Once, while on a trip with my highschool robotics club, my roommate was the one who answered the 5:30 wakeup call (in robotics, the early bird gets practice time on the field, and often we were up until midnight the previous night). He picked up the phone, said “scramble the fighters!”, and promptly went back to sleep. I had no idea what was going through his mind.
Now I do. I was holding a phone in my hand in a dark hotel room, wondering where I was and why I was so tired. The voice said something about a 6:15 wakeup call. 6:15… Time yet for me to sleep. I woke up Jason, since he had wanted an earlier wakeup call, and crawled back under the covers.
The phone rang, and I woke up to get it. This time it was Dad, wondering where we were.
I looked over at Jason, still soundly asleep. This time I understood it was go time. Missing this morning’s flight would be mean being stuck in Germany for at least another day.
We went downstairs for a quick continental breakfast, which in this hotel means someone shows you to a table and there are fancy glasses and eight million forks.
Eventually we caught the bus to the airport. Luckily, we arrived with plenty of time to spare.
Arriving in Dusseldorf, we had a 5 hour layover, so we had an opportunity to drop off our bags at a locker and take a train into town and have lunch.
As with the previous night’s dinner, a Coca-Cola came in a bottle, along with a small glass with an icecube at the bottom. We had to specifically ask for the ice cube. Maybe ice is a rare commodity here? I’ve always found ice makes soda better.
Water is about as common as soda and bottled water is the norm here. At restaurants, you buy water in a heavy glass bottle, which eventually makes it back to the bottling facility. It makes it much harder to stay hydrated - we’re all used to places giving you a large cup of iced water, and then asking what you want to drink.
Also, most water here is “with bubbles”, or soda water as you might call it in the states. We’re making sure to ask for still water, bubbles aren’t our thing.
After a nice lunch, we explored the town for a bit. Across from the restaurant we found a Kinko’s-like store with a 3d printer.
The buildings here are, in general, much taller and closer together. Every building we saw was connected to its neighbor, and was at least 4 stories tall. Much unlike back in Austin, where there’s downtown with 50-story buildings, and then there’s not-downtown with 1- and 2-story buldings.
We returned to the airport, and headed to London. My baggage had, in fact, arrived, contrary to my fears of the day before. Once at Heathrow, we took a train to Paddington station, and from there to Queen’s Park, where we walked to the AirBnB we were staying at.
It was just like in the movies, a three-floor building, with a narrow staircase leading to each flat. Ours was the top floor. Inside it was spacious, despite the external impression of many buildings packed tightly together. The back porch looked out over a garden so large and full of trees that we almost forgot we were in the middle of a city. Ellen’s window didn’t get quite a lucky view, as it looked out into a brick wall.
Her room was unlucky, also, in the fact that it was tiny. While everyone else’s room was spacious, larger than a typical bedroom back home, hers was roughly the size of my bed. She appreciated it, though.
Dad and Kayla went out to buy groceries and get dinner. The four children (counting myself), being too tired to walk after our ordeal, chose to stay at home and play cards late into the night.