Sunday, July 20, 2008

Euro Trip--Day 1

Sorry that this is a little bit late, but please remember that there is a 6 hour time difference and that I was up for nearly 40 hours straight. Today was the first time I had to actually recollect for you what has happened.

On Friday, I woke up around 8:00 am to make sure everything was situated, help my parents with the timers, get any loose ends tied up. We left for KC at 11:00 am and had lunch. We boarded an AirCanada flight for Toronto and left on time at 2:20 pm. We arrived at Toronto, but there was a miscommunication about customs. We were told that all passengers had to go through gate A, which was customs. I got separated from my parents because I had to take care of some other business (if you know what I mean). Anyway, assuming that they were ahead of me, I went through gate A and gave the immigration officer the customs form that I was given on the plane and indicated that I would only be staying in Canada for three hours and that I had nothing to declare. Well, that information proved wrong. I couldn't find my parents anywhere and I was starting to wonder what happend. Finally I heard my mom shouting at me. They both came down and asked me what I was doing. I just told them that I was following instructions. Well, my mom asked (while I wasn't around) and then she found out that we had to go through gate B (the flight attendant got the information wrong). Now we had to go through security again and then make our way back to the main gates. Fortunately, we had a three hour layover and we went through and got something to eat. Airport food is so unreasonably expensive, except I must say that the fries I had were some of the best I ever had.

We then went to our next gate from which we would depart for Heathrow. First, I was called over by the AirCanada people. I didn't know what the problem was except that they needed to see my passport. I thought I was in trouble, but apparently the information didn't transfer so no big deal. We eventually got on the plane. Then we were delayed for an hour and a half. Why? Well, apparently three passengers didn't show up on the plane, so the crew had to go through the cargo area and pull out their luggage (7 checked bags total). Then the 3 passengers showed up and said they wanted to board so the crew stopped checking for the bags. Then about 10 minutes later, the captain announced that those same 7 people were not going to get on the plane after all so the search for the lost baggage continued. They had to bring in a separate crew to find all of them. I couldn't believe the airline would be so accommodating for 3 people at the expense of over 400! I wrote AirCanada a pretty nasty note regarding that. However, in spite of that incident, this was easily one of the best international flights I ever had. Despite being in coach, I was reasonably comfortable, the meals were good (I mean good!) and we had access to so many TV programs, movies, music, etc. I watched two movies (Spiderwick Chronicles--decent; Vantage Point--blah!) and so made fair use of my time. I only managed to maybe get 45 minutes of sleep (I don't sleep well on planes)! We were originally due to land at Heaththrow at approximately 9:00 local time. We didn't get there until 10:15. We also had another 20 minutes added on because of the additional traffic landing at Heathrow at the time.

Then we went through immigration. I went on ahead to get the baggage because my parents were a little slow (my dad has sore knees from surgery last year so it takes him a little time). Well, I got to the immigration office and the guy asked if I was travelling alone to which I answered no. He asked where my travelling companions were and I told him I don't know and then he changed the tone of his voice to become nearly hostile, questioning every little plan I had in Britatin, where I was staying, with whom. It was not pleasant. Finally, he just said that, in the future, British Customs would not be so lenient as he was with me today. Fine, whatever!

We finally met my sister who had been waiting quite awhile due to the delay. My parents caught up and we finally found our bags, then we took the tubes to our hotel. Unfortunately, we couldn't check in (it was 12:00 London time) because our rooms weren't clean yet. Come on. If businesses were this lax in America as far as customer service went, they'd be out of business in no time. We then headed over to my sister's place and met her housemates, Rene and his wife Hazel. both were very pleasant though I didn't know because I had managed to doze off for about 2 hours!

We weren't able to go to the British Museum so we opted instead to see something else. So we went to Regents Park which is an absolutely beautiful place. I got to see people play soccer and cricket (we were definintely in the UK). I still don't get the game of cricket. I must have watched those guys for 20 minutes and I still don't get the game. Still, it was a great place and I wish we had something like that in Omaha. The flowers, the fountains, the landscape--all of it was wonderful almost a botanical garden. We then decided to go back and see my sister's friends, Hazel and Rene and took them out to eat at a Thai place near where they live. I've always wondered if Thai food (or any other ethnic cuisine) would be different in another country. And the answer is--not really.

I was still very tired and I wanted to get home. My parents were brought home by Rene and Hazel and Steph and I took the bus back. London has a great public transportation system and I'm so thankful that Stephanie was there to be our guide. It takes a little time to pick up the schedule of the busses and the tubes. And it really makes you thankful that you didn't rent a car. The people of London not only drive on the wrong side of the road, which are as narrow as can be, but they are crazy about it. They drive like New Yorkers, with one hand on the horn and their foot always on the gas. I know I would have been in an accident in two minutes had we decided to rent a car.

We got back to our hotel room and I was out like a light, but I got up at 4:30 London time and was ready to start the day. For day two, you will read about my trip to Buckinhgam, the changing of the guard, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and St. Paul's Cathedral. Day 3 will highlight a trip to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, a trip down the Thames River, the British Museum, maybe Hyde Park. I'll try to update this as much and as quickly as I can.

I leave for Germany on Tuesday and that will definitely be the highlight. Keep reading and I will keep posting. Take care and good night (it's almost midnight here!).

1 comment:

Katie said...

Wow, you had alot to say...and it's only Day 1. ;)