Hannah and I had a pretty good flight and were able to quickly traverse the public transportation system to meet up with her mom and sister in London .
The first thing about this trip that I have to talk about is how much more streamlined the TSA proceedure is currently. In past international travels the TSA screening has been one of my least favorite things to have to do. It has however been made very quick and straight forward since I last traveled. I think hannah and I got through the queue in less than ten minutes on a Friday afternoon. That’s definitely a record for me as I seem to be a magnet for “additional screening.”
While the flight was very turbulent and filled with broken sleep, the flight attendants were all very helpful and cheery. The food was also surprisingly not terrible. The customs procedures into the UK were also very brief. I don’t think it took us more than 30 minutes from landing to exit. Once out of the terminal we promtly took the Heathrow Express to our local line and from there met up with Hannah’s mother and sister.
After the obligatory post-flight shower, we all headed out to eat dinner at a Gastropub called The Queens Arms that Hannah’s sister Amelia picked out. There was a huge crowd around the few gastropubs in the area due to The National Brass Band Competition being held at The Royal Albert Hall that afternoon. As we walked in I was delighted to see that the pub had several “real ale” or cask conditioned ale, beers on tap. Real ale is special in that it’s the way beer had been served in pubs before force carbonated and pressurized kegs took over. Real ale is shipped to the pub in the secondary fermentation vessel, a cask, which which can be made of wood or stainless steel.The pub is then responsible for some of the fermentation process as the beer is still in the process of being fermented when it is shipped. The pub has to not only have a temperature controlled cellar to finish the maturation process (natural priming), but be knowledgeable about the fermentation process to deliver the beer to its patrons when it’s at its best. When the pub decides the beer is ready, the vessel is tapped, and beer is dispensed by pumping the beer out of the vessel by hand at the bar upstairs. This process results in beer that is described by many Americans as “warm” and “flat” beer because they are used to being served pasteurized, force carbonated, ice cold lagers.
For dinner, I had a chorizo and ham patty hamburger at The Queens Arms. While it was good, I regretted the decision after having tasted Hannah’s potato, leak, and chicken pot pie. It was absolutely delicious! I will have to come back for one of my own before we leave.
After Dinner, we headed to another pub called Gloucester Arms that I had wanted to check out as I had seen earlier while walking by that they also has real ale. It too was crowded with brass band members eagerly awaiting the results of the competition. We sat down for a pint and just enjoyed the atmosphere and people watched while listening to half of the bar sing “Green Green Grass of Home” by Tom Jones before finally heading back to the amazing flat Amelia had booked. Our trips overlap in London for Hannah, Amelia, and their mother Theresa, to see a production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
One thing that has been kind of lame is how Google Maps has not been very good at giving us safe walking direction in London. It had us walk down alleys and through something that looked like a crosswalk but wasn’t a crosswalk at all and could have gotten us hurt. I have never had this kind of issue with Google Maps before so I’m a little puzzled and hope that it’s just an isolated incident.
Places: London Marylebone, South Kensington, The Queens Arms, Gloucester Arms.
Beers (collectively): Fullers London Pride, Adnams Broadside, Greene King London Glory, Sambrooks Headstrong Red Ale. (All Cask Ales)