Literary Map of England

Literary Map of England

Good evening.

It’s been rather a hectic day and I’m just now getting a chance to sit down and record our first day in England.

Airbus 380 waiting to load up

Airbus 380 waiting to load up

We flew direct (always a good thing) on British Airways, Dulles to Heathrow. I have travelled alot internationally and I would say, if you have a choice, fly the country-airline where you are headed. BA was spectacular: great service on a comfortable plane (an Airbus 380) that was pretty much at the 469 seating capacity. We had the same equipment-type coming and going and the same seats (center aisle of a 3-4-3 configuration where our row had only 3 seats).

Waiting on our big plane ...

Waiting on our big plane …

Overnight flights are always tough – you’re so darn tired when you get off even if you have slept. We left Dulles at 6:50pm and arrived in London at 6:30am local time … or 1:30am EDT!. By the time we got our bags, cleared passport control/customs and headed to find the train, it was more like 7:30am.

We also learned from our uber polite passport guard that we were not on vacation (as we weren’t vacating anything); we were in fact on holiday! Lesson #1 learned in England.

Our first order of business was to validate our BritRail Passes in order to be able to put them to immediate use. We bought a 15-day consecutive pass (you have to buy them before you land in England) for our 14-day trip as we would be using the train just about everyday, especially since we could take the Heathrow Express to and from Paddington. We found the rail folks and they validated the pass and explained the best way to Paignton would be to take the Heathrow Express into Paddington and then catch a train west to Paignton.

It might sound crazy after getting off a long flight: but sitting on the trains for the next couple of hours was very relaxing. The countryside (it only takes 30 minutes to get out of the city-scenery and into the country-scenery) was gorgeous – lush, green fields and trees and pretty farms and postcard perfect skies. The run to Paignton, on a direct (ie, no changes) train, takes about 3 hours.

We got into Paignton shortly after 1:30pm and, since I’d already Google-mapped the hotel location, set off happily to find out hotel. Only problem was that the copy I’d printed didn’t clearly show street names so we had to wander a bit. I must have been really tired because Maggie suggested checking the back of the Google Map printout to see if I’d put the written directions; I had and we quickly oriented ourselves and were at the Roslyn Guest House in no time.
Lesson #2 learned in England: always check to see if there are WRITTEN as well as map-based directions on a Google-map printout.

Our room, at the top of the 3-story row-house hotel, was small but adequate for our needs and we loved that we could open the window and hear the birds and feel the breeze.

After unpacking, we opted to walk around a bit, grab some food for dinner and then get to bed early.

Lesson #3 learned in England: do not walk along the beach in Paignton with a sandwich in your hand. Why? Because a large seagull WILL swoop down and take a bite without asking first. Further, said bird (and his buddies) will get rather angry when you shoo him away and say “no”.

Paignton is a lovely British beach town. It’s a town where there are few foreigners staying; it is truly for the British. The shops (including the myriad fish & chips shops) are fun to window-shop at and the pier is really fun. There is a Catholic Church (Sacred Heart and St. Therese) was 5 minutes from the hotel and the train station, once we knew read the directions, was a quick 5-minute walk.

Paignton also has the loudest, most aggressive and raucous sea gulls you will ever see/hear. Part of the issue was that the gulls were nesting and eggs had hatched out … so part of the loudness/aggression was due to protecting their young. Which I get. But at 4:30am (and on), the birds’ shouting is a tad obnoxious!

Tomorrow: our first full day exploring Greenway after riding a steam train ….

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