London Part 1: The Best-Laid Plans

So we’ve got to Brentwood after a long drive (entirely put in by the GLW on the basis of she’s lovely, she’s a more experienced driver than me, and it’s handy if the person in the passenger seat can read a map). We’ve said our hellos, we’ve collapsed in armchairs after a lovely big bowl of spaghetti bolognese, and we’re planning the next day.

The basic two things we want to do during our trip to London are The Natural History Museum (& Science Museum), and go to London Zoo. There are other things which we may, or may not add to our itinerary, depending on how we’re doing for time, including visits to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben (as BTP has just been doing London and various landmarks at school, and the teacher asked us if we could get any photographs, they would be good for the class). There are also other attractions such as the London Eye, and of course shops. Particularly clothes shops which somehow seem to have the same sort of draw for my wife that bookshops are for me…

So, plan A — we’ll check that both the zoo and the museums are open on Sunday (yes); that there are no planned engineering works on any of the trains (nope); and we’ll check the weather forecast (rain on Sunday, no rain but cold on Monday). Logical assumption seems to be to go for the museums on Sunday, on the basis that they are inside, and that we won’t get rained on.

The only difficulty is actually getting there, as we’re just outside London, and we need to go into the hotel first, to drop off the luggage. Which brings us to Plan A.

Plan A: Shenfield To Stratford; Stratford To West Kensington

Sounds simple enough; we’ve checked online and there’s no engineering works. All we need to do is somehow get the seven of us (Uncle is at work) from Brentwood to West Kensington, and then onto the museums in South Kensington.

Obviously, seven people won’t fit it one car, and we had been planning on leaving our car in Brentwood to avoid needing to take it into central London, so the plan is for Nanny and Auntie to walk to Shenfield station, then for Grandad to drive me, the GLW and the kids there about fifteen minutes later, so we all get there at the same time.

Only it’s not just raining a little; it’s really, really raining. So that brings us to Plan B.

Plan B: As Plan A, only with less walking

So now the plan is for Grandad to drive Nanny and Auntie to Shenfield, then come back and pick us up. Only after about fifteen minutes, and before he gets back, Nanny calls to say that there are apparently no trains running from Shenfield today.

Grandad thinks for a moment, before proposing Plan C.

Plan C: As Before, But Starting From Gidea Park

Grandad suggests that instead of starting from Shenfield, we start from Gidea Park, which is a couple of stations nearer London and is theoretically slightly more likely to have services running. Only we’ll need to drive there, which means we’ll need to take both cars. It has a car park, so we can leave the car there for now.

Which means Grandad will need to drive our car back — which is okay, he’s covered on insurance, it’s just getting to be a bit of a clart on. But without doing something like this, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting into London at all.

And either way, we need to go to Shenfield to pick up Nanny and Auntie, otherwise they will get annoyed about being left there all day. So we set off for Shenfield. When we get there, Nanny and Auntie get in, but Grandad doesn’t pull away. So after a moment puzzling what he’s doing, I get out of our car to walk over to Grandad’s to find out what is going on.

It turns out Nanny has a plan…

Plan D: Introducing Upminster

Upminster, for those of you unfamiliar with the London Underground, is the easternmost stop on the District Line. Nanny’s plan is for us to avoid Gidea Park, just in case this is suffering from the same ‘phantom engineering works’ inflicted upon Shenfield (i.e. ones that show up at the station but not on any related internet sites), and instead make our way to Upminster station, where there is again a car park.

So it’s still drive on for a bit, drop the car off, get straight on the District line, which will then take us all the way to West Kensington. A sound plan.

Until we actually arrive at Upminster and discover the District Line isn’t running from there.

Plan E: Alternative Upminster

However, something called the C2C Line is an overground line which runs from the seaside (Shoeburyness) through to Fenchurch or Liverpool Street.

So now the plan is to get this train to Fenchurch Street railway station. We will then need to walk a short distance from here to Tower Hill, whereupon we will catch the District Line, which is apparently running from further in.

In response to my musings (”why, if it goes from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness, is it called C2C?”), a kind gentleman on the train suggests that it’s because it’s the “city to coast” line, although rather amusingly Wikipedia reveals that the name could be conceived to represent “commitment to customers”.

Anyway, after journeying for a few minutes on this train, a new plan is suggested.

Plan F: Absolutely Barking

Barking Station (flickr)

This time, the plan is to get off at Barking, which is conveniently enough the next stop on the C2C route, and change to the District Line there. We do however have a backup plan: the next C2C train is only 9 minutes behind, so if the District Line isn’t running from there, it has only cost us a few minutes…

Barking (or possibly Upminster, but I think I took the photo at Barking) has some nice pink benches. It is also only one stop along from East Ham station, which is where I used to live when I lived in London. Or, to be more precise, East Ham is where I used to live in London, not specifically East Ham Station.

But the District Line was running from Barking, which meant…

Plan G: Stick To Plan F

That we’d finally found a plan which worked! Tube from Barking to West Kensington; drop luggage off at the Hotel, and then head for the Natural History Museum.

But that is another story…

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