I’m back! 🙂
Back from my holidays in Majorca, and back from my business trip to London. This time I won’t make you wait a year to hear (read) my adventures.
Read my previous post? Yes? Ok, then let’s go! 🙂
Thursday, 19 May
After a wonderful time in the “Fires i festes de Sóller”, my hometown, I stayed 2 days in Delft and then took an early flight to London City airport (8:40) on Thursday. I woke up quite early to not miss the flight, and I was very excited to visit London again after 3 years (!?). I walked from Bank to our new office, and took some pictures of the restored Monument, walked across London Bridge and then got lost. Hopefully I found my way quite soon, and arrived around 10:00 at the office.
I was impressed by the new office. It has much more space and is more beautiful than the previous one. I met some colleagues and started working on the backup server. At 18:00 I decided to take a rest and go to the hotel.
Despite my last (bad) experience, I took the Underground till Waterloo. I easily found my hotel, located just next to the London Eye. I spent some time on the Jubilee Gardens, and took a picture of 3 crazy girls doing some acrobatics. It was still sunny and it was perfect to sit and relax on the grass.
Then I went to the hotel, and had my first surprise. The hotel was booked, but not yet paid. Hopefully I could pay with my Maestro, but it was no fun. I left my stuff and went out for dinner.
After walking around in circles, I went to the Japanese canteen next to my hotel. Ordered noodles and miso soup, like last time. And after eating I decided to go walking (!?) from there to work. It took me a while, but I think it was worth.
Anyway, when I arrived the backup still hadn’t finished. I also had to identify myself to the security guard, but that was OK. He knew I was supposed to come late. As the backup wasn’t yet finished, I started with the Avaya phone system upgrade to version 6.0.1803. That proved more difficult that I’ve imagined, because some passwords didn’t match, and the documentation was not so clear (to say the least).
In the confusion, I even mis-configured the Belgian phone system. It was too late (almost 2 AM) and hadn’t slept much. I did the last effort to upgrade our VMware host to the latest version and that worked. Hopefully.
Time to get a cab and go to sleep! 🙂
Friday, 20 May
Next morning I woke up at 7 AM, to be ready to solve any issues with the upgrades. JW solved the phone system problem, and gave me some tips to retry the upgrade on Friday evening. I spent the day solving workstation problems, like viruses, blue screens and alike. We went for lunch to a fried chicken fast food, that was not that bad, but was nothing compared to the burritos of Thursday. That was a lunch! 🙂
Around 17:00, when the UK borrel began, I started again to upgrade our Avaya system. This time I tried a different approach. Instead of upgrading the current system’s firmware, I removed the ISDN30 card and the licence dongle and installed them on a test system I brought along, already upgraded to the latest version. Copying the UK configuration proved difficult, but I finally managed:
– “Horray! It works!”
In the meantime, my colleagues were drinking more and more beer. I had time to chat a little bit with them, but they soon abandoned the place. I finished updating our wiki, and writing some e-mails, and then at 20:00 I took an extra beer (for the road) and left the building.
Oh, but wait. I’m missing something. Just before leaving, and Indian guy entered the office and asked me:
– “Who are you?”
– “I work here. Who are you?”
– “I’m the security guard. I don’t know you. How did you enter?”
– “By the door… I have a key.”
– “Ummm…. I don’t trust you.”
That guy was serious. Hopefully I had my mobile phone and called Leo, who confirmed my identity. I was free to go. 🙂
Now, time to enjoy London!
First I went to the hotel to leave the old phone system, and then started walking towards an unknown destination.
Jubilee Gardens, Hungerford Bridge, Sherlock Holmes restaurant, Trafalgar Square.
In front of the National Gallery I found a peaceful demonstration. I was drinking my beer and staring at the people gathered there, trying to find out what their demonstrating for. Then someone came and explained. The flag was from Syria, and they were asking peace for their country. It was nice to talk to someone. Suddenly, I’ve made a new friend. He had been studying in Nijmegen some years ago, and was happy to talk Dutch again. He gave me his phone number, so next time maybe we can meet and have a coffee (or beer) together. We’ll see.
I continued walking, on my way to Picadilly Circus. I was starting to be hungry, so I stopped at a pizzeria called PREZZO. It looked nice, so I asked a couple that was leaving if the food was good:
– “Trés bon.” – they said.
So I entered. Service was great. They put me on a little round table, next to the door, from where I could observe everything that was happening. There was also enough space to write on my diary and have a quiet experience. I ordered Penne con Salmone, a glass of Shiraz, and a bottle of still water, which they served in a glass with ice and a piece of lemon. Just as I like it. I also had some garlic bread with mozzarella. Bread made fresh on their oven, at the of the restaurant. I stayed there until they closed.
Outside it was Friday night. Plenty of people on the streets, queues to enter in dubious clubs, girls with very small dresses, people crying and drinking. A real chaos. I was not in the mood of going out, so I took a bus to go back to my hotel. But, as you can imagine, I took the bus in the wrong direction. So I had to wait on the last stop for the next bus. Nothing too bad.
Saturday, 21 May
Next morning I had a good breakfast and decided to go to the London Eye a take a cruise by the Thames.
The London Eye experience was great. Only a bit expensive. For those interested, it will cost you around 20€ (don’t buy the guide, and don’t pay 10€ extra to skip queue!). I spent about 1 hour on the queues, and 30 minutes watching London from the highs, so it’s quite alright.
In addition, queuing for the tickets I found a nice American woman with her daughter, and we spend most of the time chatting. So that first half an hour was quite short. And then, on the second queue (to actually enter in the attraction), I met a French family and started talking to them as well, maintaining 2 conversations in different languages.
That’s the nice thing about talking several languages, you can chat with almost everybody!
Once inside the capsule, I started taking pictures. With Tux and without. It was great. 😀
One thing, don’t forget to go to the London Eye 4D Experience. It is even more amazing than the London Eye itself.
My mistake here was to spend some more time on the Jubilee Gardens, instead of taking my cruise to Greenwich immediately. Why? You’ll see later.
If you want to cruise the Thames, you can take the Clippers, City Cruises, speedy boat called RIB or the London Eye River Cruise which is circular. I chose the City Cruise because it had a commentary and seemed a bigger boat.
It was fun. The captain was a “cachondo” and was talking the whole time. I enjoyed the trip and even bought some chips and a Stella Artois beer.
However, when I arrive to Greenwich, it was almost 15:00. My flight was leaving at 17:10. I didn’t know that Greenwich was so beautiful. Otherwise I would have skipped the London Eye and cruise and went directly there. I was thrilled. So many things to see. Not even with an entire day I could see it all. What to do?
I asked on the information desk how I could get quickly to the London City Airport. I needed at least 40 minutes, because some trains were not working and I had to change twice. Well. Thanks. They even give me a map. Small, but it proved very useful.
But what about (quickly) climbing the little hill and going to the Royal Observatory? Too risky? Maybe. But I had to try. It was too beautiful to miss it. So I walked fast and reached the top, taking pictures along the way. I even asked some guys to take a pictures of me as testimony that I had been there:
Ok, mission complete. No time to lose. Let’s run!!! And I ran. Oh yeah! I ran and catch the train.
But then I heard some messages about working on the line and replacement buses. I asked, and they told me to change on Canary Wharf and take a bus. I was nervous, and took a bus, but the wrong one. This time it was not so easy as last night. When I realized it, I asked the driver, and told me to get a cab on the next stop. I could still make it. I found a taxi driver and he immediately took me to the airport. I only had to pay extra cash in EUR because I had no more pounds (damn beer!), but it was worth it. I’ve arrived at 16:00. so I had still time to check in and catch my flight.
However, when I entered the airport, someone asked me:
– Sir, what are you doing here?
– I have a flight at 17:10.
– Sir, this airport is closed.
– What!? But…
And then I looked for the flight confirmation, somewhere in my backpack. The flight was at 17:10, as I already knew, but at Heathrow Airport! At that moment I collapsed. I couldn’t have imagined that I will fly back from another airport, and I had been too busy with work in my mind to double check my flight confirmation. Please repeat with me: always double check your flight details!
– Lo que no me passi a mi… 😦
I have to say that the personnel at the airport was very kind, telling me that a lot of people miss flights every day, and giving me the phone number of KLM to call and change my flight. There was still a flight at 20:25, but of course I had to pay extra, and I had no credit card with me (another mistake: bring always a VISA or MasterCard!). I could pay if I arrived at least 2 hours before the flight, at 18:00. I said I could manage, being at that time around 16:20.
Traveling from London City to Heathrow was a nightmare. Most of the Underground lines were closed, everybody was confused, it was incredibly hot, and I haven’t eaten lunch. Buff… Hopefully I still had some Quely and a orange from Sóller that I’ve kept for a “just in case” situation.
It was a blessing. That orange was my salvation. It tasted so good! I guess it gave me enough energy to found a correct train combination and to arrive (safe) at the airport. It took me 2 hours though. It is really far away. I will remember for next time. 😉
Once at the airport, I changed my flight, checked in and ate a sandwich. KLM is one of the worst airlines I know. Since it is not precisely a lowcost airline, I expected some dignified refreshment, like a sandwich, coffee and soft drink. Juas! What do you get? A small cup of water and you can choose between a sweet cookie or small cheese cookies. I ate one and decided to open my “reserve” bag with “galletes d’Inca”.
“KLM? No thanks!” Next time I will book the flight and hotel myself. 😛
Let’s summarize this experience:
- Jubilee Gardens are a nice place to relax.
- Buy an Oyster. It is cheaper and you can reuse it. Remember to print a receipt if you are traveling for business.
- Use the bus. Underground can be claustrophobic.
- London Eye is expensive, but I liked it.
- Well… London _IS_ expensive! You have been warned.
- Greenwich is a must to visit. And msot of it is free!
- Museums in general are free, like the British Museum, Natural History Museum and Tate Modern.
- Don’t fly with KLM
- Always, always double check your flight booking.
- Withdraw enough pounds. You can always reuse them later.
That’s all folks!
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Want more? Then see the complete set of pictures. 😉