Editor’s note: I realize that I’ve only written “Day 1” for Scandinavia, and I promise I will finish those posts, but in the spirit of continuing to post on this blog, I’ve decided to post my latest travels and then go back to catch-up. Thanks for your patience!

I’m a big believer in personal downtime. This is a moment in which you are alone – no family, no friends – just spending a little time with yourself and have a little time to relax, have some fun, and even reflect a bit. So while I had the opportunity last weekend, I decided I was going to spend 3 days in Europe, specifically in London and Helsinki.

So why did I pick these cities in the first place? Well, Helsinki was really my ultimate destination, but due to complications with flight connections it made more sense to make a day trip to London and then continue to Helsinki that same evening. This way I can maximize my time and really spend time on the ground. On Friday evening, I took the red-eye and landed in London Heathrow Terminal 3 just before 8am.

Thinking that my next flight in 10 hours will be in the new Terminal 5, I headed over there to store my luggage in the terminal. After I did that I went to the British Airways counter to make sure that my boarding pass is in order before heading to the city to meet a friend. Of course, with my luck I found out that my flight will be departing out of Terminal 3 (my original terminal). I decided to just go with the flow, so the first thing I did was to check out Terminal 5.

The main terminal itself, opened in 2008, is the largest free-standing structure in the UK. The inside of the main terminal is quite large, and is quite tiring to walk from end to end. However, the check in counters seems so small and cramped for a terminal of its size. Compared with other major airports around the world, this is a bit of a disappointment.

10 Hours in London

I was told to try out the Heathrow Pod, which is a green transportation system that moves passengers from the business car park to the terminal itself. The system itself is automatic; simply select your destination and the doors to the pod will open.

Heathrow Pod

Press another button to close the door, and then once more to start the system – and you’re off! The system itself will automatically take you to your destination, which is about 5 minutes. Check out the video below (this was taken from YouTube):

Heathrow Pod

Heathrow Pod

After this it was off to the city via the Tube. While changing trains at Earl’s Court, you can’t help but notice all of the Olympic-related signage everywhere. There were quite a few at the airport, but I was busy trying to get into town that I didn’t bother taking many photos.

Earls Court Station

I met up with my friend at Paddington Station next to the famous Paddington Bear bronze statue. Perhaps it’s because the Olympics was only 13 days away, the crowd at the station on a Saturday morning at 10am made the place look like a total madhouse.

Paddington Bear Statue

Since it was raining, there’s not much else to do but to sit at the local Starbucks (yes, Starbucks) to chat, then heading over to Kings Road to see what’s new and cool in London. I’ve found that this street is actually now my new place to hang out in London. It’s much less crowded than Oxford Street and it has maintained a much more charming atmosphere. The nearby Saatchi Gallery is of course another draw. If you really wanted the larger shops, there’s Peter Jones – and then with a short walk you’ll be in Knightsbridge. Can’t really complain.

Joe and the Juice

We ended up at the Danish sandwich and smoothie shop Joe and the Juice for a nice tuna sandwich and a smoothie called “Sex Me Up”, which is a drink consisting of passion fruit, apple and ginger. Just a real nice and relaxing afternoon before heading right back to Heathrow for the evening flight to Helsinki.

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