The tourist agency set up my hotel for London at Earl’s Court Station. Traveling through a tourist agency was not my preferred choice, but that was one of the cards I was dealt so I simply had to make do. I suppose Earl’s Court wasn’t all that bad of a location considering it was still on the Piccadilly line. I loved the Piccadilly line for its whimsical name and the ease of use. I think of the horrors I would have faced if it had been on that confusing yellow Circle line which had trains that went in different directions from the same platform. My experience with the Circle line was that I was forever getting on the wrong train or waiting for the right one that never arrived.
It was convenient having a Pret A Manger right next to the station. Pret A Manger was a chain store that had a wide array of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. The ‘three’ star hotel I was staying at didn’t have much for breakfast so it was nice to grab something from Pret A Manger before starting the day. They even had berry mix that I enjoyed.
This is what I found on the way to the hotel! It’s a British postbox! I was delighted when I first saw it because I’ve never seen anything like it. The postbox felt special in a way that was similar to the red double-decker buses and the red phonebox. I was wondering why so many things were red in London, and when I asked I was told that red was the royal color. It surprised me to hear that the mail was royal. After all, the US never had a monarch after independence Great Britain and Korea hasn’t had a monarch since the Japanese invasion. from Royal Mail had an interesting timeline about their history. It was interesting to learn that mail started in the Tudor dynasty by Henry the VIII. The usual thing that comes to mind when thinking about Henry the VIII are his many wives, not the start of the mail system. At one point in time, the post office officially hired cats! Here is a story from their website:
In September 1868 cats were officially appointed by the Post Office to catch rats and mice. Three cats worked on probation at the Money Order Office in London, with an allowance of one shilling a week. They had to rely on mice for the rest of their food. The Secretary to the Post Office warned that if the problem with mice was not reduced within six months, the allowance would be cut. In May, 1869, it was reported that “the cats have done their duty very efficiently.” In 1873 they were awarded an increase of 6d per week to their allowance. The official use of cats to control rats and mice soon spread to other Post Offices.
I find it rather amusing that the cats were officially hired and earned wages for catching rats and mice. It makes me wonder how many animals throughout the world have been paid for their services. Apparently the postbox having once been the color green was painted red to increase visibility. So it wasn’t because red was the royal color as someone had suggested. Green probably blended in with bushes or trees so it makes sense to switch colors. Although, I thought that the red would have some sort of significant meaning. For instance, the Chinese consider red to be a lucky color.
When I reached the hotel the check-in time wasn’t until 2pm. Waiting for hours for check-in was out of the question so we just left our bags…for a price. It was the first hotel that has charged me for holding on to luggage due to a late check-in time. In any case, that wasn’t the most important thing I learned during the first day of travel. The number one thing I learned was that overnight flights and late check-in hours requires dry shampoo. I was able to wash my face in the airport restrooms, but you can’t really take a shower and wash your hair. Apparently Heathrow does have showers but they’re in the VIP lounge and require reservation and a considerable price. This wasn’t the first time I had been on a long flight, but it was the first time that I couldn’t check in to a hotel, dormroom, or apartment after a 10 hour flight. I had never thought the first lesson I’d learn traveling to Europe would involve dry shampoo, but there you have it.