Thursday : From Prague Airport, Walk Across London at Night and Back to Norwich

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Carrying on from the previous post, this is now late Wednesday evening. After a hot day of public transporting around Prague, I arrived four hours early at the airport, ready for my 21:15 flight back to London Heathrow with British Airways, albeit operated by Finnair.

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The security process at Prague Airport is just before boarding, so I was able to get to the Mastercard Lounge quickly and without delay. The staff member politely mentioned that entry was only allowed two hours before my flight, but then she asked who I was flying with and when I said British Airways, she said I could enter immediately. I don’t know whether BA offer a higher rate than lounge pass schemes such as Priority Pass, but I was very appreciative.

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I was here a few months ago with Richard, but that was a morning flight and this was one of the last flights of the day, so there was a different feel to the arrangements. It was all clean and organised, there’s a self-serve soft drinks machine, snacks in the fridges and self-pour alcohol. They had a separate beer fridge with a couple of choices in it, nothing exceptional, but perfectly acceptable given it was free. I’m not at all picky when stuff is free, I’ve noticed I’m more inadvertently generous on Untappd. Nathan would no doubt tut at my lack of consistency….

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The two hot options were pasta and chicken drumsticks. It seemed an odd choice for a lounge, as the chicken was a little greasy and they were going to end up with bones dotted around the place on places. However, I wasn’t let down with the taste of the chicken, although the pasta was a bit bland.

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The food menu (clicking on the image should make it larger) and the meat platters were rather lovely.

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It’s a relatively large lounge, although it wasn’t particularly busy when I was there. They have very few power outlets, although I was fortunate to find one as I did need my devices fully charged given that I might not get chance later on. They had views over the runways, although no power points in those areas of seating. They also have unlimited popcorn…..

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The seating was comfortable, it was practical for those with laptops and the like, although there were some more comfortable chairs for people who prefer just to relax and not always sit and stare at a screen as I seem to.

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The flight was showing as delayed by one hour, but after three hours in the lounge I thought that was enough, so I meandered over to the gate. There was plenty of seating available, with a few power points dotted around.

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The boarding process was efficient and customers were called in group order.

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There’s the Finnair aircraft, which BA are wet leasing as they seem to have managed to not have enough of their own, a situation which seems far from ideal.

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And as it was the Finnair aircraft, I opted for my favourite seat with lots of legroom.

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Excellent crew again, although the Finnair cabin crew nearly always seem very professional and personable. I had the entire row of three exit row seats to myself. Whilst I was in the lounge, I had received a message from British Airways saying that there would be no catering on board the flight due to operational reasons. I had another chicken drumstick to fill me up in case there was no mini bags of crisps and water on board. It transpired they had water, but no crisps, which I could manage without, although I’m not sure that the Club Europe passengers would have been quite so impressed as they get meals provided. The crew said that the catering lorry couldn’t reach the aircraft due to a crash at Heathrow, which meant that they didn’t have their food either, so they were wondering where they could eat at nearly midnight at Heathrow.

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We arrived into C Gates of London Heathrow about thirty minutes late, although I was in no rush. It’s not ideal to be at C Gates usually, as it’s quite a walk as the internal trains don’t run when it’s close to midnight. But I was in no rush and I like walking.

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The UK border was moderately busy, but their automated machines were rejecting a lot of people, including myself, which meant a bit of a queue as there weren’t many border control officers. They were doing some quite detailed checks on some people entering the country, but I was waved through after a cursory check of my passport. I tried to look and act as British as I could in case they thought I pinched someone else’s passport or something.

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As my flight was arriving late, I decided against a hotel in London, which at the moment are ridiculously priced compared to what they were. I had a great idea of just getting the 06:00 train from London to Norwich, which was £10, and getting the night bus from Heathrow into central London. That meant I wanted my devices fully charged, so this was the arrangement I set-up for myself, I found the chair and moved it towards the power points and refused to leave (not that anyone asked me to) until everything had full battery. This travel isn’t as easy as people think when there’s a fear of devices without power….

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The arrivals floor at Heathrow T5, not very busy at night. For anyone who wants to stay the night at the terminal, it’d be on this level, they remove people from the departures floor. It’s not particularly comfortable, but there’s power, wifi, toilets and I think one of the shops stays open overnight.

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I was pleased that the weather was overcast and not too hot.

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Heathrow still have no date of when pedestrians can walk into the terminal, something they’ve currently banned from doing, although cyclists can cycle in from next year when the tunnel reopens. The free travel zone has been scrapped and they’ve introduced this new drop-off fee, all adding to the expense for many people. But, Heathrow have shareholders who need cash…..

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I’ve never caught the night bus N9, but it’s a bargain really at £1.65 to get from London Heathrow to Trafalgar Square.

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The bus timetable if anyone should want it, but the services are regular throughout the night and it’s an 85 minute journey from one end to the other.

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On time and not very busy.

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The passengers who boarded were just using the bus to get to T3, so I was on my own on the bus for a while after that. Well, with the driver obviously as I’m not sure what my bus driving is like…. (although, I have driven a bus without incident when the driver let me near Cromer, but I’m not sure that was entirely within the rules so I best not go too far down that line). It was a very peaceful journey and it’s actually really quite nice to be able to watch the city go by without stopping at literally every bus stop. There was a mixture of night workers coming back from work, going to work, some early morning commuters, party-goers and travellers.

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Sad to see the Admiralty pub like this, certainly different to the last time I was in it a few months ago.

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The pub was badly damaged by fire a couple of weeks ago and it looks very serious in terms of the repairs that will be needed.

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It was gone 03:00 by this time and I was surprised just how many people were still around Nelson’s Column and Trafalgar Square. It all felt safe and non-threatening, although I was careful taking photos as I didn’t want any mugging incidents.

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The Royal Courts of Justice. I had intended to pop into the 24 hour McDonald’s on the Strand to kill an hour, but it was at near capacity and I didn’t want all that raucous noise and party excess. I’m over 30 now and can’t be dealing with that.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral and it was a real treat to walk across the city when it’s so quiet, it feels like such a different place. Buses still shuttle around the city, so it seems alive and energetic, but yet with a sense of calm.

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The Royal Exchange.

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It took me around 40 minutes to walk across London, so I arrived at London Liverpool Street at 03:45. I’ve never seen the railway station all locked up, but the side entrance to McDonald’s was open so I thought that I’d get a little snack.

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Back in the day, there used to be seating in this McDonald’s, but this is it now, just self-ordering kiosks. They were all switched off and I wasn’t sure what to do, but a security guard came up when I looked confused and got a crew member to come and take my order at the counter.

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McDonald’s probably wondered what they’d do with the £1.80 I gave them for two burgers….. But just as I had finished, the gates of London Liverpool Street railway station swung open at 04:00.

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It’s not often the concourse is so quiet.

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By now it was 04:02 and the first train out is at 04:40 to Stansted Airport, which is where most of the waiting passengers were heading I think.

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It’s very hard to get a photo of this statue as there’s often rubbish on or around it, and it’s also used as a seat or somewhere to lean against. I don’t entirely like this sculpture here, it’s not prominent enough and I hope they can rearrange things a bit. Note the uncomfortable seating behind it designed to avoid anyone homeless sitting on it.

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Für Das Kind, or For the Children, designed by Flor Kent, which I’ve written about before.

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I sat down for an hour in view of where the new Greggs will be opening soon.

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There was nearly no-one around after the first train to Stansted Airport had gone.

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I was pleased to see that this wasn’t the Stansted Express with no tables.

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This wasn’t a busy service at all. I managed to fall asleep as soon as the train departed, but was conscious that the train guard was checking tickets nearly straight away as there were so few of us on the train.

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And safely into Norwich Railway Station at 08:00. The blog will be quite quiet for the next month, with the exception of some odd random and irrelevant (not that they ever really cross the boundary into relevant) posts which I’m sure I’ll feel the need to make, as I’m doing nearly no travelling. Expect a few bits about the LDWA AGM weekend, the Summer Poppyline and some pub photos, but not much else.