After clearing customs I head to the nearest pay phone. Since I use Verizon (and at the time of this trip was using a phone without a SIM card), I had to find a pay phone to call my friends in London to get the final plans or the day. I had already purchased my Heathrow Express (HEX) ticket online while in the US. We decided to meet at Liverpool Street Station. I guess at this point, I should remind everyone that I spent 4 weeks in London while in College, but that was 10 years ago. I know how to ride the Tube and I have a basic understanding of London streets.
African Trip Review — Day in London with Friends
The HEX is the best deal ever. for $50US you get a coach seat (which includes free wifi) from Heathrow to Paddington Station in only 15 minutes (it would take over an hour on the tube). Since my flight to CPT was leaving at 2050, spending 2 hours on the train was not acceptable.
I arrive at Paddington and spend about 10 minutes studying the transit map, trying to figure out where Liverpool Street was. For a moment, I thought Liverpool might border Paddington Station, but that didn’t make sense. I opted to take the Hammersmith Line 5 stops to Liverpool. I didn’t mention the woman I was meeting for lunch, I had never met before. AS is a woman that I worked with, electronically (email and phone) for a couple of years and just hit it off with. As I leave the Liverpool station I had a thought that I wouldn’t actually see AS, but just wander aimlessly. Surprisingly we managed to find each other without an issue at all.
We headed to lunch in the new Lloyd’s of London building, the restaurant was Lime Street (I believe). There were 5 of us, 3 from Heath Lambert and one from Dewitt Stearn. I knew all the Heath People but not the DS guy. We ordered apps (I had the prawns) and honestly I have no idea what my entree was. The prawns were tiny (but had a good count in the dish) they still had the head and legs on and had something in the legs. None of us were sure how to eat them — they were small enough, it wouldn’t surprise me to eat the whole thing head an all. Once you pulled it all apart there wasn’t much left to it. Obviously my entree wasn’t great since I remember nothing about it.
After lunch we walked around to a little pub near Paddington station again. Since I had never had an unofficial stay over in London like this, and I was heading on to CPT that night, I wanted to get to Heathrow a bit early to make sure I got everything I needed done. I decided I would take the 1711 train back to Heathrow, again, leaving from Paddington. We sat in the pub in Paddington for about 2.5 hours chatting enjoying a pint and just relaxing. Another friend, who I met through the consular crowd in Chicago also popped over to see me, which was quite lovely.
I hopped on the HEX and said a sad good bye to my friends and headed back to Heathrow. There was no one in line at the South Africa desk and no one in line at security. I was sitting in the Star Alliance Gold Lounge at 1747. I could have stayed for another pint in London…actually I seriously considered training back in to the City to meet Nina again for another pint, but I thought that might be cutting it close. Instead I stayed in the lounge had a bit of snacks (love trying the different flavored potato chips) and watched TV and just relaxed.
If you haven’t been to the International Transfer Terminal at Heathrow, they have a big holding/shopping area and once you’re flight has been assigned a departure gate (usually 15-20 minutes before boarding begins) you can walk to the gate. My gate to CPT wasn’t assigned until after we were supposed to be in the air. I was nervous thinking that maybe the flight was actually boarding and I was going to miss it (turning into my mother, I guess) but there were 3 or 4 other people in the lounge waiting for the announcement too. Once it was announced I headed on out — again not knowing exactly how far my gate was. After about 5 minutes of walking I saw the beautiful SAA plane sitting WAY OFF IN THE DISTANCE. I walked and walked and walked and finally arrived at the gate. The excitement was building — Africa is within my grasp!