You are here (and the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters but no pearls)

It’s a grim post for a title but as the dust settles on the festive period realities start to preoccupy. It’s like the feeling you have late Sunday afternoon after the shininess and freedom of Friday and Saturday wane. It was a great sabbatical, and before declaring it done and dusted, I’ll manage a quick recap in my normal cryptic list format (with plenty-o-quotes). The first post is really a logistical recap (getting to and from) whilst the second will focus on the highlights. I am an absolute rail geek so time on trains and at stations is a huge part of the adventure.

I spent my sabbatical in the UK. My trip started with a stay at the TWA Hotel at Idlewild Airport (JFK). I’ve stayed there several times, but never solo and never during Christmas when it’s all decorated. I also committed to travel to and from the airport via mass transit. It was also a test to compare transit/transport infrastructure between the UK to the US. In order to get to JFK, I used Lyft ($13.69) to Amtrak ($61.00) to LIRR ($11.25) to AirTrain ($8.25). I had to use Lyft because Metro-North services started later than my Amtrak departure. It was $94.19. The return trip was AirTrain ($8.25) to LIRR ($11.25) to Amtrak ($97.00) to Metro-North ($3.00). The return was more expensive at $119.50. Overall, it was $213.69 roundtrip which is cheaper than tolls, gas, and long-term parking at JFK. There’s also a cheaper (albeit longer) route via Metro-North to GCT and the New York City Subway. I also splurged and travelled in business class on Amtrak. One benefit was departing from the relatively new Moynihan Train Hall. It’s a beautiful space, and whilst it doesn’t offset the destruction of the original Penn Station, it is a nice nod to the classical architecture of the golden age of rail travel. Coincidentally my first stay in the UK was at St Pancras Station (Renaissance Hotel) and the poet John Betjeman had something to do with its preservation.

Upon arrival in the UK, I used the London Underground from Heathrow. My destination was west London, so it was Piccadilly to District. My trip to St Pancras was via National Rail/SWR to Vauxhall to London Underground via Victoria.

I was at the hotel at St Pancras just long enough for a little exploration, but my ultimate destination was Westminster Cathedral for Matins and Solemn Mass. Mass started at 11:15 PM and I arrived via Victoria and Jubilee. There was NO London Underground services on Christmas Day so returning from Matins and Solemn Mass at Westminster Cathedral at 1:30 AM was an adventure. I used a bike from Santander Cycles to make the 3.5-mile trek back to the hotel. It was my first time using a bikeshare scheme (usually have the Brompton) and the app and google maps made it super easy. It’s also very (very) affordable. I also used the bikeshare on Christmas Day to get from the hotel to the Victoria Coach Station which was about 4+ miles from the hotel.

The trip to Southampton was via the aforementioned coach service. It was clean and fairly direct (mostly university students). I was in Southampton for 5 days and left via rail. It was a direct service from SWR via Southampton Central to Waterloo. I used 5 stations with national rail services in Central London (Waterloo, Vauxhall, St Pancras / Kings Cross, and Liverpool Street). I was in Richmond overnight before departing from Kings Cross on a Great Nothern service to Norwich via Royston and Cambridge. Engineering works prevented direct service to Norwich, so it was coach service between Royston and Cambridge. My return to London from Norwich was direct via Greater Anglia to London Liverpool Street. There were catastrophic signaling problems on the line between Norwich and London and departure on earlier trains were delayed / cancelled, but service was restored by the time my train departed.

My trip ended at the SOFITEL at Heathrow. I started on the Elizabeth Line from Liverpool Street, but services were cancelled from Ealing Broadway when power was disrupted. All travelers were forced to complete the journey via District and Piccadilly (London Underground). On the morning of my departure, I used the Heathrow Express between Terminals 5 and 2/3 and this service typically runs to/from Paddington Station.

Protesters Picketed the Demolition of the Old Penn Station 60 Years Ago (Untapped New York)
A fitting tribute to Betjeman (The Guardian)
Travelling in London (National Rail)
Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras International (Flickr)
TWA Hotel (Flickr)

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