Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Day 83: Hello, London

We checked our bags for flight (the biggest one weighed over 29kg, which is over 63 pounds. Oh my. But, the gentleman at the counter didn't really bat an eye. He weighed the rest of the bags (one was 21 kg, and the two smaller ones were just over 11kg) and since, together, they weighed within our limit, it was all good. Phew. No penalty fines.

We go through security. As usual, some are anxious. And this time... we forgot some items. I forgot to mention the laptop in Venice's bag. So her backpack was "caught" and they had to take out the laptop and run that through separately. She also beeped and had to get "wanded" and patted. I beeped AND I forgot my Fitbit was on me. So that device had to go through again and I got "wanded" and patted. But, we all make it through, in the end. It wasn't too stressful, as the people were very calm and nice about everything (again, I guess there were just some grumpy workers on the day we went through Frankfurt that first day).

By this time, we're hot and thirsty. I swear security check keeps the heat up, so that when you get to the other side, you just HAVE to buy something to drink since you have no liquids over 3oz with you. So, we do. Cokes and waters all around. Our flight has not been assigned a gate yet, so we just sit in the hall, on the floor. Side note: the Shönefeld airport doesn't have much seating. Once you are in the gate for your flight, there is seating, but until you get into a gate, there is almost nothing. So, you sit on the floor of the other side of the glass of other gates. It's not like in the U.S. where the airport amasses tons of seats accessible by all gates.

After seeing a gate assigned to our flight, we get up and make our way there. Once we go down a flight of stairs and walk down a hallway, we get into a very long line (everyone else on our flight). To get to this gate, we must go through the passport check. When it was our turn, I have to say that I kept waiting for the guy to look at us and say, "You counted wrong... you stayed too long." But he didn't. He did, however, look through every single page of our passports to see if there were other stamps in there (Chris saw this, as he's taller and could see behind the counter). Then, with great emphasis and strength, he stamped all of our passports and we were on our way... to wait in the next line!

Ok, so it's not a line, but it's our gate's waiting room. It's not big enough. Not enough seats. So we stand and wait. We eavesdrop on our neighbour's conversation (a woman has told her male travel companion a riddle... he can't figure it out... we all know the answer and are dying... we want to help him... but we can't admit we've been eavesdropping... he FINALLY gets it and we all heave a sigh of relief).

At one point, there was an announcement that our flight was ready to board, so, of course, everyone jumps up and pushes towards the doors. But, there's no airplane. We all continue standing and waiting. Ugh.

Finally, a bus comes (oh, it's one of those... we have to get on a bus to taxi us to the plane somewhere out there on the tarmac). Fine. Half of the people get onto the first bus. Then a second bus arrives and we get on with the rest of the people. And then... we wait! We stand on that dang bus for 10 minutes, all squished in like sardines.

Finally, AGAIN, we head to the plane for boarding. Finally, we are off and in the air. Side note: The Captain did apologise for all the delays we had getting onto the flight when taking off and once again upon landing. This is nice and takes a little sting out of our frustration. But I have to say, when we were delayed on the train the other day, DB gave us "I'm sorry" postcards to mail in (we don't know what we'll get from them, but they said they could send it to us in the U.S... maybe train credits?) and so, it would have been nice to get something for this delay too (although it wasn't nearly as bad... I'm just being entitled).

Well, everyone has a pretty good flight. I do too, except the guy who's sitting to my left seems to think he can have two arm rests. He uses the one on his left (near the window) and the one between us. I understand that the window seat can sometimes lack space for your feet, but you have plenty of room for your arms (he is an average sized man). But instead, he pushes my jacket down, so he can have the entire arm rest between us and elbows me often throughout the flight. Argh. Thank goodness it's a short flight (1.5 hrs) or I was going to lose it with this guy (ok, passive aggressively I was quietly thinking of spilling my drink on him).

We fill out our Landing Cards for the UK border control. We are ready to land!

There are two lines for border control. One for UK/EU passport holders and one for "everyone else". We are lucky to have arrived when we did. We are about 10th in line, but a plane soon lands behind us and the line fills up quickly to be very long. Of course, there are about 6 desks working for the UK/EU and only 1 desk for "everyone else". Luckily, they did open up a second desk, but it was still very slow going.

When it was our turn to hand over passports, we were asked quite a few questions (why are you here, how long, where will you stay, what business do you do, etc.) The border control worker was very jovial and had even heard of HotelTonight. It felt like we were at a cocktail party, getting to know someone. Needless to say, we made it through that check point just fine.

Due to our plane being delayed and whatever problems we had on the tarmac, it's past dinner time and we're hungry. So, we must eat in the airport as we are looking at a 60 minute taxi ride to our hotel. The problem is that we're in a small airport and there is one market and one restaurant. Slim pickings. But we survive. We get meals as well as food for tomorrow morning (we have an early day and are not going to be able to get breakfast).

Venice and Chris landing in London (left), The essentials of a late night (right)

Chris calls for an Uber cab (an XL so we can be comfortable on our long ride). Funny thing, even though we can read all the signs, it took us about 15 minutes to find where to meet the car! And, as we were waiting... I swear I did a double take thinking a car was "empty" as it drove by (because I was looking at the passenger seat where usually there is a U.S. driver). And, when we were finally getting into the car, Chris tried to get into the driver's seat (where the passenger seat usually is in the U.S.) American tourists at their best.

Hotel lobby
It is a one hour taxi ride. Ugh. We listen to a football match (soccer) the entire way (except for the news break they took to talk about the Soviet plane that crashed in Egypt and how flights from Egypt are delayed into London... good thing we heard this AFTER our flight... I don't think it would have helped to be reminded of this incident just before getting onto a flight). But, back to football.. he shoots... he scores! Munich 4 Arsenal 1 (by the time we were getting out of the car). Side note: Since we haven't had a chance to get cash from an ATM, Chris pays with the Uber app and all is good.

We check into the hotel, which is another funny story. While the gentleman was checking us in, I had to squint (because that helps) and listen super carefully to what he was saying. He spoke so fast and low, we could barely understand his native English. I forgot to mention, person, on the plane, who told us about drinks for order, items for sale, etc... sounded drunk with all his slurred words. I could only think about Dudley Moore in Arthur.

Anyway, it's been a long day. We have adjoining rooms. We have internet. We have an early morning planned. So it's time to catch some Zs.

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