The long road to Notting Hill

I did some  calculating yesterday and figured that in the last 68 hours I’d had about 6 hours sleep. That includes 4 hours sleep in a bed, and approximately 2 very disturbed and uncomfortable hours sitting in my airplane seat. I was feeling pretty weary.

After I wrote on Sunday night my flight was delayed by nearly 2 hours, which was the last thing I wanted. I was just about out on my feet then, and condemned to another couple of hours of boredom was no help. Then, after we finally got going, a guy in the row a couple ahead of me got very sick. Attendants were scurrying around attending to him, rearranging others, and trying to figure out just what had happened. They thought perhaps an allergic reaction.

It looked so bad at one point that I feared we would turn around and head back. Thankfully we ploughed on, though not before the pungent aroma of vomit filled the confined space. We were travelling on an A380, sitting upstairs. The attendants cleared the back row of the plane, sending those lucky few sitting there to Business Class, and laid out the prostrate form of the sick man along the row of seats. I don’t think he stirred from there the rest of the flight.

Then it was London. The Heathrow Express wasn’t running, so instead had to catch the Undergound – a much slower and more crowded option. It’d been years since I’d been on the underground, but had covered this route before. Being peak hour the train filled quickly, so that come Earls Court I had to somehow muscle myself off with my collection of heavy bags. It was one of those occasions that being someone of heft and strength came in useful – I’d never have managed it by myself.

From Earls Court I went to Piccadilly. To kill time I sat down for breakfast at the station Hilton, after storing my bags. I picked up a SIM card, then endured the torturous process of lining up and purchasing some train tickets, for the day, and for a trip to Bath tomorrow. Still, that got done. For the next hour I watched the incessant comings of goings of people in the station catching trains and searching for them, the bold pigeons fluttering around as if they owned the place. I even saw a guy with a hawk on his arm.

Finally I was able to make my way to Notting Hill, via Ladbroke Grove station. I was still early so at the pub bistro across the road from my accommodation I ordered a refreshing cocktail, followed by a double ristrettto to hopefully perk me up a bit. Then, finally, I was able to check in.

I’m doing the Airbnb thing this trip. I’m staying with a gay French couple. They have a small, but very cute apartment on the top floor of an old house very typical of this area. They’re great hosts, and it’s very comfortable. I’m actually writing this from bed a little before 6am, having finally caught up with some sleep.

I showered, changed clothes, and lay down for an hour without sleeping. Then I went for a walk.

I walked all the way down Ladbroke Grove and hooked back up along Portobello Road. Portobello Road was active, but minus the frenetic activity of a weekend. Tourists stopped to take pictures, or to inspect the various items for sale at stalls spilling out onto the sidewalk, from jewellery to hats, knick-knacks to photos. I nearly bought myself a hat, before stopping to try a boutique gin.

I was out about 2 hours, taking my time, taking the odd pic myself. I found myself humming a very obscure song from a movie I saw at the cinema when I was a kid – Portobello Road, from Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Last night I set out again after sharing half a bottle of wine with one of my hosts, and a good conversation. Down Portobello Road I wandered into the Earl of Lansdowne, where I had a pint sitting in the beer garden. I went on, exploring the pretty streets with the posh homes, before ending up at the Lord Elgin. There I ordered another pint, and a bar meal of Welsh Rarebit with thick chips.

My energy levels had alternated up and down. For a while it seemed I had found my third or fourth wind. Then at the pub it came all crashing down. I suddenly felt so wasted that I didn’t have the energy to finish my beer. I felt so tired it was painful. The short walk back to my room was a test of endurance, but I made it. I wasted no time and went to bed, at 9.45.

That’s where I am now, as I say. I slept no more than 8 hours, a little to my surprise, after having first woken at 5am. I feel good though, ready to go again.

In a little while I’ll get up to enjoy a cooked breakfast – Jean is a chef. Then I’ll head off. I don’t plan to do too much touristy this trip, but much of that will be today. Somehow I’ve never been to Westminster Abbey – the crowds last time put me off. This time I’ll go early, then plan to do the Tate Modern. I might check out the Imperial War Museum, before walking back.

I need the exercise. Feels like all I’ve down the last few days is eat and not sleep. Exercise is good.

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