Saturday, November 13, 2004

(Mostly) Alright For Starters

It is now Saturday night in London; I arrived last night and everything went smoothly. Well almost everything. Getting through O'Hare was a breeze; the flight left on time; except for some occasional minor turbulence, the flight was smooth; 7 hours went by pretty fast; the food on the plane was pretty good actually and the in-flight entertainment not bad; I arrived in London 20 minutes early and that was after circling Heathrow for about 40 minutes; getting through customs was fast & easy; my suitcase was waiting when I got to Baggage Claim; except for being a bit of a schlep, getting to and using the London Underground from Heathrow was simple and cheap; though I had to lug my luggage up some steps to get out of the subway, it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been; and when I walked out of the Picadilly Tube station, never having had to switch trains, my hotel was literally right on the same corner.

Then I walked into my hotel, the Regent Palace, which I stayed at once before (the location is wonderful, but it's not first-class because it is too old to have air conditioning and most of the rooms do not have bathrooms in them; so it's not the best, but in general the trade-offs are worth the savings). As I entered, there seemed to be a lot of people in the lobby. And more coming. It quickly became apparant that the fire alarm was sounding and all the guests had evacuated their rooms. Luckily, after only about 1/2 hour, they announced that it had been a false alarm (revealed by a front desk clerk to be caused by someone smoking in a hallway). So I got my room, which I was told would be temporary (to be switched today, which it was), as it had 4 beds. Indeed, so the one I slept on was a twin (no great tragedy, but still); the room was freezing. I turned on the radiator, but the heat never really kicked into gear. Then as I buried myself under the covers and struggled to fall asleep, as 1am was only really 7pm to me, guess what. Another fire alarm. After swearing a bit, I threw on some shorts & a jacket over my t-shirt and made my way into the hallway to go downstairs (had it been a real fire and I had to leave the building, I would've have been frigidly underdressed. Fortunately, before I went down any stairs, the alarm stopped. I went back to my room & bed. But for the next 1/2 hour or so, there kept being alarms that sounded and then went off in seconds. I never left my bed again and eventually that stopped, though there seemed to be a propensity of people on my floor who didn't seem to realize shouting and slamming doors (not due to alarms; just as morons) at 2am isn't very courteous. Eventually, I fell asleep and got like 6 hours.

Today, I switched to a single room, which I haven't stayed in yet, but it seemed nicer and warmer in the 5 minutes I was there. So not an idyllic start, but a good story and no great harm done. Unless there's more alarms tonight.

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