europython 2010: The road to Birmingham
I'm writing this lines seating on the bed, in a room of the ETAP Hotel in Great Colmore Street, Birmingham, UK. Now it is 23:24 (GMT+1 or BST, Brittish Summer Time as they call it here in UK) but let me get back some hours ago, where the journey began.
I got up early today (at least early for a Sunday) probably because I was a little bit nervous thinking on all the things I was going to do for the day. After a quick look to check that everything was in place (the luggage, the laptop, all the needed cables, my current-reading book, etc) I tried to print some useful stuff like the confirmation emails from both Virgin Trains and the ETAP Hotel (just in case I would needed them through the day). The first problem of the day appeared then, as the printer didn't work. It seemed like we didn't use the printer for a really looooong time at home, and the ink cartdriges were screwed. "Too bad" - I thought - "I need those papers". The quick solution: I picked up the car and drove to the office just to print them. That worked.
A little bit later (after getting home again and park my car on the garage) I joined my girlfriend, her mother and her aunt, for a 30-minute drive to my parent's home. They all got me to the airport in A Coruña. The flight was scheduled for 15:50 (GMT+2) and we arrived a little bit earlier (13:15 (GMT+2)), perfect timing for the checkin of the luggage and to get my boarding card. We then went to a nice place by the beach (in Santa Cristina) to have a drink.
I was a little bit nervous, not for the flight neither for the travel itself, but for the idea of getting a flight to London, then a 1-hour trip by tube to the London Euston Railway station and then a 2-hour trip by train to Birmingham. As always, I got the tickets only the needed time to get from one point to another, meaning that I was going to arrive at London Heathrow at 16:50 (GMT+1), with the Train leaving Euston at 18:58 (GMT+1). The tube trip is about 1:10 hours (time enough to do it, but not enough to avoid me getting nervous before taking the flight).
After a great time drinking some beers and talking we went back to the airport (just in time, the scheduled boarding time was 15:20 (GMT+2) and it was 15:10 (GMT+2) at that time). I went to the security checks and then I realized I do have superpowers. This time, the superpower of premonition. Yep, some of you already know that my flight to London was delayed. A delay of 1 hour that was going to make me miss the train to bham. Seems some problem in Barcelona's El Prat airport was causing the plane to arrive later than expected.
It was really disgusting to have to wait for the plane to arrive, then for us to get to the plane, and then for the plane to leave A Coruña (~17:15 GMT+2). And it was really really disgusting to know that I was going to miss the train :(
Anyway, as the Monty Python said - "Loooook at the briiiight siiideee of live...". So I tried to cheer me up thinking about the adventure behind the rest of the trip, and about how many more surprises should appear.
The flight was really nice. There was almost no clouds, and I was able to see everything clearly, from the coast of galicia from the coast to UK and some islands. I spent half the travel reading Mona Lisa Overdrive. The other half trying to to listen to all kinds of funny conversations. There are all kinds of people in that plane, from young students that were going to spend some days in London, in order to learn or improve their english skills to some adults that were going to visit old friends. I met there a group of nice teachers that were going together to Manchester for an English-speaking-improve course.
We arrived at Heathrow at 18:05 (GMT+1) and I went through all the pick-some-money-and-the-luggage process. Yes, I was going to miss that train.
One thing I really love when arriving at heathrow: when you go through the gates that separate the luggage pick-up area and the place where people is waiting for the arrivals. Once you cross that gate, suddenly, you can feel like hundreds of eyes falling on you. You can even spot those guys and girls with pieces of paper with names written on them. You can even play a little bit with them just pretending you are searching for someone, they will try hard to be sure that you read their papers, just in case you are the person they are searching for...
Some minutes (and a fast walk) later I reached the underground station, where I got a 1-6 zone ticket for the tube. There I met a nice girl from Negreira.
She was studying medicine in Santiago de compostela and she was going to be in London for 20 days to improve her english skills (seems a lot of people do that in summer). We went together for the most of the travel by tube until I reached Green Park station, where I switched from Picadilly Line to Victoria Line.
Then the good luck came back to me. I arrived at the London Euston Rail Station at 19:50 (GMT+1) and I went to the helpdesk of Virgin Trains just to explain them my problem with the delay. "Good news" - They told me - "You've an off-peak return fare, just get your ticket from one of the ticket machines and step onto the next train". Goooood!!. I went to one of the machines and got my tickets and then, second lucky strike!, it was 19:56 (GMT+1) or so and the next train to birmingham was going to leave at 19:58!!!.
Man, you should see me running through the station, trying to find the bloody platform 4... ;) I almost got into the wrong train (that would carry me to Liverpool).
Once I was in the right train I felt myself relaxed and I just stayed on my seat to enjoy the travel by train through the midlands. I got a comfortable seat by the window, with a table and a power socket (jay!) The train even has 2 different wifi access points you can use, as cheap as 4,60 pounds for 1 hour.
The train arrived at Birmingham New Street Station earlier than I expected and it was nice to recognize the city once I left the station, even if I only had been here once before.
Reaching the hotel was quite easy, thanks to the Nokia Maps app in the E72. I only had to set the current location and then set the route (by walk) to the hotel and it took me less than 15 minutes to arrive.
And now we are back at the begining. Here I'm, writing these lines before trying to sleep a little bit. Tomorrow will be the first conference day of the Europython 2010, and it will be a loooong day.
Stay tuned for more posts about this amazing UK week!