Studying Abroad - Manchester, UK

Planes, tubes and trains

My voyage to the UK was interesting to say the least. It included considerable delays, some waiting around along with some swapping of airlines. Long story short; I’m in Manchester, and my luggage isn’t.

Turns out that snowstorm yesterday (or two days ago? I don’t even know anymore) delayed my flight to Toronto so much that I would’ve missed my connection for London. So they booked me a flight the next day with a different airline. Funny enough, I got to spend one more night at home, while my luggage was stuck in a plane headed for Toronto (due to the hatch being frozen shut, which I think is hilarious). I tripled-checked with the two airlines to make sure that it would be arranged for me to pick it up in London Heathrow.

My favorite thing to display on the screen in front of me: the telemetry data of the Airbus A350, quite a big plane, carrying around 300 passengers.

Sure enough, after a long, sleepless flight across the Atlantic (they gave us some blankets and pillows which was nice) and one hearty airplane meal later, I’m waiting at the baggage claim conveyor-belt thingy and my backpack is nowhere to be seen. (And it didn’t help that they had trouble opening the hatch. Again. On a different plane, five time zones later)

While I was waiting, I entertained myself by timing and calculating the speed and the length of the conveyor-belt thingy with some simple arithmetic and my watch. Turns out, it takes 4 min and 30 sec for a suitcase to go around a 70m long conveyor belt at 0.25m/s, in case you ever wondered the speed of a conveyor-belt thingy at Heathrow airport…

I filled out a few forms and the airline will track it down and deliver it to Manchester. On the plus side, they’ll ship it to my residence, so I won’t have to drag all that KD and maple syrup a couple hundred kilometers north. Since there was no way I could make it to my orientation in time, I decided to take the slower, cheaper route and use the underground for the full London experience. For an underground, it sure spends a good portion of the trip above ground. Not that I’m complaining, it was great to see London from the backyard of residential neighborhoods. I’m definitively coming back here to explore further the city. I was surprised by the amount of people reading the newspaper on the tube, you don’t really see that in Ottawa anymore.

The London Underground
I realized that the voice announcing “mind the gap” also includes the “step” (almost bumped my head boarding)

After a tube line transfer to reach the train station (a short walk outside was needed), I step outside the door and take my first breath of London air…

Buzz lightyear meme saying smokers everywhere

I exited into an exterior courtyard with benches, tables and coffee shops. I was astounded by the shear amount of smokers taking their breaks, I guess it was a designated smoking area or something. Nevertheless, I hurried my walk into the train station, feeling optimistic that my next breath of outside air will be better.

A train in the London station
Seeing my train reminded me of my Book of Trains I had a kid: “Oh so that’s what they look like in person!”

I believe this was the first time I did not wait for a vehicle of some kind during my trip; I entered the station and after my first step into the crowd, I hear: “The train for Manchester Piccadilly station is now boarding on platform one.” (You have to picture it with that nice, sophisticated british accent) I dash for a kiosk, quickly get a ticket and run to the platform. On my way, I noticed that there was no car or seat number on my ticket, so I followed the Londoners in London and boarded a not-first-class-looking car. No one seemed to mind.

The train ride was much smoother and quieter (no roaring jet engine outside my window this time!). It was about 11:00am local time, but felt more like 5pm. I took advantage of the smooth ride and dozed off while observing the English countryside.

English countryside
It reminded me of farms back home, being essentially the same, just more sheep for some reason.

Two and a half hours later, I finally arrived at my final destination with the clothes on my back, my electronics (and their chargers of course), my water bottle, passport (and other documents), a deck of cards and my tired, adventurous spirit.

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