Thursday, July 20, 2023

London Town


So, I ended up going to London a few weeks ago.  My son Josh and his wife Shelby went along.  Josh and I went to see the Cardinals play the Cubs but we did a lot more while there.  While we were at it, we headed over to Paris for a few days.  I figured instead of giving details here (I’ll be glad to personally discuss with anyone who wants), I’d just enumerate the differences I found in London and “the States”.

First, there is the obvious fact that Londoners drive on the other side of the road.   You might say (like I did) “Well, I’m not going to drive so I don’t care.  Think about it though when you cross the street.  You are supposed to look “left, then right, then left again”.  Not in England, you do the opposite.  Josh drove us once in a ZipCar.  I flinched every time he made a left-hand turn – which is akin to a right-hand turn in the US.  Also, their gas prices look great until you realize gas is sold by the liter in London.  It’s over six dollars a gallon!

Second, their mass transit system is the best I’ve ever used.  The red double-decker buses are wonderful and between those, the “Tube” (subway) and trains, getting around London was very easy (even for a mass transit neophyte like me).  You can get an Oyster Card or simply use any credit card with a chip.   You can use Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Third, most places don’t have air conditioning.  I was told that it rarely gets warm enough to need it.  Of course, the week we were there, it was in the 80s.  We had one fan in the Air B&B we stayed in.  We ended up getting another one at a place called Argos. It reminded me of a modern-day Service Merchandise where you requested what you wanted at a terminal and they bring it out to you.  We ended going to a couple of American restaurants (McDonalds and Slim Chickens) strictly because they had air conditioning. 

Fourth, there is no such thing as all you can drink soda.  Even at McDonalds they don’t have this.  The only place that did was Slim Chickens.  Interestingly, they only had diet soda.  Self checkout is even more prevalent than here.  If you want plastic bags (and didn’t bring your own), you pay for them.  There also seems to be a mini grocery store on every block that has more than our average convenience store (like produce and baked goods).  Tesco, Iceland and Sainsbury were the main brands we saw.

Fifth, the words used there for various things are different.  Lift is elevator, nick is steal (as in “they keep nicking the Abbey Road sign”) and biscuit is a cookie.  You’ll figure this out when you go to McDonalds looking for a sausage biscuit and they don’t exist there.    The ground floor on an elevator is zero not one.  And if you want to go to the basement, that’s -1.   They also use the pounds as opposed to euros like the rest of Europe.  We rarely used cash though, we used Google Pay.

Finally, they are on the Metric system.  It’s kilometers, liters, Celsius and kilograms.  You’ll learn to do approximate conversions in your head.   I guess the US is going to stay independent and stay on the Imperial system forever.  The power plugs are even different (than both the US and the rest of Europe).  You’ll need a British adapter.

We saw Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the British Museum, the Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.  And I had to take a Beatles Tour.  The history in London is so interesting (at least to me). 

If you get the chance, go.  The people there were very accommodating to us “Yanks” as they called us.  People said they loved my accent; I don’t know what they were talking about 😊.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Contour Airlines - The Sequel


So, I decided to take another try at flying out of Paducah on Contour Airlines.  The flight ended up being competitive with other airports, so I took a shot at it.  What I did this time was make my reservation via American Airlines.  I could check in for the American flight via their app and for Contour via theirs.

I arrived at the airport and the TSA gate agent said, “Your ID doesn’t match your identity”.  I was wearing my Green Lantern shirt and he said my ID should have said “Hal Jordan”.  We had a good laugh over that.  Little did I know that would be the highlight of my flight out of Paducah.

Everything went fine at the beginning.  We boarded the plane on time and started off.  Unfortunately, there was an announcement that there was an issue, and we were taken back to the terminal at Barkley and had to deplane.  We had to stay in the gate area since the TSA agents were no longer there (since the next flight wasn’t until that afternoon).  We sat there for several hours until someone arrived to pronounce the plane OK.  Most of us were going to miss our connecting flights.  I thought I would have time since my layover was over two and half hours.  I asked the person from Contour if I’d make that.  She shrugged and said “Probably”.    She did tell us all that even though the flight time was listed as two hours, we would get there in one hour and five minutes.

So, we took off finally over two hours late.  We did indeed get there in one hour and five minutes.  Unfortunately, it took almost twenty minutes to get to the gate and start deplaning.   My departing flight to New York was of course in a totally different terminal.  I still would have time to make it if I hurried.  Then, it hit me.  The plane from Paducah had limited overhead bin space.  So, our carryon bags had been tagged and stored on the plane.  It took over fifteen minutes to get those.  So, I missed my connecting flight.

Things did work out OK though.  Fortunately, American has a dedicated support desk in their terminal at Charlotte.  I was able to easily get on the next flight to LaGuardia which left within the hour.  I didn’t get my preferred seat in the aisle, but at least I wasn’t delayed too much.

So, my chance of flying out of Barkley again on Contour?  Pretty low unless it’s a great deal.  I feel the risk of missing my connection is too great unless I have a long layover time (which means sitting in Charlotte for hours potentially).  It is a shame though since when I flew back, I was one of the first to get to arrive at the new Barkley terminal (it had opened the day before).   It’s a very nice facility – you could still smell the “new”.  The old terminal had been there as long as I could remember – at least forty years.  This one is much better.  I don’t know how much I’ll be seeing of it though except possibly to rent a car from Enterprise.