Back and Blogging (Backwards)

It was Day 10 of the England adventure before there was any realistic chance of me blogging. More on that later. I think I will go backwards rather than starting at the beginning. At least the later events will then be clear in my memory.

Day 10 was a transition day, the first of two to return home. My loathing of transition days has been discussed at length in this blog, so suffice it to say that time away for long-distance travel has not made me fonder of transition days.

We had just completed a three-night stay in Bath. I highly recommend the B&B we used, Three Abbey Green. The hosts are an extended family and all are extremely friendly and helpful. Breakfasts are excellent and locally sourced. Over the three days we had poached eggs, mushrooms, French toast, and traditional English breakfast. There was a daily special and a large selection of regularly available items. Our room came with a kettle (duh), several varieties of tea, instant coffee and cocoa, and packaged shortbread (refreshed daily). Fresh milk was available upon request and kept in the small refrigerator downstairs (important for those like my wife who are not fond of “long-life milk” and require milk to drink tea).

Our room was “Old Plane Tree” because it looks out onto the Three Abbey Green (not green in March) and the huge plane tree that stands within it. I sadly did not get a photo of said tree, which I attribute to the fact that I was quite under the weather during our stay.

On Day 10 we took a National Express bus from Bath to London Heathrow Airport. It is slightly cheaper than the train and not much less comfortable. (I think you can get great rates if you book early, which we did not.) More importantly for our purposes, it did not require transfers. We were heavily encumbered this trip (more on that later too) so Tube or even train transfers were challenging. The bus trip validated our choice to buy over-the-ear headphones before this trip (Maureen got the fancy noise-cancelling ones, while I went the inexpensive off-brand route). We may never travel without them again.

I was impressed with the helpfulness of Transport for London employees (and random people at bus stops) throughout the trip. When we arrived at the Heathrow Central Bus Station, we simply asked a TfL employee about the free bus to the airport hotels and she pointed us to the boarding platform and indicated that any bus starting with a 1 would work. And it did! This is an open secret and pro tip—there is a £5 per ride Hotel Hoppa Bus that provides door-to-door service for Heathrow hotels, but the public buses will give you a ride for free between the airport bus station and the hotel strip. You may have to walk a little, but you save £5 each, per trip.

We arrived at the ibis Styles Heathrow right at 3 pm and were thankfully able to check in immediately. I had “hit a wall” somewhere along the way from the bus station to the hotel, thanks to my recent bout of whatever it was. The room was what you expect from an ibis—small, but clean and efficient. There were a couple of things broken and questionable design choices, but it worked for one night.

We eventually made our way to the Sheraton Skyline to eat dinner at Madhu’s. We had struggled with the lack of reasonable dining options available nearby, but this turned out to be a worthwhile outing. Dinner begins with a basket of tiny pappadams and three sauces/chutneys. We ordered items from the open flame (robata) grill, their signature offerings, as well as samosas and (much needed for cooling) raita. Everything was good and the bill was in the mid-30s (£s), even with the “optional” 10% service charge that was automatically added (not sure how you exercise the option…)

We awoke on the final day of the adventure to snow! In London! Luckily it did not delay our departure, just made our walk to the bus stop a bit wetter. (We happily timed this trip to be between the two big London snowstorms.)

Have I mentioned lately that flying is pretty terrible? That hasn’t changed either. If anything, it gets continually worse. We compounded it this trip by choosing to fly on Icelandair. It is relatively inexpensive, but they provide no food at all (and limited beverages) for basic and regular economy fliers. And it’s cramped. And the entertainment is weak. So it comes back to the question that all budget airline flights beg—is it really worth it to pay less? I’m going with “no” today, but I may have amnesia by the next time I book an international flight.

Stay tuned for more highlights from the trip as I do a little backwards blogging. Teaser–there were big rocks.

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