6.30am and it’s grey and miserable in London on arrival after the 34hour “long haul” via 5 airports.
Re-activating my UK Sim and picking up a rental car should be the easiest things in the world – after all – I’ve done that many times…. Far from it – it may be that my brain just does not work as efficiently as it would without the lack of sleep and space for those 34hours or just bad luck on the day – but things did not turn out the way I anticipated.
Topping up the phone with a “freebe” plan on Vodafone should be a straight forward affair – it kinda did work but when I checked the credit – yes the “freebe” was on there but still no credit and no way of calling the call center to sort it – as typically in the UK one has to pay here to call the call center!!!! Really?? In NZ it’s free – of course there are other options for calling – skype, roaming on the other phone etc. however – without knowing the phone number that I am calling about (and having forgotten it…) they don’t do anything… to say the least – their automated system does not even get me a actual person on the phone – what sort of customer service is that?
We do complain in New Zealand about the telco companies but hey – at least we can call them for free and a actual person (may it be in India or somewhere like that) answers… So I put that off for later and waited patiently for my shuttle bus to the rental car depot – my car rental agency sent me a voucher for a Budget Rent a car.
I booked a “VW Golf or similar” – got a voucher for a “Ford Focus or similar” but got given a Fiat500 – go figure. But that was not the problem – I booked a petrol car – and this is a Diesel – and they tell me that all cars in that class are Diesel vehicles. It might seem trival to any Kiwi’s or Aussies or even Germans but in the UK Diesel is more expensive than Petrol – so that really got me going… so I rang the agency and complained.. of course as I do:-) In the end they agreed to pay the difference between those types of fuel if I provide the receipts… hmmmm I believe it when I see the dosh in my bank account..
Still no UK phone so I used my great NZ Vodafone Roaming deal ($5 per calendar day – NZ time) and a lovely app from the Historic Places Trust to search for any indoor places to visit that are in a 10-15mile radius from where I would be staying (near the Airport) – and hoppla – two places came up.
I ended up driving to Ham House http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house/
What a gem of a 17th century manor – built in 1610 it survived the civil war (thanks to the owner who had a foot in both camps as it where) and has some rather unique features – the extensive gardens being one of them. Well worth a visit if you ever stuck for options when in London and have seen all the other sites already. Of course it does help to have a NZ Historic Places Trust membership card that gives free entry into such places and most of English Heritage properties as well:-)
I took the guided garden tour and also the introductory talk so learned more than I had hoped for and spend a good 5 hours there.
Driving back to the hotel I really felt the previous 40 hours lack of sleep and when I finally go there still had to sort the Vodafone issue – by then I was as grumpy as I could get and when I finally managed to get a actual living person onto the line the greeting “Thank you for calling Vodafone this call cost 25p” was not going to help the situation…. I may have been a bit outspoken – but in the end they said I’ll need a new Sim card as they changed the rules and they are now only valid for 6 not 12 months… and then I would have to call them again and have my credit transferred – what a mission!!! Besides them being incredibly rude on the phone – but the whole experience and the lack of coverage in the area where I am now makes me conclude that If I come back here (actually not if – when) I will not use them again!
Anyway – after all these rumblings and jet lagged mutterings and complaints – I can highly recommend the Jury’s Inn Hotel http://www.jurysinns.com/hotels/london/heathrow as it is very conveniently located, the price is ok and it is very clean and most importantly quiet:-) Though laying in bed and seeing one plane after the other coming towards me was a bit of a strange feeling I must admit..