London Gatwick Airport

Touring London with Gatwick Airport’s Mascot

Stuck at The Airport is spending a couple of days in London as a guest of Gatwick Airport,, the airport’s mascot, Gary Gatwick, and a growing list of new local friends, some of whom got us out of a sticky situation. (More on that soon…)

After landing at Gatwick Airport and making the 30-minute journey to London’s Victoria Station on the Gatwick Express we were able to take in some sights before jet lag set in.

The View from Above

With Gary Gatwick in tow, we did what a lot of locals and tourists were doing on a warm, sunny day: we rode the elevators to the top of the Shard building. It’s the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the view from the observation floors at the top is just unbeatable.

Bonus: visitors can purchase drinks and snacks up top, get selfies galore, engage in some people-watching, and enjoy the gelato and air conditioning.

The View from the Water

Once we saw the views of the river from above, we wanted to see it from the water level.

The View from the River 50-minute circular cruise on the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers made that easy.

With a smart and witty tour guide on the microphone, we cruised by many of London’s iconic landmarks, including The Shard, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe theater, St Paul’s Cathedral, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, The London Eye, and the Tower of London.

We also sailed under the Tower Bridge, which just happened to be opening to make way for a larger boat as we approached.

At one point our tour guide asked for a show of hands from all the Americans on board. No one but me raised their hand. A quick “Do you call it ‘football’ or ‘soccer’?’ survey from our guide confirmed that this tour has become quite popular with locals.

The Superbloom at the Tower of London

Day 2 of our whirlwind London tour included a visit to the Tower of London, the urban castle that served as a secure fortress, royal palace, and infamous prison, and is now also home to the very closely guarded Crown Jewels.

Courtesy Historic Royal Places

Again, we found ourselves mingling with more locals than tourists when we headed to the Tower of London to see how the historic moat around the tower has been transformed by a flower display dubbed the ‘Superbloom,’ and planted to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

The flowers may die and fade and die back in the fall, a Superbloom volunteer told us. But he also assured us that the flowers should return each spring for at least the next four or five years.

Our tour in London also took us to the historic floating museum known as the HMS Belfast and on an unusual adventure on the underground. We’ll share details on both uniquely London experiences, and more, tomorrow.

Gatwick Airport’s giant barcodes

Art or advertising?

London’s Gatwick Airport is using giant barcodes to both cover up construction walls and share information about what’s going on behind those walls.

Gatwick airport barcode

Passengers who scan the codes (using a stickybits iPhone / Android app) will see a short video about the airport improvement program.

The first giant barcodes went up earlier this week in the airport’s North Terminal Shuttle stop, with more to follow.

Gatwick airport stickybits

Here’s what you’ll see

Tidbits for travelers: Talk back at Gatwick

Lots of airports are using Twitter as a tool to interact with travelers passing through.

London’s Gatwick Airport has been one of them.

Now the airport is kicking its social media program up a notch by integrating Twitter messages into the physical space of the airport. Throughout the day, Gatwick passengers will see this message on the check-in monitors.

Airport officials say reaching out by Twitter is part of an overall airport upgrade and rebranding program that will improve facilities but also “provide passengers with a more human and personal experience.”

That sounds promising.

The goals is to monitor and respond to in-airport comments 24 hours a day.

But not yet: while Twitter works round-the-clock, Gatwick’s social media team does not. So for now you can talk back to Gatwick on Twitter, but the airport will only Tweet back during working hours.

London Gatwick Airport Twitter screen

Sleep fast and stretch your travel dollars at the airport

When you’re stuck at the airport, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where you could take a shower and a nap or just close the door and watch a movie or get some work done?

In some airports there are. A great example is the YOTEL, the short-stay hotel located inside the South Terminal at London’s Gatwick airport.

The brainchild of Simon Woodroffe, a brash British entrepreneur who also created a conveyor belt-style chain of sushi bars called YO! Sushi, the 46-room Gatwick YOTEL offers rooms that are a cross between what you might find in a Japanese pod-hotel and an amenity-rich first-class airplane cabin. But these rooms also include full showers, flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet access and room service.

Travelers can book a YOTEL room for as little as four-hours. So it seems ideal for those times when you’ve just come off a long flight or have a super early departure in the morning. Prices start at about $50 for a standard cabin for the minimum four-hour booking, but during August, to celebrate the GATWICK YOTEL’s first anniversary, overnight stays will go for under $100.

Not traveling through Gatwick? There’s a 32-cabin YOTEL in Terminal 4 at London’s Heathrow airport and another YOTEL scheduled to open at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport later this year.

So sleep tight – but sleep fast!