Travel day: London to Seville

The unspeakable luxury of a sit down dinner last night. The even more unspeakable luxury of awakening at a reasonable hour this morning. 

A gray and lukewarm day today, at least by Massachusetts standards. I relearn the importance of taking trains where possible, after an hour long cab ride at London rates out to Gatwick. 

The bar in the terminal has lunch and American microbrews. I fly British Airways; the language is a shock when I land. 

But the cab from Seville Airport is fixed rate to the city center and the cab driver plays “All Blues.” And the hotel restaurant makes a mean Negroni, which comes with a dish of complementary olives. 

I think I’ll survive this trip. Though it is, once again, making me regret my decision to only study dead languages in high school and college

Traveling: London calling

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There’s nothing like an international trip to make you appreciate modern travel. I’m in London this week, so I’ve had planes, trains, and automobiles—the last due to tube maintenance.

There’s always something different when I come for a visit here. This time, it’s the spread of contactless payment. Since the last time I was here, I notice many more Londoners using contactless credit cards to pay at restaurants, pubs, and shops. The technology is the same as that used by Apple Pay, Android Pay and others, but the RFID chip is embedded into a credit card rather than a smart device. Regardless of the reason, it’s nice because it means that most of the places I’m visiting have readers that work with Apple Pay.

It got me thinking about what factors influence the spread of technology. There’s clearly a benefit to end users for widely adopted contactless payment—no swiping or signature. There’s a benefit to issuers as well, given that the contactless payment transmission is harder to intercept than a magstrip swipe, and does not actually transmit the credit card number. Retailers are the long pole in the tent, but the threat of being held liable for credit card losses is convincing them to update the technology.

Traveling in London

I flew into London yesterday morning, and my arms aren’t tired. And surprisingly the rest of me isn’t either. I got almost ten hours of sleep last night, and while I did wake bolt upright at 4:30 this morning I’m still feeling pretty good and not particularly jet lagged. It’s been gorgeous here, much nicer than it was when I last visited twelve years ago (granted, that was in February).

Things I’ve done so far: 

  1. Walked around the south side of Kensington Park, taking in the sights.
  2. Gotten lost in Harrods.
  3. Watched people queue around a city block for hours to go to the French Embassy to vote in yesterday’s election.
  4. Learned how much you can pay for unreliable hotel wifi.
  5. Evaluated several pubs in the vicinity of my hotel and found a keeper. 
  6. Figured out how to navigate the Underground (or reminded myself) and to get my tickets for the National Rail Service.

And that was the first day. Should be a fun trip.

World Travellers – Part 1

The dome of St Paul's Cathedral, as seen from the ground.  It's quite a climb.
This is the view from the west face of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in London. I was lucky to get this shot off between raindrops...
We’ve been promising to publish photos from our trips for so long, I can’t blame anyone for not believing that we’d do it…but I’ll try to post more photos every few days for the next few weeks to catch up.

Our travels this year started in London with one of those British Airways saver fares. It ended with meeting one of the Cheeselords and his friends at the Savoy for various beverages, some made with absinthe (which, amazingly, is still legal in London).

Two photos of St Paul here in honor of one of the weirder coincidences of the trip: as I was coming down the steps of the dome tour, having gone to the top to get the first of the photos below, I ran into Dan’s friends starting their ascent. We had been trying to get in touch with each other for three days…