Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saturday/Sunday 8/9 October

Air Canada 888 left right on time and was only two thirds full.  We took off into a beautiful deep-red orange sky and were treated to a splendid view of Ottawa with the lights just coming up.  The flight was a little bumpy at times and neither of us had much sleep.  London put us into a holding pattern but even so we touched down 20 minutes early and were very quickly through immigration.

Arriving in London at 0630 on a Sunday morning is not a good good idea.  We only had to get to Paddington and the hotel room would not be ready so we had plenty of time to kill.  The Heathrow Express is the best way to get to Paddington from London Airport but the Underground is very much cheaper and very, very much slower but we decided to take the Picadilly line instead of the Heathrow Express.

You can't get to there from here
I had overlooked the fact that half of the London Underground is shut down at weekends for maintenance.  We topped up our Oyster cards and found the Picadilly line.  As the train entered the platform there was an indistinct announcement that the District and Circle Lines were closed from Edgware Road to Earls Court.  A quick review of the Tube Map indicated that we could change to the Hammersmith and City Line at Hammersmith.  At Hammersmith, in pouring rain, we crossed the road to the Hammersmith and City station and a shouted conversation revealed the fact that the Hammersmith and City was operating only as far as Royal Oak, one stop short of Paddington.  "Then take a bus mate."  "Not so bloody likely," said I.

Back at the Picadilly line station at Hammersmith negotiations with two employees revealed that we could take the Picadilly Line to Picadilly Circus and change to the Bakerloo Line which would get us to Paddington.  This turned out to be the case and we eventually managed to get to the hotel where, indeed, the room was not ready but the front desk staff made us very welcome and found a room for us after about an hour.

The Picadilly line has been relaid with welded rail which made for a very smooth ride.  Pity all of the stations are about 6 inches too low for the train doorways.
Paddington station roof has been cleaned up

After a wash and brush up we decided to go to Kew Gardens, but how?  A discussion with the staff at Paddington suggested that Bakerloo line to the Embankment then a District Line train to Richmond.  This is what we did.  A bit out of our way but it worked.

On leaving Kew station we saw this sign
It was pointing to this pub

What a way to start the vacation!  I am not sure whether we drank real ale and ate lamb tagine in a converted railway toilet or whether the sign was pointing to two different things.  However, the food and drink was very good.

Kew was magnificent.
The Water Lilly House was spectacular
A large holly bush

I climbed the Treetop Walkway and walked around at the top.  There is quite a good view if you like looking at trees but it was nothing special.  

 View from the Treetop Walkway.
We were both beginning to flag by this time and decided to return to the hotel.  Back at Key Gardens station the first train to arrive was a London Overground train purporting to be going to Stratford (the rest of this line was closed for maintenance).  We could take this to Willesden Junction and change to the Bakerloo line for Paddington.  These trains have a bare interior with a row of seats along either side rather like the coaches provided by the Ffestiniog Railway for the slate miners a hundred years ago.  The best thing about them is the paint job.  The connections are wide so one can see right down to the ends of the train, and wish one couldn't.  However it got us to Willesden Junction with only one delay at Acton Central when the driver proudly announced to all and sundry that he was waiting for a green signal and hoped it wouldn't be very long.

At Willesden Junction we waited for a Bakerloo Line train going to the Elephamt and Castle.  A platform announcement warned us to stand well clear of the next train as it was not scheduled to stop.  A Bakerloo line train with an Elephant and Castle sign on the front came in slowly, made a stop and people started getting in and out.  We fell in with the idea - literally as the platform height was at least 12 inches above the floor of the train.  It would have been a wild ride in a wheelchair.  At Kensal Green the platform announcement said to stand clear of this unscheduled train while the on train announcement said we were at Willesden Junction.  People got on and off as if this sort of misinformation was commonplace.  This was Monty Python entertainment at its best.  There was a pause at Queen's Park while we went through a carriage shed.  This seemed to have done the trick and the station announcement system behaved itself at least as far as Paddington.

The amazing part about this was we checked how much money had been deducted from our Oyster Cards.  The system will only take off an amount up to the cost of a Day Runabout so this hassle/trouble/entertainment only cost us 8 pounds each!

But what a way to run a railway.

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