London Stories and Tips

London on High Alert

Finsbury Square Photo, London, England

Sept. 20 - 21

On the road again, or, in the sky again, late as it happened. It’s only been 10 days since the World Trade Centre attacks and the Air Canada flight was delayed nearly an hour waiting for the plane to arrive from Toronto. Because of heightened security, I already arrived over 3 hours early for a 9:15 p.m. flight. Frustrating but it can't be helped. I switched seats with a man behind me as he and his wife were not given seats together. That sorted, I settled in. I didn’t really sleep and I watched the sun rise over the wing but the cloud cover obliterated the land below. There was a 25 minute wait through the customs "corral" and then I found the Airbus, (which, at that time, went through London all the way to Kings Cross. It only goes to Victoria Station now) bought a ticket and landed at the Cottage Hotel, Euston Street, London by about 10:45.

The hotel is a small one, not too expensive, some en suite, some not, television, no phone in the rooms though there was an intercom in mine at least. Of course the room wasn't ready that early so I left my luggage and decided I needed more in my stomach than just the juice and biscuits that were served on the plane for breakfast. Around the corner, on Euston Road and in the same building as the Euston Square hotel is a café, Giovanni's Sandwich Bar. All day breakfast, very reviving. Had a bit of a chat with Giovanni while I sipped my tea and then headed to Liverpool street train station to sort out a week's transport. Turns out that the pass I bought to use on the train commute from Essex also included a 6 zone transport pass for the tube and bus. Very convenient!

I had a bit of a walk in the immediate neighbourhood around Liverpool Station after a quick phone call home to say I arrived safely. I noticed a crowd behind the station in a small square surrounded by office buildings. Upon investigation, it seemed to have groups of people with one in each holding a number sign. I think it might have been a fire drill evacuation (didn't want to think of bomb scare possibilities, that would come a few days later!)

I found a lovely little square called Finsbury square which had a bit of a park and a couple of bowling greens. There were flower beds and palm trees and a Canadian bank building in the area as well. I stopped for a tea break at Starbucks and bought some foodie stuff at Marks and Spencers to stash in the hotel room. By now I'm pretty shattered and it's near the time I can get into the room so I returned to the hotel.

The room was in the next building from the one where the desk and breakfast room is. I have a key for the building as well as the room. Thankfully my bags were dragged up to the room on the second floor for me. No lift, narrow staircases. Narrow continued to be the order of the day. I expected small but dear Heaven the room couldn't have been more than about 8 feet across and it held two single beds! I chuckled, thinking Chris and I would be sleeping together even though that wasn't in the plan! My friend Chris was supposed to be joining me for the weekend, arriving tomorrow afternoon, and this hotel was one where he has stayed a few times. Anyway, the room is very small, bathroom equally so but functional and with a shower door not a curtain so no danger of flooding the place. I liked the way they got the beige curtains to match the damp patches up in one corner! But over all, though the room could have used a coat of paint, it was still better than one or two I’ve been in, the carpet was clean and the sheets and bathroom were immaculate. That's really all that matters.

I had a shower and read the newspaper and soon wished I hadn't. I think I'll avoid the news for the next few days as London is now on high alert for attacks. I knew the UK was strongly supporting the U.S. in the aftermath of the attacks but hadn't realized how strongly and it's a bit unnerving just at this point. Pretty soon, with my energy flagging and my eyes starting to feel like Mr. Sandman had left his calling card, a nap was in order. There are roadworks outside but the closed window and the fact that I hadn't slept in about 30 hours made quick work of dozing off.

I revived in time to have a bite to eat, watch Coronation Street and read for a while before crashing out again for the night.

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