23 June 2012

England 2012, Part the First: Getting There

Philly International wasn't very busy!
Richmond International was quiet as a church mouse. As usual. I now know my TSA belt (a belt designed to be acceptable to wear through security) works, as the only thing that set off any alarms seemed to be my sweaty right armpit, resulting in a pat down of that particular portion of my anatomy. You have to wonder how well those machines  really work if that's what they detect! Explosive sweat. Who woulda thought? Anyway, the Dash 300 took off on time and landed in Philly in good order.

Once again, things couldn't have gone any smoother. A shuttle ran me from Terminal F to Terminal A, and the gate wasn't far from the drop off point. Best part: I never left the secure area, so I didn't have to take my shoes off again.
Airbus 330, just awaiting for us!

I grabbed a bottle of water and some Cheez-Its to tide me over, finished a novel (The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning by Hallgrimur Helgason) and read a bit of England: An Illustrated History by Henry Weisser whilst waiting on the 9:50PM flight. Once again, a completely full plane, but we took off on time, and after an OK dinner of pasta primavera I watched a bit of television. It was easily the bumpiest plane ride I've ever been on; not dramatic turbulence, just constant for the entire trip. Jeez, Mr. Pilot Captain Sir, why the heck don't you either climb or descend a couple of thousand feet to get out of this crap. Oh wait, the 3 miniatures of Jack Daniels is kicking in. No problem. I drifted off to sleep.

 No idea how long I slept, probably not more than 3 hours, and it was  time for breakfast...well, at least a "flat muffin" and coffee. It took the growl out of my stomach, but just barely. We were about an hour away when the captain informed us that we were in initial approach to Heathrow; thirty minutes later he told us we were in a 20 minutes holding queue. Drat. I used the time to re-engineer my mobile into a GSM capable handset. This required all of 5 minutes. The lady beside me watched as though I was performing open heart surgery, and finally asked what I was doing. I told her, then she looked as if I'd just told her she'd given birth to quintuplets! Apparently, not everyone understands 1) how easy it is to install a SIM card in your mobile, and 2) how nice it is to be able to make cheap calls in the country you are visiting!

Heathrow is easily the LONGEST airport I've ever walked through. Despite several moving walkways, I'll bet I walked nearly half a mile to the Border Agency desks. The queue was 7 layers deep (think amusement park queueing, back and forth), and taking a hint from the US, they had only six agents working. It took at least 45 minutes to get to a desk where my passport was perfunctorily stamped and I was allowed past the blue line on the wall that said "UK Border". Now to Baggage Reclaim.

This was another walk from hell, but HELLO, could it be?! YES! My bag is directly in front of me just as I reach the conveyor belt. I grab it and exit through the "Nothing to Declare" doors into the area where you are met by your driver (in the event you are able to have a driver meeting you), where I am greeted by a friend from the blogworld, and he leads me off towards the transportation we will be using to get to Woking. Another few miles of walking, and we reach the Central Bus Terminal. You may be able to catch a bus at this level, but everything else is UP THERE!

The ride to Woking was uneventful, except that everyone was driving on the wrong side of the road! I wanted to hop out and direct traffic!
We found the hotel in short order, and were told at 1:40PM that we could not check in until 2:00PM. Wetherspoons it was (right across the street) for my first pint of true English ale, pumped from the cask (no CO2 tanks in these pubs), in five years. Oh my, SOOOO good.

The hotel was adequate at best. If I hadn't been more or less awake for 39 hours, and hadn't consumed more than a few pints of ale, I'd have fussed until they moved me to another room, as I was right beside a night club with a pounding night club band playing. Over-tiredness and near-inebriation saved the say, and I slept right through until Saturday morning. That's it for tonight, time to tally up the money spent today, and get some sleep. In the morning, we're headed to Cambridge.

Tomorrow: More pictures, once I find the correct cable for my camera (FAIL!). And, Friday afternoon and evening, and all day Saturday with some incredible friends!

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