Getting a Grip and Dodging Murphy's GraspAround the World, Day 6: Reykjavik to London
After three enjoyable nights at our little apartment on Hverfisgata, Saturday night introduced us to partying, Reykjavik style. For 20-somethings out to enjoy the weekend with friends, Bar 11, across the street from our apartment must be a great spot. For a couple of 60-somethings with an early morning flight, not so much. A screaming guitar, thumping bass, and driving drumbeat from the evening's live rock band signaled the start of the party at 11 pm. Of course, the previously charming historic building 60 feet away where we lay in bed trying to sleep had no soundproofing. So we got to hear all the music without paying the cover charge--every riff and rhythm, right there in our bedroom. Not exactly the night of rest we were hoping for. But eventually the party was over. About 5:30 am, quiet was restored, just as our alarm clock announced it was time to arise.
No worries, though. We had a three-hour flight to London. We'd catch a bit of sleep en route. Or not. Across the aisle from us, two guys engaged in a non-stop conversation from takeoff to landing. Apparently one or both had hearing difficulties because they were talking so loudly even the crew assigned to the front of the plane eventually took refuge in the back.
Finally we escaped the din when we disembarked in London. Since we had flown EasyJet, aka El Cheapo Airline, our flight landed at London Luton Airport, home of all the cut-rate airlines and some 40 miles north of central London.
In our exhausted state, we had been lured by the EasyJet cabin crew into purchasing round trip train tickets into London from the airport. Only after we arrived at the train station near the airport did we discover that our tickets were not valid for the primary rail service, only for a limited service First Capital line. In an amazing stroke of luck-- and at this point we needed one-- we discovered, when we finally arrived at the correct platform, that the next train to London was due in just ten minutes. And despite the near constant buzz of delay announcements, our train arrived on time. Take that, Murphy!
At London's St. Pancras station, we made our way to the underground and boarded the Piccadilly line, which spit us out in the teeming masses around Leicester Square, but not before we spied signs warning of a Tube strike Monday night till Wednesday. By this time, it had become all too clear to us that we both had overpacked. As much as we like to think we travel light, we had crammed and jammed and filled every cubic inch of our backpacks, and they were heavy. So we trudged the few blocks to the Shaftesbury Hotel, where we had spent a few nights in 2011.
Of course, Soho London is quite different from central Reykjavik. Our tiny hotel room, which the desk clerk gushed was a free upgrade, would easily fit into one room of the apartment where we spent the last few days and which cost considerably less. Nonetheless, the double-pane windows and soundproofing will allow us to finally get some sleep.
Like New York, London's theatre industry operates TKTS, a same-day discount ticket booth, located in Leicester Square. Though the booth closes early on Sundays due to the limited number of Sunday performances, we stopped by on our way to dinner to peruse the listings for tomorrow.
The terrific Lebanese restaurant we had discovered on nearby Irving Street three years ago apparently didn't survive the competitive London market, so we ate at L’ulivo, a family-run restaurant next door offering what they describe as authentic Italian food. The food was fair and the service worse, but since the meal served as both lunch and dinner and we were quite bleary-eyed by this point, we offered no objection.
Unwilling to pay $25 for breakfast at the hotel, we mustered the energy after dinner to walk to a small supermarket. Ken assured me that he knew the location of a store nearby, so we began walking east on Holborn Street. And we walked, and walked. Finally a little more than a mile later, we stumbled upon a Sainsbury's Local. It was then that Ken informed me he thought we were on the wrong street for the supermarket he remembered. We both laughed and found some nice croissants, fruit and cheese for breakfast, threw in a couple of bottles of Diet Coke and returned to the street to find that the forecast rain had begun. With our umbrella back at the hotel and ever on the lookout for different types of conveyances on this trip, we flagged down a bicycle rickshaw equipped with a vinyl rain cover to ferry us back to the hotel.
Once in the room, the downsizing began. We had brought some vinyl mailing envelopes to send my lightweight down jacket home after Iceland. We filled two of them with clothes and extraneous electronic gear that we now realize we can survive better without. Those will go to a post office tomorrow to begin their return to Georgia a bit early. And we'll move on from here Tuesday lighter and minus the frustration of too-full packs. One mailer remains with us, awaiting the possibility of a second round.