After meeting up with my former Williams biology TA and his wife, my wheels started turning. She had mentioned her “new” discovery of Google flights. So I got to thinking… Even though I was enjoying my “Real Housewife of Silicon Valley” rest and relaxation, the thought of a last minute trip became very exciting. Mainly because when else, other than after retirement, will I have this much time that is obligation-free from a scheduling standpoint? I can just pick up and go! And so, I did.
Yes! I went on Google Flights and found out that a trip to London that was relatively inexpensive. It was still quite a bit, but half the price of anywhere else in Europe. I wasn’t super-flexible with dates since SMS and I have a trip planned for the second half of July so really, I was pretty fixed between 7 July – 15 July. I do recommend Google flights map option where you can look broadly at destinations in a specific month for a one or two week timeframe. A person could really score some deals! After unsuccessfully trying to use a travel credit, I booked with points.
SMS wasn’t able to come and really, didn’t have a ton of interest in a long-haul flight. Before I left, we got the Tesla 3 serviced since the tires were super-worn on the inside (very sneaky!). There’s also a weird wheel squeak that they said they fixed, but they are Pinocchio nose-growing liars since it’s there and actually worse.
That morning, I took the train into San Francisco to meet with another Williams classmate who’s an ortho surgeon at UCSF. He had good information about benefits, so it was nice to meet with him over an Andytown coffee. Then, it was off to SFO to catch my flight to London. Although I thought it would be tight, I had time for a quick lunch in the AMEX lounge- yes!
After a long flight, I got through customs reasonably fast. I had no check-in luggage which was nice. I arrived around 7 am and had a flight to Baden Baden, Germany at 1700. That flight was on RyanAir out of Stansted, so I planned a mini-day in London.
I planned on a day in the Kensington Area, since I had seen a picture of the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall, a super grand entrance hall with incredible architecture. First stop though: Breakfast.
I went to Sheila’s Cafe and ordered the English Breakfast plate. I did, however, order coffee. After breakfast, I walked through Kensington Park towards the museum. It was gorgeous and had a pond with vases featuring swans right next to a little rest where a few were hanging out. I wanted to rent a bike, but had difficulty with the program and having an international zip code. So I walked. I did use an awesome app called “Stasher” to store my larger carry-on for the day.
The museum was quite cool. I saw the Dippy the Diplosaurus cast, a lot of fossils, some gems, and the great hall. Off of one of the galleries of the hall was a “Treasures” room where they had beautifully displayed some of the highlights of the collection. It was cool to see things in person that I had only seen in pictures- especially since I didn’t even know where the originals were!
Afterwards, I walked towards the Saatchi Gallery where a special Tiffany’s display is being hosted. It was a very nice part of town- Chelsea, I think. There were lots of good looking people in beautiful clothes living a model life. I didn’t look terrible since I was wearing a dress, but I was impressed with how so many people were so well-turned out. At the gallery, a lot of women were very fashionably dressed. The exhibit was good, but it was sort of like a really drawn out commercial. But hey, I saw the “Beyonce necklace” and some other amazing jewels that I wouldn’t say no to so overall, it was a nice event even if I did end up going through it pretty quickly.
Then, it was time to head to Stensted. The express train was delayed so the trip took longer than normal- 55 minutes instead of 30 minutes. Hot tip: you need to buy Stensted express tickets rather than just tapping through the turnstile with a normal farecard or RFID card or phone. So, I did that but then they were checking tickets on exit which was causing a LOT of consternation since people were late for their flights and the check was really time-consuming. I saw the huge line and figured there had to be another way out (there’s never just one!) and I was right! There was another shorter check by the lift halfway down the platform so I go through relatively quickly. One other hot tip that I have for people in general is that, if you are not ready to show your card/ticket/pass/whatever, please step to the side rather than block everyone else until your entitled, ill-prepared self is finally sorted out.
So, I took my first RyanAir flight. It is hilariously terrible in a “what do you expect, you get what you pay for” sort of way. Mostly in the form of really brusque customer service. But I got to Baden-Baden without trouble, went through customs, and used my 9 Euro card to take the bus into town! Yes, June-August, the German DB transport system sells month passes for all city and regional travel for just 9 Euros/month. Amazing! That, combined with Google maps public transport routes, made traveling really easy.
I checked into my hotel and at dinner at the attached beer garden. It was a beautiful night and very enjoyable, as well as easy after a long, logistically-intense day.