BD Fugue Cafe Lille France

Iím in BD Fugue Cafe in Lille sipping cafe au Lait and fromage + jambon ďsandwichĒ.

BD Fugue Cafe is part manga euro comic store and part cafe. No Uncanny X-Men on the top floor (theyíre downstairs in the comics section), but a wonderful range of hard and soft cover graphic novels, manga and collectables.

The walls of the cafe are covered with prints from some of the best European comic artists (or should that be artistes?). A wonderful vibe and good coffee. I believe there are stores scattered around France.

Ryanair Gatwick to Cologne

I was booked on a RyanAir flight from Gatwick to Cologne. That cost £69.00 GBP including taxes, so itís a great deal.

Unfortunately, Gatwick airport is run like a British train terminal. I asked the RyanAir passenger wrangler if this was normal and she said they were short staffed. However the basic logistics of the airport are doomed, the heightened security process makes it worse. Also I am sure the counter staff check-in the fewest people per hour of any airline Iíve travelled with.

The basic structure at London Gatwick is you check your flight on the departures board, and that tells you your check-in area, in my case Area C. Then you plus enough people to reenact the Omaha beach landing trek off to your designated area. Those who survive the migration eventually join queues for we hope the correct areas. It look an hour for me to progress 20m in the queue.

Anyway the standard approach seems to be we mill in the queue, without barriers or guidance until our anxiety about missing our flight forces us to cut to the front. Eventually crowd wranglers arrive and start calling out city names and begging those travellers to move to the two counters on the left. But if you jump the queue and attempt to use these too soon they tell you to rejoin the long queue. Such was the fate of the cute Spanish girl in the line ahead of me.

Eventually my bag is checked and I answered all the security questions at checkin. Now to clear security. No liquids allowed, I knew that but it seems the travelling British didnít believe the reports. The security pre-check was pilled with bottles and tubes. It still took 20 minitues to clear that obstacle. I had to repack my carry-on to fit the size requirements. I keep my laptop power supply in an external pocket, and a jumper as extra padding around the laptop itself. That made thebag too fat. A quick repack to the side of the queue and I was ready to go. Unfortunately people insist of repacking their bags in situ, so I had to wait 3 minutes longer for a woman to repack before I could also prove to the guard my bag fit.

Then I queued to get through the x-ray machines. At 15 minutes before my flight I gave up being polite and started barging through, ďsorry my flight leaves in 15 minutesĒ. By the time I got to the x-ray machines Iíd reached people on my flight and couldnít push in anymore.

Again delays, the X-ray technicians were stopping the machine very regularly. Shoes and belts were ordered off, and I cleared X-ray with 8 minutes to go. I still didnít know my gate number as the boarding pass does not reveal such sensitive information. I looked at the departure board and saw I was at gate 2. A sign noted I should allow 15 minutes to get there. How far can gate 2 be from the entrance? Well they had gate numbers up to 100 so I started jogging through the bowels of Gatwick airport.

When I arrived at the departure gate, I was the only passenger in sight. ďOh-oh,Ē I though. The staff checked me through but I had to ask for directions. I wondered through a temporary looking structure, up some stairs and made some guesses on which way to turn. Luckily I found the airbridge and joined the end of that queue.

RyanAir do not allocate seats so I thought Iíd be sitting in a middle seat. Luckily I got the last aisle seat in the second last row. 20 minutes later people are still boarding!

Anyway, we finally pulled away, the engines were started, sweet cool air started flowing from the air-conditioning and we left for Germany.

Gatwick Express

Iím flying out of London Gatwick to Cologne Germany. My UK friends tell me to avoid Heathrow at all costs at the moment, the security is a nightmare. Weíll see how Gatwick is.

The best way to get to the airport is the Gatwick Express from Victoria Station, so I caught a cab, I could have caught the underground but I donít want to navigate the tube with a big wheelie bag and a sore foot.
The strangest thing about the experience is the deja vu of traversing Victoria Station. I arrived in London yesterday at London Euston station. Iím leaving at Victoria station. The shops are identical fast food chains and Iím almost sure they are laid out in the same order.

Iím drafting this on the train now. You can pay for the ticket on the train so getting on is very effortless. It was £14.00 GBP one way, and the conductor is very helpful with alternatives. The Gatwick Express leaves every 15 minutes and the journey takes 30 minutes.

One night in London

Iím staying at the Grange City Hotelwhere I got a great deal, £85.00 for a five star room. Iím right next to Trinity House and a block from the Tower of London. For Simís review of broadband internet in hotels, I was disappointed to find their wifi service was expensive. So I didnít bother connecting. It was actually more expensive than T-Mobile UK service which is available in most train stations and airports.

I have a blister on my foot from wandering the streets of London for 3 hours last night. I went out to look for an interesting place to eat. It started very promising, there was a 007 party at the Billingsgate Fish Market building. I crossed the Thames at London Bridge and passed many drunken and smokey pubs filled with Friday night drinkers. However two hours later I had not found a place that interesting and inviting enough to dine alone in.

Finally I came across a Spanish billiard hall with San Miguel beer, nibbles and pool. There were even some cute girls playing so I watched them while I had a beer and avoided the nibbles. I figured I wasnít in the ďinteresting little cafeísĒ part of London. But there were lots of great looking pubs.

VirginTrain Manchester to London

 

I caught a VirginTrain from Manchester to London. Technically it was from Stockport four miles out of Manchester. The trick for booking these fares online is you canít book the day of your travel with any reliability. The phone support people said I could, but the ticket counter guy said I couldnít.

Anyway I paid GBP 28.00 to travel first class from Manchester to London. The published fare is over 150.00. See Virgin Trains.

Beware that a ticket that heavily discounted has no refunds, so donít miss the train. The guy selling me a coffee on the station was so chatty I almost missed the train.