Day 1 - Departure and Arrival

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
It's finally here. The trip I've been waiting months for. Yippee! My boss showed up at my apartment half an hour before I was to take off with a present for me - an envelope with instructions to not open until I'm on British soil. Grrrr. I hate surprises. Ah well, chuck it into the suitcase and worry about it later. My cab arrived just after noon - I was heading out early but I'd rather be there with time to spare than have to run for the gate. Surprisingly, the Admiral didn't cry when she saw me off this time around - perhaps she's mellowed with age. Hee hee. Half an hour later, I was at the Edmonton International Airport and completely lost. Not surprising considering I hadn't flown since 1993 or 1994-ish. A lot seems to have changed since then. Not just security but these weird self-check-in machines. What's next? Asking me to fly the airplane myself? Bring my own toilet paper? I decided to give the machine a try but had my doubts since my flight wasn't for another 3 hours (yeah, yeah, I realize NOW that I was a touch too early!). Surprisingly, it was relatively painless and I soon had my boarding passes in hand. I made my way to the desk to check my luggage. Thank goodness for the very helpful Air Canada agent who took my bag. He answered all my questions with a smile and was most kind. I figure I must have looked terrified and he took pity on me...

Next up, security. I have only one thing to say - do your homework! Now, I haven't flown in years and yet I knew the exact size of liquids I was allowed to take, what was permitted, what not, etc. The gentleman I ended up behind in line did not. He raised a ruckus over the fact that his bottle of Polo was 118 ml and the security staff told him he couldn't take it. They gave him the option of confiscating it or putting it in his carry on luggage and checking it in. What a buffoon. Next to him, despite my nervous shakes and bright red heat rash, I must have looked like an angle. Sure, my buckle and watch set off the body search beeper and I almost lost my pants when they made me remove the belt but overall a better experience than expected.

With two hours to wait until boarding now, I stopped in at the airport Chili's where I had the quickest and worst service ever. After two bites of food, I was given the bill. Huh? As for the food itself, let's just say that iceberg lettuce topped with crutons and a side of Italian dressing do not constitute a salad. Next up, a quick call to the Admiral and then pulling out the mp3 player until it's time to board.

The flight to Calgary was uneventful although a bit of pressure in my sinuses, the guy beside me hogged the armrest, there was some turbulence, and when we landed, we were informed that we'd lost the steering in the nose wheel. Super duper! It was a smaller plane, operated by Jazz - not bad for short trips such as the 40 minute flight to Cow Town but the seats are tiny and I felt a bit claustrophobic. Note the mini "Jazzy" juice they served. My crew had a slightly upset tummy so they opted for apple instead of orange despite the risk of developing scurvy.

The Calgary airport was bizarre, I had to walk from one end of the airport to the other to catch my connection (or at least so it seemed). The lounge was filled with a ton of teenagers (sports teams of some kind) heading to Europe for some sort of tournament. Thankfully most of them were heading to Frankfurt rather than London and left before my flight. Another terrible food experience, this time at Jugo Juice and their grilled chicken wrap. Grossss. Rubber chicken and no flavour. Only a few hours into my day and I'm already too pooped to party. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch some zzz's on the plane. Famous last words...

No photo of the dinner on the plane - not worth it. It was edible, the chicken was real, not rubbery. Some sort of bizarre chicken cacciatore, Air Canada style: chicken breast smothered in tomato soup. Yeah, I AM serious. The plane is massive but just as cramped and claustrophobic as the Jazz flight from Edmonton. I make a mental note to not allow myself to get any bigger. I'll never fit into the seats if I do. Sheesh. I feel penned in like a farm animal. Much to my surprise, all of the movies (and there's a number of them), television programs (yay, Gavin and Stacey!), radio, wine, beer, and alcohol are free. You just know that won't last long. Pretty soon, they'll start charging to use the toilet just as RyanAir has been considering doing recently. For now though, I'm using it every chance I get. I'm definately getting an aisle seat from now on whenever I fly. Oh yes, definately the way to go. A must.

Didn't sleep. At all. Not a wink. I was so uncomfortable and my butt kept going numb. How do other people do it? Well, the woman beside me lifted the armrest and slept with her head on her husband's lap (yes, sleeping...get your mind out of the gutter!). Apparently I need someone to sleep on. So tired, I hate flying.

I made it through Heathrow airport in about 20 minutes. Maybe 30. Not nearly as long as I expected. No lineups, no searching of my luggage, no hassels. Ha! Travelling's a breeze! Caught the Express train into the city and hopped off at Paddington station. What a beautiful building. The roof especially was absolutely breathtaking. Caught a Black Cab (which, sadly, are no longer black thanks to the massive amounts of advertising splashed all over them) to my B&B. Drivers in this city are absolutely insane. Motorcycles and scooters weave in and out of traffic without a care in the world, there are no stop signs like we know them in North America, and the concept of "lanes" doesn't seem to exist. I have never been so happy to arrive somewhere in one piece as I was when I crawled out of the backseat.

However, my euphoria at surviving the trip was soon dashed as I realized the hotel had me booked into one of the rooms on the top floor. That's 5 flights of stairs. And no elevator/lift. With an already overstuffed suitcase, a bookbag and my chubby self. Did I mention I haven't slept? Yeah, the trip up the stairs was fun. By the time I made it through my door, I was knackered so I figured I'd have a nap then head out to get a mobile phone, call Milla to meet up and get started. Unfortunately I couldn't sleep ... again. So, I headed out to try and find the tube station. After wandering around for about an hour in shoes that gave me blisters, I finally found it. At this point, I'm not enjoying myself but am still determined to get started. Picking up a phone was a breeze and not expensive at all although I should have bought more time (I ran out the day I left London for Kent). Next up - try and get to the station Milla and I had settled on before I left Edmonton. Not so easy to do when you get on the wrong train and then the wrong train again. After another half hour of getting lost in the underground, I had had enough. I was tired, hungry, and pissed off (mainly at myself for trying to do too much on the first day). Finally made it back to Tufnell Park Station and found a small pizza place where I grabbed some take away and headed back to the hotel. Thankfully, Milla understood when I called to cancel and we made plans to meet up on Day 2. Headed off to bed with thoughts of my kitties back home and how much I hated London so far...


Wandering Coyote said...

Oh dear...

But what was in the envelope?????

And you just got a temporary cell phone? Interesting. I had no idea something like that existed...Very cool!

Looking forward to reading more!

* (asterisk) said...

Oh, it really was a bad start, wasn't it?! I still can't work out how you lugged that suitcase anywhere, especially up five flights of stairs...!

Karen said...

Coyote: You'll just have to stay tuned to find out!!! As for the phone, I picked up a "pay as you go" phone from T-Mobile for 10GBP and added 15 in airtime. We have the same thing here although I haven't seen phones that cheap very often (Virgin I think has some over here for around $20). I'm keeping it in case I go back or if anyone I know is going and wants to borrow it.

*Asterisk: I don't know how I did it either. At least going down was a bit easier. Not much but a bit.

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