Originally published 21 December 2017
Hanging out with our packs in a London pub
We slept late this morning, not fully expecting to sleep in. Jet lag had apparently chewed on us a bit more than we expected. We probably slept ten hours, unusual for us. We were pretty close to packed so sleeping almost to check out time wasn't a big deal. I showered last night, Laurie showered this morning, we packed up and started the first leg of our journey. It took us around 50 feet to the pub next door to our hotel where we sat down and had breakfast.
We had no real schedule today, other than to make the 2 p.m. bus to Gatwick Airport, 1 1/4 hours (theoretically) from central London. The pub had a nice breakfast menu and we had great fish and chips there the day before. We were pretty much the only customers in the place so there was plenty of room to stretch out with our packs.
They have what is called a “full English breakfast” here. It has some variations but normally consists of grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, eggs, bread, sometimes beans, sometimes black pudding (nasty stuff made from congealed blood), some type of potatoes, and nineteen different types of meat. While an exaggeration, it does usually have sausage and what they call bacon at a minimum.
A "Full English" breakfast
Their “bacon” is more of a fatty ham. It’s good, but it’s not health food. We cut the fat off of it before we eat it. This pub’s English breakfast has bacon, sausages, eggs, bread, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and chips (French fries for Americans). I decided to splurge the extra two pounds (about $2.80) for steak, which I assumed meant that I would get steak in lieu of sausage and English bacon.
I thought that the choice of lean steak would be healthier. It turns out by ordering steak, they ADD a steak to the sausage and bacon. At this point I was swimming in meat. I added a Café Americano (expresso with hot water, very similar to regular coffee in the states) and commenced to eat this monstrosity. Laurie opted for a much more sane choice of Eggs Benedict. Suffice to say, we went about 7 hours before we had more to eat.
At this point we walked down the block to the Victoria coach (what they call buses in the UK) station. We had tickets on the 2 pm bus to the airport and thought maybe we could talk our way onto an earlier bus. We were successful in doing this and lucky for us. The 1 ¼ hour trip to the airport took 2 ¼ hours due to heavy traffic. That 1 ¼ hour travel time was a pipe dream. London has so much traffic I can’t figure out how they would EVER hit that time.
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. We’re flying EasyJet, a discount Europe airline. You pay for only what you want. If you want to choose your seat, it’s extra. Want to check a bag, it’s extra. Want a drink or food on the plane, it’s extra. While you pay for all the extras if you want them, it’s still an incredibly good deal. We opted to pay extra for a checked bag. Our ticket with the extra checked bag fee added up to about $80 American. I know of nowhere you can fly in the U.S. for 80 bucks.
London does have a lot of traffic
We knew the drill as we’ve flown EasyJet many times. We checked our bag at an automatic machine 2.5 hours before our flight. The machine scans your boarding pass, and you put your bag on a small conveyor with a scale built in. The machine weighs it, spits out a baggage tag, you put it on and hit “send”. The machine sucks your bag through an opening in the wall and it disappears into EasyJet land. Then you head to security.
I’ve gotten pulled aside for “extra” screening at both Nashville and Gatwick. I wear hiking boots with these big metal laces, and they set the detectors off every time. Even with extra scrutiny, we clear security in minutes. We are not part of any “special” programs in the UK like we are in the U.S. (TSA precheck) that allows us to skip lines. They’re just very efficient, friendly, and quick.
After security we decide we’ll eat a late lunch/early dinner. We have seen a place called “Yo Sushi” in London many times. It’s not cheap, but nothing in London is. They have one in the airport, so we splurge and eat at it. The concept is that a conveyor belt runs through the restaurant between the tables. The plates are color codes and each one has a different price. At the end of the meal, they come to your table and add up your plates.
The meal was very good and we had fun with it. I had non-sushi items consisting of dumplings, a breaded chicken dish, and a Vietnamese small sandwich. Laurie had sushi, Edamame, miso soup, and saki. There are small spigots on the table with filtered drinking water and carbonated water. You can also order soft drinks, beer, wine, etc. It wasn’t cheap, but for London, it wasn’t incredibly expensive either. We enjoyed the treat.
The Yo! Sushi conveyor belt
After eating, we wait for our gate announcement. They don’t announce where you’ll board the plane until about an hour before departure time. Because they start loading about ten minutes after gate announcement, you head to the gate when it is announced.
EasyJet is very efficient and we board through both the front and the rear of the plane. If you’re rows 1-14 you go through the front door. If you’re 15-28 you go though the back. They’re all about turning the planes around and getting them back in the air. They’re good at it….and are consequently able to offer cheap prices for flights.
I doze on and off during our 1 ¼ hour flight. We arrive Geneva and disembark. They run us through passport control which they didn’t do the last time we came into Switzerland. They may normally do it but we were very late flying in last time (after 11 p.m.) so we didn’t do it last time. We come through the line and get to a “split”. EU/Swiss/UK passports to the left, all other passports to the right. There are 150 plus people in the left line. There are 3 in the right line, two of which are us. Score!
They scan our passport, wish us a good day, and we exit to the baggage area. We pick up our bags and head out. We grab the shuttle bus to our airport hotel, the Ibis. This is a Europe chain and we’ve stayed in this exact hotel before. It’s close to the airport, well taken care of, and just…..easy. We want a small bit to eat before bed so we go down the block to an Italian/Pizza place.
We are in Geneva, Switzerland. I do not expect it to be cheap. Swiss prices are the highest in southern Europe to my knowledge and we’ve been here before. Laurie and I split a “dinner”, which consisted of a 12 inch pizza, salad, and tiramisu. Laurie had a glass of wine. This was around 44 American dollars, typical for this area for what we had. No surprises, just the reality of visiting Switzerland.
Headed out to our ride
The restaurant was called L’Osterlia Di Oreste. The waiter was accommodating and spoke good English to counter our bad French (they speak French in this part of Switzerland). He was funny and engaging. The food was fresh, superbly presented, and incredibly high quality. We were very pleased. We lingered a bit then headed back to the hotel.
Laurie made the comment that there wasn’t much to write about today. I told her that I disagreed. While it wasn’t an incredibly exciting day, punctuated with fantastic scenery, we had breakfast in a London pub, had a fun sushi meal, then flew to Switzerland and had a great dinner! I told her that this is so far from where I grew up and I never imagined going to these places. Even after 5 trips to Europe, I am still fascinated and amazed by it. While not spectacular, we had a day that most people didn’t today. It was good.
I’m off to the showers, and then off to bed. We get up in the morning, go back to the airport, and get on a shuttle bus to Chamonix. This is supposed to take 1 ¼ hours…..but the Gatwick trip was supposed to be that long as well. We’ll see. Either way…………we’re off to the mountains.
London day two slide show