Cruise Noob

Memoirs of a cruise virgin

If you’ve ever cruised before, skip this post. Otherwise, read on.

As I write, we’re docked at the pretty little town of Charlotte Amalie, on the beautiful island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. It’s Stop #3 on our 8 night cruise and I thought now was as good a time as any to recap some of the first days at sea and in the Caribbean. Plus, this being a US territory, there’s data here so I can post.

I’d never been on a cruise before, but always kind of fancied the idea. I like seeing new places, and the idea of being shuttled around in what is essentially a big hotel, visiting some of the most amazing places on the planet, seemed like one I could get on board with (pun fully intended).

Continue reading “Cruise Noob”

Day 1: Welcome to America!

In which Ed runs around like a headless chicken

I had wanted to book a car service to whisk me from JFK to my hotel in Melville; the company was allowing me to expense my taxi fares so I figured doing it ahead of time would make sense. I also didn’t want my girlfriend, AJ, to come pick me up and risk waiting forever. I reached out to the folks on ( to get some estimates for wait times at Immigration, with the expected wide variety of responses. The conclusion was ‘how long is a piece of string?’ and I decided to just wait and get transportation myself once I was through.

Immigration itself was actually a painless affair – just lots of queueing. It took about an hour from debarkation to baggage claim, which is really good considering I couldn’t join the usual ESTA queue. Ironically, considering the mantra ‘Everything is bigger in America’ (which I’ve found to be almost universally true), the baggage carts were smaller than the ones at London Heathrow, resulting in my luggage departing from the cart into the path of someone else. Thankfully it only happened once.

Once out, I joined the chaotic mess of travellers awaiting transportation, but managed to get myself an Uber after a few minutes of swearing at my phone’s inability to pick up a good enough data connection to pinpoint my location, and I was underway. Continue reading “Day 1: Welcome to America!”

The Long Goodbye

Saying goodbye to the old life, and hello to the new

As I write, there are but three days left until I get on the plane and bid farewell to my old life. The last few weeks have been a flurry of events that have left me with little time to reflect on the enormity of what’s happening – something that my friends aren’t shy at pointing out; “This is huge”, “I’d be shitting myself if I were you”, and so on.

In a way it’s a blessing. For months I’ve been pretty ambivalent and/or gung-ho about the whole thing. “I’m moving to New York” was delivered with the same weight as “I’m going to have chicken for dinner”. Perhaps it’s because the process has taken so long, or perhaps it’s just that, subconsciously, it was the best way for me to deal with it. I’m not really sure. What I am sure of, is that Shit Got Real about six weeks ago.

I now find myself embroiled in a cauldron of conflicting emotions. This is, no doubt, a huge change and a huge opportunity. NYC is widely touted as the best city in the world, and it’s a place that I’m very much enamoured with. Having survived London easily, I’m not phased by the idea of living and working within its American cousin. I’m finally going to be close to my girlfriend, who I’ve been with for nearly a year, stuck in the at-times frustrating ‘LDR’ scenario. On one hand, I’m still running and leaping for this opportunity with hands ready to grasp it.

On the other, however, I really don’t want to go. Continue reading “The Long Goodbye”

BMW 116d SE

Do BMW actually make a bad car?

After my brief tango with the Mercedes C220d at the start of June, I found myself in need of another car for August, to move my things from London to Wales in preparation for their ultimate shipment from the UK to the US.
I rebooked with Sixt, choosing as I did before the Mercedes A-Class ‘Prestige’ option, for just north of £200. That gave me the car from mid-morning Thursday to early morning the following Monday, with full insurance cover.

I was pleased when I found out that they had a BMW 1 Series for me, instead of a Merc A-Class. I was less pleased when I saw, written on the receipt, what model I was being given.
Whereas last time I was upgraded to the pretty-swish and pretty-loaded C220d, this time I was being given a 116d SE. Or, pretty much, the bottom of the range.

There were a few options installed – a quick check of the BMW configurator reveals that the car currently sat on the driveway would cost just a shade over £28,000 to buy outright – but the initial impressions were pretty disappointing. After owning an M135i, and having spent the weekend riding in and photographing an M140i, this was a big step back.

Or so I thought. Continue reading “BMW 116d SE”

Mercedes C220d

A staunch BMW monogamist is challenged by a svelte mistress from Stuttgart

w7jOhHq - ImgurI just want to get it out of the way right up front; I HATE the Mercedes COMAND system. The entertainment and vehicle control systems that ship with modern German luxury cars are all pretty advanced these days. You have the BMW iDrive system, with its fixed tablet on the dash and rotary wheel with optional touch pad. There’s the Audi MMI interface which now supplements the central screen on most models with an awesome ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display that replaces the dials with a TFT to show all manner of data, including maps and navigation. Then you have the Mercedes COMAND system.

It’s just atrocious. A shame really, as the car itself is really very good.

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Visas before Breakfast

Tuesday June 25th 2017: Visa Day

My appointment was scheduled for 08:00, so I knew I needed to be up early to get there with plenty of time to spare. My alarm was set for 06:00, but by 05:40 I was in the shower, thanks to a terrible sleep.
I always sleep poorly when I know I have an alarm set for a particular time outside of my usual sleep pattern, and this day had particular significance.

I took the bus, Overground, and Jubilee Line to get to Bond Street, with Grosvenor Square and the US Consulate just a few minutes’ walk away.

As I write this paragraph, I am sat in the large blue-seated waiting room (“waiting hall” might be more appropriate nomenclature) with Number 9 stuck to my DS-160 form. There are 11 windows lining the right hand side of the room, so if everyone shows up to work on time I might not be here too long! Continue reading “Visas before Breakfast”