“I’m leaving, on a jet plane.”
And what a big jet it was. 747’s are such huge, impressive pieces of machinery, They never fail to awe me.
Tuesday morning we got up, finished some laundry, finished packing, grabbed breakfast and then headed to the airport. As is usual before a trip, I didn’t sleep very well. Given we’re trying to time shift 8 hours, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Disrupting sleep cycles does help the biological clock reset faster. A little unusual was the fact that excitement kept me up as much as fretting did. It has been so long since we’ve gotten a real vacation I was really looking forward to going.
Getting to the airport and checking in was blissfully uneventful. I do like the new International terminal at SFO. It’s giant and cavernous and designed to minimize stress for travelers. We fly out of that terminal relatively frequently, as Virgin America is using that terminal temporarily and we fly Virgin (both America and Atlantic) out of preference. TSA at SFO is also quite pleasant to work with. I even forgot to pull my bottle of saline out of my bag and they just took it out, ran my bag through X-ray again, gave it back and passed us right through.
The overriding theme of this vacation is relaxing and indulgence, so we splurged a bit and got premium economy (Virgin Atlantic speak for business class) tickets for the trip over. We had a window and an aisle seat just over the wing. Large, comfy, spacious (well, for a plane) leather seats. When we boarded we were greeted with a glass of champagne to savor while the rest of the plane filled.
We like Virgin Atlantic a lot. Their staff is cheerful and friendly, their planes are modern and well kept. Each seat has its own entertainment system with movies, games, TV shows and other stuff to keep you entertained over long flights. They also feed you very, very well. This goes double if you are flying something other than cattle car. We had drinks, then dinner, then after dinner drinks (brandy or baileys?). They come through the cabin regularly to offer water or juice. The one food snag for me is often breakfast. Usually there are no eggless choices, something that happened again this flight. I did ask if there was anything without egg, and was told no. Then I was offered an alternative. The crew was having bacon sanny’s for breakfast and they could make an extra one for me. Wasn’t that sweet? It was also quite tasty!
The flight itself was one of the smoothest flights I’ve had in a long time. Usually there is a bit of turbulence over the Rockies and some more over the North Atlantic but not this time. It was also a very, very short flight due to some 150 – 200 mph tail winds; the normally 10+ hour flight was slightly more than 8 hours.
Landing was a lot of fun as we were early enough we had to circle London a couple times before slotting into the landing pattern. There are enough big landmarks (the London Eye, the Millennium Dome, the Thames) that you can actually sort out what you’re seeing from the sky. After we landed, we seemed to drive aimlessly around Heathrow for a bit, but eventually parked and de-planed. A quick trip through Immigration and Customs and we were waiting for the train into downtown London a full 45 minutes before we were even scheduled to touch down.
We took the express train to Paddington station (15 minutes to downtown London from Heathrow!) and then the tube to Waterloo. A pleasant enough walk from the station to the hotel and we had arrived. We were too far before checkin, so we visited the attached pub to wait for the room to be ready. The hotel and pub are both owned by Fullers, one of the major UK breweries. The pub menu looks stunning, lots of pies including a venison pie and steak and stilton. Neither of us were very hungry, so we settled for a beer. We were a bit tempted by the “hot roasted chestnuts” and the “coffee and mince pies” but we were still full from the trip.
We checked in at 2. It’s a tiny room, but quite comfortable. My first stop was a long, hot shower. That was promptly followed by a 3 hour hap.
Overall, the trip was extremely uneventful and low stress. We have a nice room right in the heart of London attached to a pub with a classic British pub menu
If the rest of the trip goes only half as well as getting here did, this is going to be an awesome vacation!