Monday, 16 May 2016

My unexpected UK Travel Story Day 1

My first travel on my own this year was just recently when I visited my sister and her family in Mississippi, USA.  I had a good time as a tourist and explored Elvis Presley's Graceland and other attractions nearby.  Last month, I had the opportunity to travel again but this time because of work and it is outside North America -> United Kingdom.  Backtracking two months,  I found out about the Global Meeting through my counterparts in Canada.  My boss was promoted and they thought that while they haven't selected a replacement yet,  I could come and join them,  But of course, I didn't have the nerve to ask my boss because I knew he wanted to go too.  I knew it was impossible but I wished that I will be able to go there and in other European breweries too someday.

On April Fool's morning, I received a call from my boss and asked me a favor, and that is to represent the Toronto Brewery to the Global Meeting.  Of course, I said yes and am very thankful for the unexpected news.  Everything happened so fast, I was very busy at work, have to prepare for the Global Meeting while still attending my Lean Six Sigma course at U of T.  The clincher was when I found out that I had to take my final exams without finishing the remaining lessons and I had to write the test on the day I was flying. So exciting, right?

After I handed in my final exam to my professor, that's when I started to feel relieved and accomplished and the excitement of going to see my global counterparts and long-lost friends started to kick in.  

Day 1 - I arrived very early at Heathrow Airport and managed to explore it to get to where I'm supposed to go - to Heathrow Express, the non-stop train going to Paddington Station which is just across the hotel my friend booked for me.  I was given instructions by my friends from London to find Heathrow Connect - the cheaper version - only 9 sterling pounds compared to 22 in Heathrow Express.  Travel time was only 15 minutes.  There are discounts if you book the tickets early.  This is something to remember when I go back with the family on our next travel goal.  Anyway, when I arrived at the station, I bought the Oyster Card to use for going around the city I did it using an ATM style kiosk, I arrived before 8:00 am on a Sunday and there are few ticket sellers at the counters.

AM - Check-in at Hilton, Attend SCM Service 
I was able to meet my friend at Hilton Edgeware Road and checked-in early.  After dropping off my luggage, I headed to The Shard - the tallest building because that is the landmark nearest to SCM London - My former church family counterpart in UK.  I walked cause they said it was only a block away but then I realized that I've been walking miles and still couldn't find it. The Lord was with me and the weather was great so I didn't mind but then I remember the service starts at 10:00 am.  With God's provision and miracle, I arrived just in time before the Pastor's sermon.  I was so happy to see fellow Filipinos worshipping the Lord.

PM - The London Tube System, Sandeman's Walking Tour and Hillsong London Service
I did some research and I found out about the Sandeman's London Free Walking Tour.  The meeting place was at Covert Garden, this is a market place where there are lots of people - tourists and places to eat.   That's where I bought some lunch - German Hotdog to eat while walking - my schedule was tight and the going around the Tube was "challenging".  

The underground subway stations here are deep. Sometimes, there are more stairs and tunnels to pass before transferring to another line.  I found that walking on the road is cheaper and faster and lots of people and stores to see.  If you are just going from Leicester to Covert Garden - don't use the Tube, This is the shortest distance in the Underground.

Here are some of the busiest or deep stations that I remember and you may want to avoid:
Oxford Circus, King's Cross and Pancras - this is where the 9 3/4 platform of Harry Potter is, Piccadilly Circus, Earl's Court, Embankment, London Bridge, Baker Street and Victoria.  Well, these are the stations that I remembered going to and getting lost in hahaha.

When I reached Covert Garden, it was not that hard to find the free Walking Tour guides because they are wearing red shirts and they wait under RED umbrellas. I was able to eat lunch and register for the tour - again -> just in time.  These are the areas we went to and I found out interesting facts and some history about London:


I knew I was doing the walking tour so I wore comfortable shoes but maybe I lack sleep (because of excitement)  and the change of time - London time is 5 hours ahead of EST and got really tired of walking for 2 hours, I doze off at the Tube.  Before I fell asleep,  I counted the stops to go to my hotel and I thought that that was my last stop.  I ended up going to Richmond on the Green line which is the opposite of where I was going and I had to go back and spend another 30 minutes "touring around" the other zones. What an adventure!  

Finally, after arriving in Zone 1, I went straight to Tottenham Court Road station to attend Hillsong London last worship service schedule at Dominion Theatre.  I had a breath-taking experience, the singers are very close and the service is like a concert.  The songs played were new ones but that they also sang old songs.  I loved Hillsong- always does and I was blessed that night.

Going back to my hotel, I decided to explore and find the famous English Fish and Chips and took it to my room to rest my tired feet and eyes.  Day 1 was amazing.  Thank you Lord.

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