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Thursday, August 10, 2017

July 15th: London to Manchester Airport (with Train Transfer)

When I first bought my train tickets back to Manchester, I picked the 12:00pm departure for 2 reasons: first, I thought we could spend a little bit more time exploring London, and secondly, the checkin time for the hotel wasn't until after 3:00pm anyway. It couldn't be much later, since I still had to pack the bike into the box at the hotel after arrival. What I hadn't reckoned on was that London, like most tourist cities, starts quite late: nothing opens till 10:00am, and with a checkout at 11:00am, that didn't leave very much time for anything at all.
Bowen woke up quite early, so we had an early breakfast and I proposed we walk through Hyde Park and then visit the British Library when it opened at 9:30am. "Can we take the subway there?" Bowen had developed an obsession with subways, and would have spent all day riding the subways if he could have. Well, I wasn't going to spend all morning underground, so we took the subway to Hyde Park, walked across it, and then rode 2 subway lines back to the British Library, which was near where our hotel was.
The museum's worth a visit, though I paid the entry fee thinking it was for the library but was actually for the exhibit. The star of the library, which is the display of their notable collection is free! Nevertheless, we spent a good hour at the museum admiring artifacts like the Magna Carta, some of Da Vinci's original drawings, and original sheet music from famous composers. The old maps were also well worth the time.

Then it was time to check out and pack for the train. Our checkout was no hassle, and neither was the short half mile ride to the train station. Once there, I had enough time to get a refund for my Oyster card, and buy some snacks for the train. While waiting for the displays to update and tell us which platform to go to, a Virgin Trains representative found us and asked us which train we were waiting for. When we told them it was the 12:00pm to Manchester, they immediately told us the right platform so we could go to the platform and load our bike in advance of every one else! The entire experience was magical: we simply walked through the gates while the staff was cleaning the train. No tickets were checked, we found the bike car, unloaded the panniers, put the bike in, and then found our reserved seats. For 33 pounds, it was faster than a car would have been, cheaper, and more comfortable. It felt kind of funny doing in 2 hours by train what had taken us 9 days of cycling to do.
Once out of the train station on the other end, we turned on the navigation system and got a surprisingly pretty ride back to the Etrop Grange Hotel. Once there, we got our picture taken by a Hotel staff member. Bowen's first bike tour was completed!

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