The good news is I am in the British Airways lounge at London Heathrow, two hours before my flight to Bergen. This is my second of three round trips to Europe in September and last night I slept longer than I have in two weeks, clocking in 6.5 hours in one stretch after a four hour walk through one of the heaviest rainstorms London has experienced in the past six years. The heaviest rainstorm was September 20, 2014 when it rained 126 mm/hour. It wasn’t quite so torrential yesterday with only 48 mm/hour rainfall rate.
William Henry Walk near Battersea, London
The bad news is my good night’s sleep meant I slept through my alarm clock set for 3:30 am and I missed my airport shuttle reservation for London Heathrow, which arrived promptly at 4 am. The shuttle left without me.
Note to Self: Pack and be ready to leave hotel before going to sleep when catching early morning airport transportation.
This is the second time this summer I have had to a take a taxi to the airport to avoid missing a flight. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was only £35 from my hotel near Victoria Station, central London to Terminal 5 London Heathrow for a 35 minute taxi ride at 4:45am.
Never Mind the Rain, this is London Calling
The weather forecast for London was 100% rain. Already prepared for rain forecast for the Norwegian Arctic this week, I arrived at my hotel after a £4 Underground ride from Heathrow to Victoria Station and a ten minute walk in the rain.
When my wife and I were in London in July, there was a Tube workers strike over the impending implementation of 24 hour Underground service. I was surprised to learn that I could not get back to London Heathrow using the Underground without risk of missing my 7:55am flight. The earliest trains through Victoria Station are around 5:40am and it is nearly 90 minutes to reach London Heathrow with one train change from Victoria line to the Piccadilly line.
After spending an hour at Passport control upon arrival to LHR and nearly an hour for Security at SFO the day before, I could not risk arriving at 7am for my 7:55 am flight to Bergen. The airport shuttle seemed like a good deal for £15. I paid the hotel a £5 deposit and lost that money. Plus £35 for the taxi.
One night in London turned out to be a costly adventure for the opportunity to get very wet for several hours.
Comfort Inn Westminster, London
All I can say about this hotel is I have not seen a room this small since my two summers living in Irish B&B houses nearly 20 years ago. This was definitely the most I have ever paid per square foot of room space.
The shower adjacent to the toilet prepared me for wet London.
I measured the Comfort Inn room at 112 sq. ft. with room dimensions 14 feet long and 8 feet wide. The entry hall was 10 sq. ft. of useless space. The bathroom was 20 sq. ft at 65 inches x 40 inches. This room was bijou with a room rate of 16,000 Choice Privileges points. So, I paid around $120 for the points. The published rate when I booked August 2 was £118 or $185 USD.
Turns out Friday, September 18 is the first day of Rugby World Cup 2015 in London. That partially explains why there was so little availability for hotel rooms last night and rates for hotels in the area I was staying on Belgrave Road were averaging about $300 USD last night. Belgrave Road is hotel central with Holiday Inn Express, Best Western and a dozen other hotels.
I’m an advocate for one night stands
Knowing the weather was forecast for steady rain, I kind of regretted my decision to layover in London for one night. It sounded cool when I was planning my itinerary in July. Hang out in London for a September afternoon before flying to Bergen, Norway.
I photographed the Comfort Inn hotel room, jumped in the shower, then donned Goretex boots, Goretex rain pants and Goretex rain jacket before hitting the streets. The city street workers were the only people outside dressed for the weather as well as me.
Since I have spent two weeks in London this past year on two different trips, I wanted to see parts of the city I have never visited. Battersea Park looked like a good destination.
For travelers not familiar with London, Battersea Power Station A was a coal-fired power station built in the 1930s beside the River Thames on the south bank. The identical looking Battersea Power Station B was built in the 1950s. Together, the complex is the largest brick building in Europe.
Battersea Power Station, London
The power plant is decommissioned and the area is now being converted to residential buildings. The riverbank for about one mile from Vauxhall Bridge to Battersea Park is developing into residential high rise buildings.
View of residential buildings on South Bank of River Thames seen from Vauxhall Bridge.
One of the aspects of taking random walks in a city are the places you don’t expect to find.
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home offers daily tours.
In short, I made it to Battersea Park and sat on a bench in the rain watching water birds flying around the trees, feeling like I was the only person enjoying a rainy day in this city of 8 million.
This photo makes me think of Eleanor Rigby.
The highlight of my outing was walking the beautifully lighted Albert Bridge.
Albert Bridge, London
From Albert Bridge I walked along the Chelsea Embankment on the north side of River Thames, back to Pimlico Park and my hotel.
My London walk around Battersea is certainly not the typical tourist outing someone spends $200 to enjoy. Although, I am sure there are many thousands of people who would pay $200 for the opportunity to walk around London for a few hours, even during one of the worst rainstorms of the year. I’ll always remember being battered by rain in Battersea London.
Bergen, Norway calling.