Monday, September 14, 2015

An American Family in Europe: Day 19, heading home

(Previously: Day 18, the Tower of London)

It was the last day of our trip, and time to head for the airport. But how would we get there?

We could have taken a taxi, but we were nowhere near Heathrow and it would have cost something like $85.  I wanted to try the train -- partly because our Travelcard passes would cover a portion of the expense -- but I knew it would be a little tricky. In fact, out of all the transportation connections we'd made on this trip, this was the one that worried me most.

First step: Get to Blackheath train station. We had been walking there all week -- it took about 15 minutes -- but this time we would have luggage. I decided to try Uber.

We had never used Uber before, so I was apprehensive. But it worked flawlessly. After I submitted our ride request online, we could see a little car icon on the online map approaching us and the driver was with us in about 10 minutes. It was a short drive and cost only 5 pounds (we added a small tip).

At the station, I tried to purchase "extensions" for our tickets. Our Travelcards were good for zones 1-3, but Heathrow was in Zone 6. We would have to pay more, but the ticket agent said we couldn't do it at that station. We'd have to wait until we got to a Tube stop. Rats -- I wanted to get that chore out of the way.

Also troubling was that we arrived at the train station at a bad time -- no trains were coming for 25 minutes. On a weekday, they're rolling in every 5 or 10 minutes, but this was a Sunday and we'd just missed a train. We had allowed a lot of time to get to Heathrow but I was starting to feel the minutes ticking away.

Finally, we caught a train to Waterloo Station, and I tried again to buy our extensions. I stood in line for several minutes, only to discover -- arrgh -- I was in the wrong line (I needed the Underground ticket counter, not National Rail).

Reaching the entrance to the Tube's Jubilee line, I looked for a ticket office but saw none. So I bought four extensions at the automated machine. This cost me more than it should have -- I couldn't figure out how to buy "child" extensions for our kids, so I just bought four adult extensions.

I was watching the minutes tick away on my watch -- we had a plane to catch, after all -- but we got good breaks the rest of the way. The Jubilee line train pulled up just as we arrived on the platform. Transferring to the Piccadilly line, we again made an immediate transfer.

It was long ride to Heathrow, but there were no delays and we arrived about two hours after leaving home. At the Tube exit, I wasn't quite sure how to use our ticket extensions, but when I asked a worker, he simply opened a gate and let us through, with barely a glance at our paperwork. We were at the airport an ample two and a half hours before our flight. Whew.

Soon, we were on our flight and heading home.

The full trip, by day: 

Days 1 and 2, Los Angeles to Paris

Day 3, Paris

Day 4, the Palace of Versailles

Day 5, the Eiffel Tower

Day 6, Goodbye France, hello England

Day 7, Windsor Castle & Stonehenge

Day 8, Bath

Day 9, Doctor Who and Swansea's LC

Day 10, the waterfalls of Wales

Day 11, Blists Hill and Ironbridge

Day 12, Warwick Castle

Day 13, Oxford and Harry Potter Studio Tour

Day 14, this is London

Day 15, British Museum and British Library

Day 16, the Tube goes on strike

Day 17, Greenwich, the Thames and Westminster Abbey

Day 18, the Tower of London

Day 19, heading home  


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