The following takes place between May 5th and 6th, 2015.
Our route for the day:
We woke early (again) so we could check out of the hotel and walk over to the train station. We had to take a short trip from one Bristol station to another, and then wait there about a half hour until the train to London came along. It was raining, and this train station had a very open, out-doors layout to it. It was a little bit cold and miserable for a few minutes until a train station employee told us about an indoor waiting room at the far end of the platform (well hidden, I thought). He then asked where we were going and when I answered him he looked visibly shocked, not because of our destination, but because he clearly wasn’t expecting an American accent. He chuckled a little and then was apologetic.
Then our train arrived and we began the journey to London. This leg I’d booked first class and it was sooo nice. Free Wi-Fi, convenient plugs for our stuff, free food, no one sitting next to us. It made for a pleasant beginning to the day. Notice my super stylish travel hair.
I enjoyed the view of the English countryside. It is not incredibly dissimilar to hilly farmland places in California. It made me think of the places outside Petaluma, like Two Rock Valley and Valley Ford. However there was one thing that was distinctly different, and that is the mustard fields. All over the place. Upon further research, I found that they’re also (disturbingly) called rapeseed. Pretty though, and they were a vibrant splash of color in the landscape.
After we arrived back at Paddington station, we had to make our way to Gatwick airport, by way of the St Pancras station. This meant our first time on the Underground.
I had our pre-paid Oyster cards so that was extremely handy. We were nervous but navigated it without incident. We had lunch at St Pancras station after inquiring to see if there was anything we could do about our Eurostar trip (not much, as I thought, but they weren’t jerks about it).
We had lunch here before continuing our travels.
We jumped back on the Tube and got off at Victoria station where we had to catch an express train to the airport. There was a train at the platform already, and since we didn’t want to have to wait another half hour for the next one, we were rushing. After we boarded and sat for a moment, they came over the loudspeaker saying we should all get off this train and go get on the one in front of it. So we rushed off the train and scurried (Jon ran, but I could not with my luggage) along the train, which I felt to be ridiculously long, with station employees waving us along and urging us to hurry, and boarded the other train.
Then we just sat there for 15 mins until it left.
We got to Gatwick airport and followed the signs to the easyJet luggage check (They were going to make us pay to bring carry-on or checking, so I figured we’d check). Or so we thought. I mean, it was easyJet, but the guy looked at my boarding pass and told me we had to go to the other terminal. So we embarked on this crazy maze-like journey up and down and around and around. We got in this massive line for bag check, and then after just a couple mins I saw there was another section for the ‘Plus’ priority boarding I’d sprung for this flight. Then the security screening entrance near there was closed so we had to make another mini-journey to the other one. Then our flight didn’t even have the gate assigned yet so we had to wait around in the Duty Free shop area. The whole place just smelled faintly like too much perfume mixed together.
Finally our gate was assigned and we made yet another journey down along the long walkway, turning here and there and then way up and over the runway. This airport is supposed to be smaller than Heathrow, but there was so much walking around here it felt much larger.
Then there was some plane shenanigans. Everyone boarded but then we sat there at the gate for maybe a half hour without explanation. Then the captain came over the intercom and let us know that there had been someone they’d had to remove from the plane and that’s why we had a delay. My first thoughts were amazement that they could remove someone from the plane without basically the whole plane knowing about it. It’s not a huge plane so the fact that they kept it all contained is rather impressive. Then some bad news…since we’d missed our takeoff spot, we’d have to wait a while for them to find another spot for us. We taxied to some remote edge of the tarmac and chilled for a while. They estimated a half hour, but it was probably less than 10 mins.
Once we finally got in the air it was more or less uneventful. They made up some time in the air, and we avoided what looked like some nasty storm clouds. When we landed it was raining a little bit, which made it awkward as we had to de-plane on the tarmac and get on a bus. Not sure if this is normal procedure or not but it felt odd.
Then we had to go through customs and I got my second passport stamp!
As we were waiting at the luggage carousel, I overheard a group of people talking about the person that was removed from the plane, so I walked over and asked for the details. It was apparently one of those doomsday preachers. I’d seen those guys a few times already around the airports and train stations. I can only imagine the panic this guy could’ve caused if he started ‘spreading the word’ mid-flight. Very glad that was avoided, but kinda wish I’d known it was going down at the time as it would’ve been more interesting than staring out the window, thinking we’d be going to take off any minute.
We left the secure area and were met by Jon’s brother (actual name Peter James), whom Jon calls “G”, the family calls “Jimmy”, most others call “Peter”, and I usually don’t call anything directly (because, for reals, it’s confusing), but for this blog “Jimmy” will be the moniker I shall utilize.
We drove from the airport to his apartment. It’s really quite pretty driving down into the valley.
After we dropped our stuff off and changed, we went out to eat. I attempted to use what I recall from my high school German classes when ordering my drink, but failed miserably. Since everyone tells me in Europe they drinks their sodas with no ice, I ask for it with ice, but when it arrives…no ice. I’m considering that an epic fail and do not attempt any further German communication beyond ‘thank you’ from that point onward. Dinner was very good though.
The next morning I got to sleep in a little bit. Then we were on the road south to Hohenzollern castle, the ancestral seat of the Prussian Royal House and of the Hohenzollern Princes. The castle has been destroyed twice before, and was built most recently in English Gothic revival style in the 1800’s.
We arrived shortly before an English tour, but of course they didn’t let us take pictures of most of the interior. The view from the outside is spectacular, though.
On the way back to Stuttgart, we passed this place. I thought it looked odd and quirky. I think the boys might’ve actually humored me and stopped but we didn’t have enough time.
Back in Stuttgart, we went to one of the US Army bases and grabbed a quick fast food dinner before we saw Avengers 2 at their movie theater. Jon & I had already seen it but we enjoyed it and didn’t mind seeing it again.
After the movie we stopped at the store on base where we picked up some sodas and snacks and headed back to Jimmy’s place for the night. We went to bed semi-early-ish so we could get up early for our drive down to Switzerland and the Rhine Falls.
And that concludes today’s post. Stay tuned for the next post where we go to the Rhine Falls!