iDate London part 2 – into the belly of the beast.

On the 14th we were due to travel into London ready for iDate.  Checkout time was at 10am, but we were there for an extra half hour getting photos and chatting with the staff.  We’d made no secret about what we were there for, and they seemed genuinely interested.  Now I haven’t been to London in over 20 years so I really wasn’t looking forward to driving there.  We’d already sorted out the congestion charge, so the plan was to drive to Victoria bus station to drop off my wife for her to go home, then go to the car park.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with how quiet the traffic was up until Victoria.  We dropped my wife off and then began the troubles.

The next turning took us into a massive traffic jam.  OK, no big deal so far as we weren’t in any kind of rush.  We followed the satnav to where the car park was supposed to be.  No car park.  We drove around again.  Still no car park.  All the while, we were in very slow moving traffic.  We found what we thought was the car park.  Wrong car park.  Luckily a very friendly worker let us out without having to pay, mainly because he could see we’d already prepayed for our parking.  Around and around we went in circles for about an hour, desperately looking for the car park,, with everyone getting more and more stressed.  No one lets anyone in in London, so eventually I had to go native and drive like an idiot, pushing in when I needed to.  There was also lots of swearing on my part as I got more and more frustrated with the driving conditions there.  I’m a country boy, used to seeing maybe a half dozen cars on the road at the same time as me.  London was not a fun place to drive.  Finally we spotted the car park, halfway up a road the satnav had told us to go to the end of and then turn left.  After an emergency bathroom break, we walked to the hotel.  By this time we’d been travelling for four hours on what should have been a 90 minute drive.  It had taken almost as long to get from Gatwick to London as it had taken me to drive from my home to Gatwick a few days earlier.

We were only about 10 minutes from the hotel, and the place was a joy.  They had a doorman.  I’d never experienced a doorman before.  Then again, one night in this hotel cost more than most of my previous week long holidays.

The first person we bumped onto was Svetlana Mucha from who you may remember my mentioning in my write up about Vegas.  We exchanged pleasantries, then we got our room passes and went our separate ways.  Now we were in the hotel, we were able to relax and have a few beers.  Garfunkels was a few doors down, so we went for a meal before heading back to the hotel room.  Shortly after we were joined by Svetlana, who came bearing gifts – Ukrainian vodka for me and cookies for both Big Al and Firefly.  There were still some stuff we needed from the car, so BA and FF jumped in a taxi to go back and get them, later meeting Svetlana and I in the bar where we’d gone to wait for them.  Then it was my turn to nip off as her presents were still in the car.  In no mood to walk there and back, I jumped in a taxi and told him where I needed to go, only for him to get lost too.  At one point we ended up in a dead end, and the driver had to jump out and walk around trying to get his bearings.  Apparently Tomtom has the wrong location for the car park, and that was why we’d had so much trouble.  In all fairness to the taxi driver, after realizing he’d also been driving around in circles the same way I had, he pointed me in the right direction about 100 yards from it and told me the ride was on him.  Presents exchanged, we all went off to bed, ready for the start of the conference the next day.

Next entry will talk about the conference itself.