Yesterday we drove down to Long Island, where Chad's grandmother lives: we were leaving the car at her house and she was driving us to JFK. The drive down was awful, it was like Zeno's paradox of traffic, the closer we got the slower traffic was (accident, construction, accident, accident . . . ). But we'd left ourselves plenty of time and were able to have a nice sustaining dinner at an Italian place near Chads grandmother's before making it to JFK with no traffic at all.
Of course, if we'd known what was in store for us, we might not have eaten outside the airport after all . . .
You see, Chad had decided to use some of his book money to travel "Club World" on British Airways, that is, the kind of seats that let you lie down (here's a link to a picture post ; the top is the footrest, the bottom is the unreclined seat). And this came with access to fancy lounges on both ends, with free everything: food and drink (including hard liquor that was just sitting out, no bartender), free wireless, comfortable seats, and even a spa (I got a fifteen-minute massage).
So, yeah. I vacillated between feeling like an imposter and someone who'd be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
I got about five hours of sleep on the quasi-redeye, and though Chad got a lot less, he at least was more comfortable than he would have been in coach, especially since we had a good deal of taxiing on both ends of the flight, which made today a lot easier. And then we had a real breakfast in the arrivals lounge in Heathrow when we got in.
Oh, and this all came with much shorter check-in, security, and Customs lines. You see what I mean about the liberal guilt?
Anyway, if it were just me I don't know if the increased cost would be justified for basically giving back a day of vacation, but since Chad is so much taller it made sense. I just don't want to be like the woman who spent the weekend sitting like a dude on the subway, you know?
We're staying down in the Docklands, near the convention center for WorldCon, which is a good ways from Heathrow. By the time we lugged our stuff in it was about 2:30 on a bright sunny warm afternoon, and we decided to go over to Greenwich.
Our timing was really not good on this. We took a cable car over the Thames, and as we crossed, it was like heading into Mordor, looking at the wall of thunderstorms heading our way and then overtaking us. To my very, very intense vexation, I don't seem to be able to link to individual photos within Chad's G+ photo album, I'm on my tablet so I can't right-click and get the image URL and direct link that way, and I'm too tired to decide which is more vexing, selectively re-sharing individual pictures so I can link to the post, or having you all page through the entire album, or some other more sensible solution. (The hotel wifi is AWFUL. The data plans on our phones is very variable speed-wise. So I'm not pulling the photos back off Chad's camera and uploading them into my own spaces.) Taking the path of least resistance, then, Chad's full photo gallery. The, uh, fifth and sixth pictures should be of the approaching storm.
(The cable car is nice enough once, I guess, but I wouldn't go out of your way for tourism purposes.)
The rain was literally horizontal when we arrived, and we decided to make a dash for the nearest Tube, which is pretty close, because otherwise we can't do anything—the cable cars stopped running right after we arrived because of the weather. We got thoroughly drenched, and squelched our way onto the Tube and then the DLR [*] to Greenwich.
. . . where it is bright and sunny again, though windy, and stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon. The only five minutes it poured after we got to our hotel, and we were out in it. At one point we were in the park with all the Greenwich museums and it seriously looked like an oil painting, the light was so amazing.
[*] We managed to completely overlook the Oyster card touch-points for the DLR for, uh, rather a long time. I'm hoping the entirely unpaid rides are made up for by the trip from Paddington at which we entirely failed to touch out at all.
Anyway. We went to the Royal Observatory, which is pretty great. The actual observatory, up on the hill, is currently hosting a very fun steampunk exhibit re-imagining the quest to find a reliable method of determining latitude. Steampunk is not particularly my thing, but I was surprised how charming I found it. The wood-and-metal outdoor structure after the "Humped Pelican Crossing" picture (taken because, what??!!—don't explain it, it would spoil it) was part of that exhibit. The next picture is someone leaning over the meridian photo-op line; then there's a picture of part of the Octagon Room at the top that Christopher Wren designed (very pretty, hot as anything with all the windows and being at the top); then there's a series of pictures of a large drawing of a plan to lift elephants with balloons, which you all have to look at, because the adorable long-suffering elephants! Kept in a neatly-labeled Elephant Paddock! Also there is a squid under Yet Another Boat—don't worry, I'm sure the elephants will rescue their compatriot. There was lots of other things like that in the exhibit, plus some great outfits made by modern cosplayers, and an overall story about a Commodore who wants to solve the Longitude Competition with kiwi birds, and if you're even vaguely interested in steampunk, you should definitely check it out (and if, unfortunately, you can get up a steep hill and then steep narrow stairs).
We went over to the National Maritime Museum and saw the associated exhibit on the Longitude Competition ( Ships, Clocks, and Stars: The Quest for Longitude), which has John Harrison's original timekeepers as well as a bunch of other neat stuff. Unfortunately either I was too tired to get the upshot or the exhibit didn't quite make it clear that Harrison's timekeepers, though excellent, were too expensive and difficult to manufacture for a long time, so sailors used the lunar distance method (measure the angle between the moon and a star) instead for quite a while, because though it was incredibly difficult to develop (involving careful work by a pair of individuals known, deliciously, as the calculator and anti-calculator—the latter was a woman—whose work was checked against each other before being compiled), once it was done it could be mass-printed. But Chad tells me that the US Navy still teaches the lunar distance method today as a backup—not with sextants, but with computers, because it doesn't depend on GPS satellites which might be unavailable.
I'm entirely failing to do this justice! Maybe Chad will chime in if he has time. But it was pretty cool anyway.
After that we had a snack, because I'd seen signs everywhere saying the museum was open until 6 p.m., and I thought we had time. Well, no; the exhibits really all closed at 5, and they just gently shooed people out and into the gift shops then. So we missed the rest of the exhibits at the Maritime Museum; the only thing we managed was to peek into the Queen House, which had some interesting WWII illustrations on exhibit and a famous and indeed pretty spiral staircase called the Tulip Stair.
Then we wandered a bit, and had dinner at The Old Brewery which is just around the corner, and indeed part of the same building as, the "Discover Greenwich" tourist center, at which Chad had quite a good burger (with a surprisingly-large hunk of cheddar on top that goes to show that USians really do think of cheese as a condiment much of the time) and I had fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and basil which is exactly what you want in such a dish.
We walked the tunnel under the Thames, which again has nothing to recommend it except that you've done it—no, wait, it also has, at least on the North end, a fabulous huge wood-paneled elevator complete with bench, and came back to the hotel. Where we fought with wifi and our new phones and then got the world's slowest drink in the bar downstairs, and holy cow but it is way too late for me to be up.
Anyway. Who's here already/always?