Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013 – Southampton, England – Partly Sunny – 60s

Disembarkation Day

Wake up call at 6:00 AM – up to the Windjammer for breakfast with 2000 other passengers.  I dropped off my contact information in Clo’s In-Box.

At 7:15 AM, we went to Deck 4 to disembark.  The process was very quick.  No immigration to go through.  We did have to wait for our bags for about 15 minutes even though it was past the 7:15 AM pickup time.  Didn’t matter since the bags eventually showed up.

We took a cab to the Southampton Central Bus Station (5 Pounds and I went brain dead and tipped him 3 Pounds – he will be looking for me from now on).  We were told by our new wealthy cabbie that since we didn’t book ahead, we would have to take the 6:30 PM National Express bus to Victoria Station (all earlier trains would be booked).  Despite the dire prediction, we used the automated ticket machines – our attempt to get on the 8:30 AM was unsuccessful (all full); our next shot – the 9:30 AM bus – indicated availability (18 pounds each; it was cheaper on their web site – perhaps the prices vary by how many tickets remain) and we purchased tickets with our charge card.  We only had about 30 minutes until we boarded – the station was very small so all seats were taken and we waited outside.  Queue control was an issue but Ellen asked the agent inside to inform passengers where the queues were and they were relatively good about it.

I chuckled a bit when I saw a machine that charged you to charge your phone or computer (something like 1.5 pounds for a 30 minute charge).  Also, it was 20 pence to use the loo. 

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Charge for Charging Machine

The “East Coast Boys” in their secret identities were on our bus.  And to ruin the whole image, they were all Brits.  Recall that they introduced themselves (real selves) with American accents during the show. 

The ride to Victoria Station in Central London took about two hours.  It was a comfortable ride – the buses are nice except for the teeny and aromatic washroom – regrettably, I needed to use the facility.  For a while, I thought I was trapped in there and one can only hold their breath for so long. 

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Magnificent Victoria Station

We were going to take the Underground to our hotel but a clerk at the ticket office told us that the buses were cheaper and easier.  We needed to catch the 148 bus just down the street and take it to the Queens Garden stop in Hyde Park.

Soon, the 148 Double-Decker Red Bus arrived and some 20 minutes later we got off.  I can tell you that it is not easy travelling on a city bus with suitcases but we did it, scampering out of the way as people behind us had to get off.  Also, the bus drives drive like maniacs and there are incredible numbers of busses running all the time.  Drivers are very strict about passengers trying to get a free ride and at one point, the driver stopped the bus and wouldn’t continue until the freeloader left the bus (some yelling happened in between).

Our hotel, the Caesar Hotel, is located in Hyde Park, across from Kensington Gardens and a short walk to Notting Hill.  It is located in a very posh neighborhood with several nice hotels and looks safe and walkable.  It is a boutique hotel with a decidedly Euro look – ultra modern with lots of black and white.  We started out in a room near the elevator (too noisy) but ended up in Room 217 with no neighbors on one side.

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Room 217 – Caesar Hotel

All of the hotel employees we met were from foreign countries – I think the two girls at the front desk who checked us in were either from Spain or South America.  Everyone in the hotel was friendly and helpful.  We did have a problem with this room.  The A/C did not respond to the controls and had to be turned on using the central computer system – the hotel is very high tech.  This was annoying and required a phone call to the desk but the A/C did operate when we needed it to.

We basically had the whole day so we walked to Notting Hill, only a few blocks away.  The best way to describe our location is to say it was extremely ethnically diverse.  We heard very little English spoken.  There were several Asian and Arabic Markets, Halal restaurants dotted the area, and a number of Hookah bars could be found on the main street.  It was a terrific neighborhood for walking.

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Notting Hill

We walked for about three or four hours (until our feet protested) – heading further into Notting Hill and the Notting Hill Gate.  The area was dotted with Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Pub Food Restaurants (Fish and Chip places) and even Mexican Restaurants.  I wanted to try the Fish and Chips but dinners in the area were frightfully expensive (Fish and Chips about $20 with no side dishes or salads). 

We went back out around 7:30 PM to get dinner.  The same street looked great at night.

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Notting Hill at Night

After checking all the places on the street, we wound up at the Subway.  It was a bit of a fiasco; no lettuce (they ran out) and the soft drink machine was not working properly.  We stayed and had our tuna foot long with chips and two diet cokes (one on the house due to the lettuce problem).  It wasn’t US Subway but it was OK. 

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Our first dinner in Notting Hill

It was still warm (high 60s) when we walked home.  We passed the Leinster House on our street (Leinster Terrace).  One Londoner pronounced it “Lenister” but the voice on the bus called it “Lenster”. 

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Leinster House Hotel

On the wall of this hotel we found a plaque indicating that the author, Bret Harte, lived and died in this building.

20130505_Bret Hart House Notting Hill (Small)

Back in our room with our stodgy A/C unit – the bed is comfortable and the room is quiet.  We have quick and free WiFi so we catch us on things.  The time difference makes things a bit difficult.

Hoping for a good night’s sleep.

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