Trains, Planes and Automobiles.

Add boat, bicycle, bus, feet, go carts and Supercar’s to that list and that will pretty much tell you how we got around London on our recent trip. The trip started here in PE with a midday flight to Oliver Tambo airport. Here we met my mom and Niece Christine as well as Doug’s dad who popped in quickly to drop off a couple of things for Doug, but ended up having coffee and keeping us amused as only Gavin can.

The trip was “LONG” and it was with a grateful but numb ass that we landed at Heathrow, collected our luggage, packed it onto a minute luggage trolley with two front wheels that had a mind of their own and looked like I had really overstayed my welcome at the complimentary on board bar. We then breezed through the passport control  (having a Pommie passport does have its benefits) and the “nothing to declare” line of customs, where we saw no one (apparently they check u out from behind one way glass and pounce on those they feel are lying about not having anything to declare)

We walked thru a nondescript  double door and where thrust into a throng of a waiting crowd who had assembled to meet and greet loved ones, after a quick round of hugs and how was the flight it was time to battle the trolley to the cars for the 30 mile trip to Barnet (where Doug and Nicole and Amber reside).

On the Friday we headed for London and this meant a car ride to the Totteridge and Whetsone station and then a train trip to Leicester square station and a quick walk to the tourism office just off Trafalgar square to book  a trip on a open topped bus and Thames cruise. The weather was a tad cold but not altogether kak. The trip was great and we saw many things that we would come back later during our stay to see close up. The Thames cruise in particular was really lekker as the guide was both funny and informative.

We used the train/tube on a number of occasions and I have to say there is something weird about voluntary placing oneself in the bowels of London to catch a train. The trains are clean (or the ones we used where), they are on time and you don’t have to wait long to catch one. The underground map is fairly easy to follow and after a couple of trips you think of yourself as a bit of an expert
I looked up as to who designed the map and was surprised to read that it had been designed and created by a one Harry Beck in 1931 (yes 1931). Harry was a out of work draughtsman who realized that underground  it actually does not matter where you are and as long as the stations were presented in a their correct sequence you can distort the scale and it would not matter. That’s why the map of the London underground has the look of a electrical wiring system and in designing this map he created a whole new imaginary London that had little to do with what was actually above ground.

In fact you can ask someone who has not used the tube before to take the bank station tube to find their way to mansion house. They would take the central line to Liverpool street, change to a circle line heading east, travel 5 more stops and when they walk up to street level they will find that the have arrived at a location a mere 200 feet from where they had started the journey.   

The last Tuesday we where I the UK  Gabby, Doug and I decided to do a bicycle tour of London and we hired what the call “Boris Bicycles” (Boris Johnson is the current mayor of London). There are numerous “docking stations” dotted around London and for 2 pounds a day you can rent the bikes and you pay for the time you use them, it was great fun and to ride down Oxford street with a few busses behind you is a strange feeling considering in SA you would probably end up a “speed hump” we rode in Hyde park, past
Buckingham palace and back into the Piccadilly circus area.  All in all a great day.  

Doug had won a couple of tickets to a indoor karting track and he offered them to Gabby and I. so the day after having ridden bicycles we had a great 50 laps in fast moving go carts, Gabby drove really well and came 4th out of 9 racers. Having crashed a couple of times I managed a credible 2nd place , but I have to say my forearms where stiff after having to battle the tight steering  circle.  

It’s not very often that you get to visit Silverstone, especially when you live 9795 kms or 6121 miles away on another continent, Silverstone for those that may have been in a coma since 1874 is the home of British Motorsport and hosts the British GP, that took place on the 30th June this year. The F1 track is 3.660 miles (5.86kms) long and iconic names such as Hangar straight, Stowes corner or  Abbey may jog your memory as to having heard of Silverstone.

Not only did I get to visit Silverstone a mere 4 days after this year’s GP, but I did what even fewer people have done and that was drive round it, not just drive round it in a basic change the gear and do 20 miles per hour down the straight type of vehicle but in 2 iconic cars, 1 from Italy and the other from England. I drove 3 laps in a Ferrari “blow your mind 1,9 million South African Rand” F430 and another 3 laps in a Aston Martin  V8 Vantage. I have done some exciting things in my time but this has to rank up there with the most fun I have had while wearing clothes.

I drove on the International circuit (that forms part of the F1 circuit) and is 1.851 miles  (2.96kms ) in length. You have a 30 minute briefing, where they scare the living shit out of you and have you fill in a form with next of kin, coffin size etc etc. they got a tad miffed when I answered the question – emergency contact - police or ambulance, it seems most people put their spouse or a parents contact details. After the briefing we then got issued a throw away helmet liner and a really dorky open faced helmet, ( The helmet and fire retardant suit at the go carting was sexier).

Your issued with the vehicles you will drive, and then you wait for your instructor, (that’s the person you hope is going to guide you round then circuit without causing too much harm), so comfortably ensconced in the Ferrari my heart sank when a 18 year old lady popped her head in the car and said hi I am your instructor, Tania was almost peeing her pants with laughter as she said the look on my face was priceless. It’s really hard to put to words what the experience was like but after the second lap I felt like Fernando Alonso and got a couple of compliments on my driving skills from the instructor………..I have to tell you that those 3 laps went faster than a KFC family buckets at a ANC election rally. The Aston was great as well but after the Ferrari it was a little like eating hake after you have just had a plate of Tiger prawns……………………………

All in all the means of transport to get us to and back from the UK as well as those we used while there (apart for numb ass and sore legs on the plans) was fun and having the bragging rights to say I have not only been to Silverstone but driven 2 iconic cars  on the track that so many racing greats (cars and bikes) have used is a memory that will last for a long long long long long (you get the picture) time.          

Have a great week



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