Queues R Us

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments


Day 8:  London, UK to Lisbon, Portugal

Our taxi driver was waiting when we came downstairs this morning, and once we hit the streets, we were very thankful we had asked the hotel to book the fare last night.  The Tube strike began overnight, leaving the three million passengers who depend on the world's oldest subway system (opened in 1863) scrambling for a means to get to work.  Taxis and buses were in high demand, and the streets and sidewalks were clogged with walkers, runners, and cyclists (pictured above).

Eight days and we've already been affected by two strikes.  Not enough for a pattern yet, but getting there.  By the time our cab driver dropped us off at the St. Pancras rail station, we had spent about 40 minutes to traverse less than two miles.

Doors slid closed on a train to Luton Airport just as we reached the platform, but another was due in seven minutes and clacked into the station on cue, providing us an uneventful ride to the airport.  For some reason, which agents never bother to share with you, we were both given extra scrutiny at security.  As we were leaving Iceland, the security agent thought my curling iron juxtaposed with a small tripod, looked on x-ray as if it could be some type of weapon.  Being more careful about not packing those two items in proximity got my backpack through without question.  But something on my person set off the metal detector (probably the metal clasp on my front closure bra), so after a scan with the handheld detector, the agent frisked me thoroughly before approving me for flight.  As she was chceking my legs by hand from thigh to ankle, I mentioned to her that I thought she might have a future in massage should she get tired of security work.  She had the good grace to smile, understanding traveler frustrations.   Only after I was released did I discover that Ken had undergone a similar inspection, having no idea why.

Flying EasyJet again, we checked the boards and discovered that our flight had not been assigned to a gate yet.  With numerous discount airline providers, Luton is set up with large holding areas where passengers wait until their flight is assigned a gate, often just a few minutes before boarding.  Some gates have no seating, just line barriers.  This way the airline pays the gate rental for a much shorter period and presumably passes the savings on to their customers.

Joan, a charming English septuagenarian was our seatmate on the flight, and she was delightful.  If you've read much Agatha Christie, Joan could be perfectly cast as Miss Jane Marple.  We parted ways at the airport in Lisbon, where we stood in a long line for a taxi ride to our hotel.  

Chiado 16 Hotel is well placed to allow us to walk to many locations in central Lisbon, and our apartment is sparkling clean and very spacious.  We walked to the nearest supermarket, about half a mile away and popped briefly into Rossio Square, one of Lisbon's main squares since the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, Rossio has witnessed popular revolts and celebrations, bullfights and executions.  Today it is a popular meeting place for both Lisbon natives and tourists.  Tomorrow and Thursday we will have more time to explore the city in depth.

Uniquely British.   Even though we were in London only two days, this was our fifth trip to the United Kingdom.  And though we claim no authority, we do have an observation about what makes the country so....well, so British.  In our experiences, British people are unfailingly polite, even polite in the extreme.  They apologize for things over which they have no control, like our cab driver apologizing this morning because the traffic delayed our trip to the train station.  They always say please and thank you... always.  And they have to be the world's best at queuing.  No one stands politely in line better than the British.  It's a quality we'd love to import into some parts of the U.S.  


Politely waiting for the next bus
Interesting ad of the day in Lisbon Airport restroom...sexy toilet tissue