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UK/Scotland Trip of 2002 - Page 1

 

A "Monster" suitcase is packed.

 

Cindy,LeAnne, Kevin and Celeste relax before take-off.

 


Leaving the USA - Saturday, March 23, 2002

Woke up at my regular work time instead of a half an hour later as I planned. I got a good nights rest, so that worked well. I easily got things packed and loaded in the car. Our drive was uneventful. It was a much nicer day than forecast: both sunny and warm (40 F).

The fellow manning the American Airlines counter thought my check-through suitcase weighed over the limit, but decided not to either weigh it, or charge me anything extra.

I was the first at the airport. I was too wound up to eat at home, so I ate at the airport after I checked in. LeAnne and Cindy shortly joined us. LeAnne already had her trauma for the morning when the person manning the check-in (this time a lady) told LeAnne her passport had expired. It turned out the person was looking at the issuing date, not the expiry.

Kevin showed up with Tim. A little while later George and Tim K made an appearance, along with the Flannerys, so we had quite a send-off party! Many of them were visibly amused when a silver-handled shaving brush set off the alarms over Kevin's check-through luggage and earned him a thorough body scan.

The flight was lovely, although it got pretty rough when we circled out over Lake Michigan.

Our wait in Chicago was a long one. We ate lunch at the food court at O'Hare International.

The American Airlines airplane itself was a model of comfort after the last one I'd been on. Apart from the extra leg room, there were little television screens built into the back of each seat. Various programs were available, including music, television shows, movies, and flight data. I loved having the flight data whenever I wanted it. It also did a better job of explaining the emergency procedures than announcements. The only thing in the way of public communications that I didn't like was the fact that the public address system wasn't loud enough to hear over those who insisted on talking through it.

We got off the ground around 5:35. Our flight path was more southerly than I expected, largely to avoid turbulence, I expect. We also flew a couple thousand feet higher than they originally said they would. We overflew Detroit, Albany (New York), hit the Atlantic coast just south of Kennebunkport in Maine, traveled up the Maine coastline, over Nova Scotia and sailed over St Johns (Newfoundland) to cross the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Dinner was served to us around 7:30. We had a choice of steak or salmon, rice, French-cut green beans, dinner roll with butter, salad with oil and vinegar dressing, crackers, 'Laughing Cow' cheddar cheese, and a brownie. I lost my roll over Nova Scotia. I told Kevin I had a vision of it working down to the landing gear (we were directly over the back wheels) and it bombing some poor unsuspecting soul in Halifax.

Watched 'The Curious Gardeners' about gardens in Cornwall. Also watched the flight status. Dropped into a doze shortly after leaving the Newfoundland coast for the Northern Atlantic.

We didn't get much sleep on the flight, although I dozed a bit. My neck hurt and I couldn't get comfortable. Every little bit I'd "come to" and check our progress on the flight status screen, then drop back into a fitful doze.


Our hotel near the City, Covent Garden, and the theatre district.

Crowds gather to watch street performers in Covent Garden Market.

Arriving in London - Sunday, March 24, 2002

The day dawned on a very dim, misty morning in Ireland. We passed over Killarney and just south of Cork. Couldn't really see anything, however, until we got over Wales. Then we caught a glimpse of the countryside before it clouded over with a vengeance. It cleared up beautifully as we flew over Oxfordshire. We got to the London area 45 minutes early, but spent the time circling Runnymede waiting for clearance from Heathrow to land.

Breakfast was a choice of an omelet with melon on the side, or Raisin Bran, banana, croissant and orange juice.

We landed at London Heathrow at 6:50.

It took us a while to pick up our baggage and find our American Airlines Vacations representative. She proved less than helpful: she tried to give us just two tube passes for four people and hustled us out to our limo without ever checking to see if we could catch up in the crowd. LeAnne and I had awkward, heavy loads, and both of us were winded by the end. I was ready to strangle her when I got to the hotel and discovered she kept two of my vouchers for the tours. But I'm getting ahead of myself!

Our "limo" turned out to be a van, driven by a very amiable and interesting Pakistani named Shawn who had lived in both the US and Russia. He answered our questions, exchanged jokes and stories with us all the way to our hotel, which took time in the London rush-hour traffic.

Once again, I was struck by how much further along the British spring is compared to the one we'd left. Grass was lush and green. Leaves are out on the bushes and the trees have budded. Daffodils, tulips, forsythia dominated the lawns, with hints of magnolia blossoms.

I'd forgotten how fascinating I find London. Argh! I'd love to live here for a couple years to learn all I could. Each neighborhood has its own personality, and the architecture is wonderful. I wasn't alone. LeAnne was also drooling over the Georgian row houses.

Shawn dropped us neatly at the Strand Palace Hotel door. It was while checking in at the Strand that I discovered the missing vouchers. Fortunately, the Strand staff allowed me to check into my room. Since Kevin and Cindy's room wasn't ready, they dropped their luggage in my room. Kevin, bless his kind heart, called American Airlines and patiently dealt with my missing vouchers. After a lot of shuffling, American Airlines told him that they had found the vouchers and were having them delivered to the Strand Hotel later in the day.

That problem resolved, we took off to explore and redeem our tube vouchers.

We walked around Covent Garden, enjoying the performers and the glorious weather. Since the salesperson at the tube station was unsure how to handle our vouchers, we walked on down to the Charing Cross tube and railway station to have it done there.

Cindy and I tried our ATM cards along the way to verify that they worked. Since last time this was a major problem for me, I was very relieved that there was no problem this trip.

The Victoria Embankment Gardens offered a serene spot to rest.

We also enjoyed an amble through the colorful (yet peaceful) Victoria Embankment Gardens, put our tube passes to work and journeyed to Kings Cross Railway Station, then checked out the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood of the hotel.

Around three in the afternoon, having been up for the better part of thirty-five hours, we went back to our hotel rooms to bathe, rest and change clothes.

We went to a fantastic local restaurant for dinner around 6:00. It took us a while to find the Boulevard Brasserie at 40 Wellington Street, but we were all delighted that we did. The food was marvelous. We strongly recommend it to anyone visiting London.

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