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November 24, 2021 / Jim Fenton

Sussex Day 0: To Brighton

As has become somewhat traditional over the past several years, I am blogging a journal of our recent trip to the United Kingdom, our first overseas trip since the pandemic. Posts are delayed by 3 weeks from the actual events.

November 2-3, 2021

It isn’t every day that we travel to a place that the US State Department has rated as Level 4: Do Not Travel. But that’s what we’re doing today, even if that place is “only” the United Kingdom. Kenna and I are on our way to visit our daughter Celeste in Brighton, UK, where she is taking a semester abroad at the University of Sussex.

Usually we expect travel of this sort to fully occupy our day, but with the nonstop flight to London leaving San Francisco at 5:15 PM, our day got off to a leisurely start. Each of us did our usual Tuesday exercise classes, I did a bit of business work, and we got the house cleaned up a bit for our return. Our ride to the airport picked us up at 2, and we arrived in plenty of time to a virtually empty check-in counter.

One adjustment for me was that, unlike every other vacation I have been on, I did not bring a camera. I’ll be using my phone (and perhaps iPad for a few things); we’ll see how that works out. I’m sure I’ll miss my zoom lens, but I’m not sure that’s essential for this particular trip. Phone cameras are seriously good these days.

Due to some equipment problem, perhaps the entertainment system, our flight’s departure was delayed for about an hour. But once we got going, our flight proceeded smoothly (and with a minimum of turbulence, as well). Both Kenna and I got some sleep on the flight.

Our arrival at Heathrow featured the usual long walk to immigration, baggage claim, and customs. One thing that was, I think, a first for me was that the immigration process was entirely automated. Our passports were read electronically, our pictures were taken, and the gate opened without ever talking to anyone. We had our COVID-19 passenger locator forms ready, but didn’t need to present them; presumably the airline had forwarded the information when they looked at them in San Francisco or they were able to correlate the information we entered against our passport numbers.

Another brisk walk took us to the Heathrow Express station. There we purchased through tickets to Brighton, using the Two Together Railcard we had purchased prior to departure. That gave us a 30% discount for £30 a year, quite a good deal.

Heathrow Express took us to Paddington Station, from which we took the Underground to Victoria Station, which required us to lug our bags up and down a couple of flights of stairs. At Victoria we had to wait a half hour or so for our train, which allowed us to buy some sandwiches for lunch and visit a nearby bank ATM for some cash “just in case” (just about everything seems to run on credit cards these days).

We texted Celeste to let her know what train we were on, and the trip to Brighton took about an hour. We found Celeste immediately, and long-awaited hugs were exchanged before the 10 minute walk to our hotel. We are staying in a fairly new hotel, the Q Square Aparthotel (note that Q stands for Queen, not the Anon-thing). Our accommodation for the next 9 nights has a kitchen and separate bedroom, which makes it easy for us to make some of our own meals (probably breakfasts) and for me to remotely attend some of my usual work meetings. The room is great but has a few quirks: the lighting controls are unusual and the room is rather warm. But it has a balcony, and we were able to open the door for a while to mitigate the heat.

View to English Channel from our room

Kenna, Celeste, and I went for a walk to get acclimated, first to the beach, then to Brighton Palace (a local landmark) and the “Lanes”, a district with narrow, twisty roads reminiscent of the Shambles in York. We grabbed dinner at a local pub before seeing Celeste off to return to the University and returning to the hotel. Light showers had developed while we were eating, and we returned wet but not seriously soaked.

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