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All People > painedplatinum > Travel Report from Near and Far > 2014 > May

Flying....flying can be great fun. Flying too much in one day can be back aching, claustrophobic, exhausting, and more.  Many times, my flights from PHL to parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are routed through Europe with layovers. Now, everyone likes a short layover, but too short and then worries about you and your luggage making the connection become real issues. I don't know everyone's definition of the perfect layover time, but mine has become six hours or greater. If I'm going to be on airplanes for 14 hours or more with a connection..... I want to break up the flights and see some of the connecting city life. I started this strategy a couple of years ago. I've been able to get out of the airport and visit Frankfort and Brussells. I'm now hooked on these quick hitting, four or five hour type explorations.


My flight to and from Abu Dhabi featured layovers at London's Heathrow Airport. My plan was to return to PHL through LHR with an arrival time of 6:40AM and the next flight to PHL scheduled for 5:00PM. That would give me about seven hours to rub elbows (or bend elbows) with our UK friends. My 5:00PM flight on British Airways was canceled ten days prior to takeoff. I took advantage and the next scheduled flight of 12:40PM the next day. NOW, we're talking. I knew the good folks on Insiders would help me maximize my experience so I reached out for their advice. 10HR 15M Layover LHR Suggestions, Please.   The community came through in "flying" colors.


I focused in on sg1974 's walking tour with the assist of the legendary map making from pluto77. These two should start a business. (If they do, I'm available for cheap wages with a liberal travel budget). The route they laid out is below. I took the Heathrow/Paddington Express train from the airport. It was easy to find and a short 20 minute ride. The round trip ticket was purchased at the currency exchange in Terminal 5. Price..£34 or $59. I set up my overnight stay at the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane. The hotel is about a .9 mile walk from Paddington Station. I made the journey with both  large and small roller type suitcases. The sidewalks were a little rough, so I took a cab back to the station when I left town. If you don't have large luggage, the walk to and from the hotel is great.


The Marriott Hotel Park Lane is perfectly situated for a day trip (or more) to historic London. Within 20 minutes of booking my reservation on, I received two emails from the property. The first from Kimberly, the Guest Relations Executive. Kimberly's note was warm and welcoming with pertinent info about the hotel and the area. I responded with a couple of logistics question which Kimberly forwarded to Tommy, the Concierge. Tommy sent the exact info I needed to get from the airport to the hotel. I'll tell ya, this type of service is just great. I wished our local American Marriott Hotels took this type of focus on guest satisfaction.


The SG/Pluto Route:


     Park Lane Hotel

     Piccadilly Circus

     Leicester Square

     Trafalgar Square

     Covent Gardens

     Somerset House

     London Eye

      Big Ben (and Parliament)

     Westminster Abbey (only thing Pluto added)

     Along St. James Park to Buckingham Palace

     Green Park (and the Bomber Command Memorial)

     Marlborough House Gardens

     St. James Square

     Park Lane Hotel


Each of these locations were wonderful. I hit Covent Square just as the lunch hour was starting and, man oh man, was that full of life and FUN. I'll pop up the pictures through Covent Gradens then add another blog post to show the rest. I started out from the hotel and walked down Regents St. where I had to move like Jaeger towards Piccadilly Circus..then onto the rest of the route.


UK London Regent Street View.JPG


Uk Jaeger.JPGUK Piccadilly Circus Sign.JPGUK Piccadilly Circus 1.JPGUK Piccadilly Circus 2.JPGUK Piccadilly Circus 5.JPGUK Leicester Square Sign.JPGUK Leicester Square 1.JPGUK Leicester Square 2.JPGUK Trafalgar Square Sign.JPGUK Trafalgar Square Rooster.JPGUK Trafalgar Square 2.JPGUK Covent Garden Sign 3.JPGUK Covent Garden 1.JPGUK Covent Garden 4.JPGUk Covent Garden Food 1.JPGUK Covent Garden Food 2.JPGUk Covent Garden Food 3.JPGUK Covent Garden Food 4.JPG

I had the opportunity, through work, to spend a couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi.  I have experienced the Arabian Gulf area in the past. Five weeks in Doha, Qatar a few years back, gave me some insight as to what I might find in Abu Dhabi. This time of year is the beginning of the big "heat". It was over 100° almost everyday I was in Abu Dhabi.


My assignment featured two, six day work weeks, so I wasn't able to get out and explore as much as I would have preferred. I did get a chance to drive around the area and see plenty of out-of-this-world buildings. It's hard to describe the opulence. My associate was pointing out the many, many palaces that belong to the Al Nahyan royal family. There are residences that are used once or twice per year. Full staffs are on property, just in case someone decides to stop in and stay the night. Really??!!! 


The only Marriott property currently in Abu Dhabi is a Ritz. I noticed a Marriott and Courtyard that were under construction. My client didn't list the Ritz as an option for my stay, so, I settled for the Holiday Inn (my back up chain). It was a very nice property. The staff was professional and well trained in customer satisfaction. They even found out my birthday and had a cake prepared..nice touch!  I had my birthday dinner at Jimmy' was killer!


I did get a chance to visit the Grand Mosque. The pictures below do not do this place justice. First, it is HUGE! It's all marble and gold. There are decorative tiles throughout the marble pillars. I was wearing my customary shorts, so I was only allowed on the grounds and outside the entry for me.


UAE Holiday Inn BDay Cake.JPG

UAE Jimmy's Killer Prawns.JPG

UAE Grand Mosque 1.JPG

UAE Grand Mosque 3.JPGUAE Grand Mosque 5.JPGUAE Grand Mosque 8.JPGUAE Grand Mosque 7.JPGUAE Grand Mosque Balls.JPGUAE Grand Mosque Tile.JPGUAE Grand Mosque 12.JPG

UAE Grand Mosque Sign 1.JPGUAE Grand Mosque Sign 2.JPG

After visiting the Bar Harbor area, I headed south toward Freeport. The drive was fantastic. I used Rte's 3 & 1.  The picture of the sailboat type bridge is the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. When you drive over this bridge going south, look out the passenger side windows and you see the epitome of small town America. Bucksport, ME sits down on the banks of the Penobscot River. You'll immediately tell yourself that you want to live's simply breathtaking. I would have stopped and snapped a photo, but the bridge is too narrow. So, you'll just have to come see for yourself. There is town after town on this drive south towards Brunswick. Each of these seaside beauties looked warm and inviting.


My last work day in Maine ended around noon. That left me with a couple of hours to head to Freeport, home of L.L. Bean. Freeport is a great walking town with many shops and restaurants. You can easily spend a day browsing and enjoying the clean Maine air. Heading back north to the Augusta state airport, I passed a favorite warning sign on the highway. The locals told me that folks are killed every year from collisions with Moose, so be careful and keep your eyes moving!