(Also, yes, while that was probably the longest trek from the ExCel area to Greenwich in history, I did finally make it to Greenwich, and, no, Google did not lie: Greenwich DID have a Marks and Spencer with more than tolerable sandwiches which you can eat right in front of the Cutty Sark. I approve of this.)
My original plan was to leave London Monday morning and trek out to Bath, spending the afternoon looking at Bath and then the following day doing one of the little tourist bus trips out to Glastonbury and Wells. That did not happen, but for a very good reason: kate_nepveu and her husband Chad kidnapped me for a lovely high tea near Green Park, complete with all of the Proper little finger sandwiches and scones and little cakes including something that is apparently called Battenberg cake that I loved if Kate, alas, didn't.
I had a few awful moments of thinking that I wouldn't make it - I woke up a bit dizzy, then got better, then got very dizzy again, but after I stayed prone for a couple hours I felt better and by the time Kate and Chad showed up I was slightly light headed but otherwise fine.
Getting there was...entertaining. We started with the DLR (fine). Then the Jubilee line (less fine.)
See, the London Underground will tell you that the Jubilee line at the Green Park station is wheelchair accessible. It is -- but only from ONE of the train cars at ONE location, where the platform has been raised up to be level with the train and then tapers off with slightly steep ramps back to the rest of the platform. The rest of the platform is a solid FOOT down from the train, not something my wheelchair can handle. FORTUNATELY, Chad looked down the car and saw the raised platform and sent me there, allowing me to escape just as the doors were closing.
And then we had to get through the Green Park Tube station, which I can report has not improved in twenty years. So you can see that all of the little cakes were Medically Necessary, as was the delightful conversation.
They also turned out to be medically necessary for another reason: Paddington Station.
Getting to Paddington Station was fine - I rolled into a little cab and we rolled around London and then the cab driver waved down disability access for me. This got a little confusing - I can't actually buy my tickets at a kiosk (like THANKS CHASE BANK) but we got me to the main ticket station. Where the access person took off telling me I was in helpful hands.
Here I encountered the hands down least helpful person yet in the UK, I told him I needed to get to Bath Spa. He sold me a ticket (at, I later found, NOT the cheapest price for the train I was on) but failed to tell me a) what train I could get on (I ended up guessing, correctly, Bristol, but seriously....) what platform the train was on. And then this:
"Where can I request disability assistance?" (National Rail's webpage said I needed it at Paddington and Bath - this is correct.)
"You don't need it for this train."
That was a lie.
My access person had left so a helpful Brit helped me roll my suitcase to the information booth and said he would help me on the train. I still wasn't sure if I could GET on the 7 o'clock train - the electronic board suggested not - so I rolled up to the desk to request information assistance, who chose that moment to tell me that yes, I DID need ramp assistance.
So off I headed to the access area, slightly worried because the train was scheduled to leave in 20 minutes at this point, but telling myself and access that I could just take the next train. Another wheelchair user happened to be requesting access to the same train. We were told that it was on platform one (good) and it was coach C (way way way way down the platform, less good) and the access people were all running around so since time was running out the wheelchair user took me down to Coach C on platform one, followed by the helpful Brit with my bag --
-- it was the wrong train, and the helpful Brit had already taken off.
We had five minutes to reach coach C (way way way way way down) on the other platform, and no access people in sight.
I offered to take the next train. I had underestimated the helpfulness of other Brits; the other wheelchair user was in an electric, so he offered to take my suitcase (it's wheeled) and we rushed. I never ever want to push my manual that quickly, that distance, again. At the station end of the platform we explained the situation and were allowed through Secret Inaccessible doors and then sped down that way. At that point I started having breathing problems. My suitcase went on ahead of me; a porter saw me and started running with me down the platform. The ramp was set up and the train left while we were still getting ourselves into place.
That took awhile because I was still having breathing issues and palpitations. After that, I got my head down and pretty much stayed there until Swindon, which is to say if you are looking for a lovely description of a train ride from London to Bath you need to look elsewhere.
The Bath train station was a lot less exciting, but at that point the only thing I wanted was a bed. Any bed. See why the high tea was so helpful? I had no need for dinner.
I have more to say on Bath (which is lovely) and seagulls and other things, but for now, time for the next train.