Thursday, February 11, 2010

Transport via Oyster

We are back from London after a very successful adventure. I'm a bit jet lagged and craving a pint of cask ale at cellar temperature since its actually after lunch, according to my body clock, but I'll resist the urge. Not that I could find a pint of real ale here anyway, so I'll just have to put it out of my mind until the next trip. One of the most refreshing aspects of the trip was not having to drive at all. Given the traffic, twisty and narrow streets that changed names every 3 blocks, driving on the 'wrong side of the street',and of course the sheer volume of ale consumed, this was a very good thing. I have visited London before and used the Underground but this trip utilized every available method of transport available with our Oyster Cards.

The Oyster card is a magical little card that you fill up with cash and then use to get around town. It's cheap, convenient, and there is no waiting on any of the transport. Our friends Roger and Liz came over from Oxford for a bit of non tourist type activity and we jumped on a double decker bus, our first non Underground venture. The first stop was Pancras Station, a Victorian rail station that is nicely preserved and also the place where people pick up the Eurostar for the 90 minute trip to Paris, via the Chunnel. Having Roger for a guide was definitely better and less expensive than the hop on, hop off tourist buses, with his only fee being the occasional pint. The next day we jumped on the Thames ferry for a trip down to Greenwich. Since our watches were set to the famous GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) we figured it would be appropriate, plus we could straddle 0 degrees latitude. The boat cruised past all the sights in downtown London including St Pauls, the Tower, the Tate Gallery, Parlaiment and Big Ben, and the HMS Belfast, a WWII light cruiser that belongs to the Imperial War Museum. Once completing our mission in Greenwich, which included hob nobbing with Adm.Horatio Nelson in front of the Trafalgar Pub (not just in front, of course), we walked under the Thames River in a 19th century pedestrian tunnel and caught the Dockland's Light Rail, another service included on the card, back to our hotel.

If I lived in London, there is no way I would own a car. We did ride in a car however, since part of the package deal we booked was transport from Heathrow to the hotel. For the first, and likely last time, there was a guy in a suit standing there holding a sign that said, 'David Olsen'. Even though my name was misspelled, I figured it had to be me. The ride back really got me thinking however. We rode in a great station wagon, a quiet, comfortable turbo diesel with a six speed manual transmission. They don't fear the stick shift over there like we Americans do. Coincidentally I had purchased a car very similar to that back in November, after selling my Passat wagon to the Podman. There was one slight difference however. I had purchased a VW Jetta TDI, a turbo diesel with clean diesel technology. This great car that we got a ride to the airport in was not a VW was a Ford! If that car had been available here I would have bought it over the VW in a heartbeat. In their infinite wisdom however, the auto makers must think we should not have that option in this country. Stupid in my opinion but I guess the US carmakers know best.....oh, wait, didn't we give them billions to save their sorry asses because of poor business decisions? Never mind.

Go to London, get an Oyster Card, enjoy not driving, and drink some beer. Maybe one or two more posts from London on my documentary film debut but then its back to skiing (need to do the Vasaloppet Sunday), and then the upcoming kayak season.


Anonymous said...

We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull, Some have weird names , and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.............................................

Duane said...

I miss the time in Minnesota but must admit, even with our crazy winter in Virginia this year, 48 degrees in Feburary is nice. Had to comment because you were straddling 0 degrees longitude not latitude. As the great bard of rum stated, "changes in latitudes bring changes in attitudes" but as you know, changes in longitude just brings jet lag. Doesn't work in a song though. Hope you enjoyed Times Square, I mean Picadelly Circus. Duane

DaveO said...

Hey Duane, good to hear from you. I'm claiming jet lag on the latitude/longitude thing. Apparently King Charles founded the observatory to figure out to accurately calculate longitude for you naval types. I think the guy sired 14 illegitimate kids so it impressive that he was able to find the time.

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