loudspeaker and lots of signs. I found the signs that would guide me to the trains and followed them. As I approached the area with the trains I heard them announcing that my train would be departing in five minutes. Just as I was looking at my baggage wondering how I was going to get it on the train a voice said, "Do you need help miss?" I looked up and saw a young man in a uniform. I told him I did and that I needed to catch the train to Victoria Station. He called over a colleague to help him with my luggage and the three of us walked over to the section for my train, down the stairs onto platform and onto the train. They placed my bags on the luggage holder. I wanted to tip them, but only had 20 pound bills. I gave the young man a 20 pound note. He told me it was too much, which I knew, but it was that or nothing. I explained that I didn't have anything smaller. He called his colleague back and between the two of them they were able to come up with change. They gave me 15 pounds back.

The train ride into London was about 45 minutes. We made a few stops, but not many because I was on an express train. When I arrived in the station I found a porter who was right by our train to help me with my bags. Graham had recommended that I take a taxi to Scala Hou se because I would have to take two tubes, which meant walking up and down stairs with my suitcases. The porter took me to a taxi where he loaded my bags inside. I gave him a 5 pound tip.
Arrival in London
We drove by Buckingham Palace. The taxi driver began explaining where we were and what I was seeing as we drove after I asked him what Buckingham Palace was when we approached it. He asked me if this was my first visit to London. As
we drove by many places I was excited to see them in person and looked forward to returning to tour them during my free few days in London after Britain Yearly Meeting.
When we arrived at Scala House he assisted me with my bags. The person at the front desk announced my arrival to Lucy. I had made arrangements with Lucy and Graham to spend the night with them in their suite at the Scala House. Graham was out visiting friends, so I spent most of my first day with Lucy and Simon. We walked to a local restaurant and ate lunch. When we came out it was raining, so we returned to Scala House to get rain gear. Of course by the time we came back outside the sun was out again. Lucy, Simon and I visited the Tate Modern Museum, walked across the Millennium Bridge and walked along the Thames. When we returned I got directions to the local organic food market from Lucy and walked to it. I got a little lost at first, but eventually found it. They had several gluten free and fair trade products. I purchased some items to supplement my meals at Glenthorne. Elizabeth Cave had sent me an email several days before I left to tell me I needed to bring supplemental food. They had several different types of gluten free bread. When I returned to the Scala House Graham was home, so we went out for dinner.
The next morning the four of us crammed into a taxi cab with our luggage that took us to Euston Station where we boarded a train to travel to Windermere. Graham, Lucy, Simon and I traveled together. In Lancaster we met up with Harvey Gillman and a couple other Friends who traveled to Windermere with us on the same train. Elizabeth Cave met us at the train station. She drove our luggage to Glenthorne while we followed in a taxi cab.

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