Going to jump way out of order here. I know I still owe you the rest of my time in Kerry (I haven't even started on all the fun stuff!), and the highlights of the last couple of weeks in London. But for right now, I'm going to tell you about this morning, because UGH.
Long-time readers may recall a short trip I took to London during college, in which the first day was A Day That Will Live in Infamy. It actually wasn't that bad, if I were to lay it all out, but it was just very frustrating and tiring and everything seemed to go out of its way to go wrong. This morning has been a bit like that, though it is finally looking up.
After several days of dithering about perhaps cutting my trip a few weeks short due to the skyrocketing Covid numbers over here, I finally decided on a middle ground of heading to the relative isolation of the countryside for a week and then heading home a week earlier than planned. I was supposed to take the train from London to Windermere today to start the final leg of my European jaunt. It was all going well - I got all packed up and checked out of my London hotel without incident, walked the few blocks to get to the train station with direct service to Windermere, and the train station at Windermere is only a few blocks from my inn. No transfers, no taxis, no nonsense. So smooth and simple.
Apparently there is some sort of "severe weather" event going on somewhere along the tracks, and all of the trains going to Windermere have been canceled. The workers at the station kept assuring me that my ticket will work tomorrow, but well, the ticket isn't really the concern! Having no place to sleep tonight is the concern. My place to sleep tonight is over a hundred miles away!
I spent about an hour trying to find a cheap hotel that wasn't a hostel dorm (not willing to go that route during the pandemic). That wasn't working. I tried finding hotel rooms in Preston, the furthest town the train was actually going to. Shockingly devoid of any places to stay whatsoever. I finally remembered that I have travel insurance, and surely this sort of thing must be covered. Couldn't get anyone on the phone since apparently they keep US business hours, and my not having a place to sleep tonight was not deemed an "emergency." But I was finally able to dig up a copy of my policy, and confirmed that there is indeed coverage for up to two nights of "trip delay" reimbursement. I found the absolute perfect place, just a few minutes walk from the train station and cheap enough to qualify for full reimbursement. One room left. I pulled away from the screen just long enough to double check the conversion rate of pounds to dollars, popped back in literally less than 90 seconds later, and in that time someone snuck in and booked the room out from under me.
Can I just tell you, in case it isn't already immediately obvious, a last-minute booking in London for a Saturday night, especially when there are probably several hundred people all in exactly the same boat as me, is not easy to come by, nor is it cheap. I tried two more hotels that were less conveniently located, but still "affordable" (a laughable usage of the term by any other standards). Again, they were sniped while I was trying to book them. I finally ended up in a pretty posh place that is over the reimbursement limit in the heart of the West End. Hopefully my insurance reimburses me for part of it, because this was literally the best I could do! But I finally just went for it before even something that expensive was no longer an option, and even if my claim somehow gets denied, hey, that's what the emergency savings is for. Emergencies like having nowhere to sleep!
Still more drama trying to get to the hotel, lugging my enormous backpack the whole way. For some reason the Euston Underground was temporarily closed for about 15 minutes, and security guys were blocking all of the entrances, and it was just this chaotic crush of people. I had my mask firmly in place, which of course made me a sweaty mess, and kept causing my glasses to literally slide off my face and onto the ground if I so much as glanced at the floor. Took over 20 minutes to just get to the Tube (for reference - the Euston train station and the Tube station are one and the same, just above ground vs below ground. I didn't have to walk anywhere, all I had to do was go down). I had the good sense to wait for the second train that was literally a minute behind the first, which the entire backlog of people packed onto, and I was able to just float over to a seat on the next one.
And once I finally got to the hotel, I was too early for check in and my glasses fell off TWICE as I was trying to offload my bags for the porter to stash. I also didn't know it at the time, but my hair was sticking out in about eight directions, and as previously mentioned, I was a sweaty mess. I did not feel up to snuff for a swanky hotel.
But I was able to finally remove the massive literal weight from my shoulders, and wander around Leicester Square for 45 minutes - there was a little Christmas market set up in the middle of it! I wandered through a protest in Chinatown, saw the movie theatre they held all of the Harry Potter premieres at (and sadly did not go inside in deference to the lack of vaccine and mask mandates here), and found a side street that consisted entirely of Italian restaurants. And now I'm finally in my room, and it is darling. Cool view over the rooftops of London, a robe and slippers, and a big squashy armchair.
Not entirely sure what the next day or two shakes out like. If the ice or whatever it is clears overnight, then I'm going to continue on as planned and take my train up to Windermere and enjoy a week of hiking around in the Lake District. If trains are cancelled tomorrow as well, I think I'll just heed the Very Loud message from the universe and move up my flight home. Off to research Covid testing centers in case I need to do that!