Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let the Games Begin

We arrived in London a bit early today but made up for it by waiting on the tarmac until there was an available gate for our plane. We flew on Virgin Atlantic for the first time; we figured if they were good enough to partner with Singapore airlines, they had to be good enough for us. The flight wasn’t too bad despite occasional turbulence, but we didn’t get the rest we wanted. We were in the “premium economy” seating area which meant that we had more hip room no more leg room than in the regular economy. There may have been better food and baggage handling, but we’ll never know for sure. [Food Note: MA had Thai red curry for dinner and D had brisket; both dishes met with approval. Breakfast was a choice of a ham-and-cheese bagel or an egg croissant. Again, both were more than adequate.]

As usual when we travel, we had requested a wheel chair, so we were told to wait until the plane was empty before exiting. We did as we were told but discovered that we could have gotten off with the rest of the passengers since the chair had been there the whole time. Ours was the only one this morning, more proof that we were not in Florida anymore. Our wheelie, as we call the designated pushers, zoomed through Heathrow so quickly that D had trouble keeping up with him and MA. Eventually we came to the top of the ramp to Immigration and baggage claim [or re-claim, as the signs called it]. At this point, we were told that we would have to wait for someone else to come with a different wheelchair to take us the rest of the way. Since there were no steps involved and we were almost at the end, we decided to forsake the chair and strike out on our own. Several others who had been waiting when reached this transfer point did the same, not wanting to wait another 15 minutes or more.

The line for Immigration was short by the time we got to it but became crowded shortly after we joined the queue. We breezed through and headed for the baggage claim area. There were no luggage trolleys at the near end, so MA sat and waited while D retrieved one from the far end of the area and then circled back for the bags. Because we had taken so long to get to this point, our luggage was waiting beside the belt, making it easy to find and avoiding the strained back associated with chasing and retrieving baggage.

With our trolley loaded with 4 matching suitcases and our 2 carry-ons, we headed for the exit where we immediately saw our traveling companion Roxanne. Next we saw our driver holding a sign with both couples’ last names and lastly, we found Ed who had gotten separated from Roxanne somehow. Colin, the driver, pushed Ed’s trolley while D pushed ours which did not want to go in a straight line; it acted like a drunk on a highway, weaving left and right and forcing to D to over-steer in order to make any headway. For readers of the 2008 blog, Colin reminded all of us of Mr. Otah, the befuddled guide we had in Kobe/Osaka. He forgot to push elevator buttons; wasn’t sure how to pack all of us and our possessions into the van; and had to have us figure it out plus keep count of the bags. Once we and the luggage were stowed, we proceeded to our hotel in the Covent Garden section of London.

By the time we arrived at the Swissotel The Howard, it was not quite 11:15. MA had hoped to meet a former student for coffee at 10:30, but the student could not wait for us so she left a note. Our rooms were not ready, so we checked in, checked our bags and went to the hotel’s outdoor cafĂ© for a light lunch [MA – goat cheese salad; D – lox and horseradish sandwich. Both yummy]. While the others sat and talked, D explored the hotel’s Wi-Fi and discovered that if one joined the Swissotel “club,” the Wi-Fi was free. So he joined. Roxanne and Ed had stayed at a Swissotel property in Istanbul, so they didn’t even have to sign up.

After lunch, it was time to go to our rooms which were finally ready. D set up the Wi-Fi and tried to change seats for our return flight, but there were no bulkhead seats available. Since we will be traveling during daylight, the legroom issue won’t be so great; other passengers are not as likely to recline their seats into our knees.

We had decided at lunch to pursue theater tickets for tomorrow night and selected Billy Elliott which looked like a good choice. D called Barbara and Marvin, other travel friends, to see if they were interested and left a message. Then, we all took naps with varying degrees of success. When we got up later we found an e-mail from Barbara saying to include them in the theater party. Since they will be arriving from NY tomorrow, they said we should kick them if they started to snore during the show.

We met Ed and Roxanne in the lobby at 6:30 and walked through the neighborhood to find some place to eat dinner. We are not far from the theater district and may even be able to walk to and/or from the show tomorrow. We ate at Live Bait, a seafood restaurant a 15-minute walk from the hotel and had a very enjoyable meal [MA – scallop risotto; D – seafood stew of mussels, fish, prawns and tiny scallops]. Then, back to the hotel to relax and try to get on the new time schedule.

Tomorrow we may take a riverboat cruise down the Thames since we won’t see much when our ship sails from Tilbury on Saturday afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. You will love Billy Elliott. It is by far. my favorite musical.