Saturday, June 26, 2010

UK vacay, with Murphy's Law in full effect

My trip got off to a bad start. It was cool that my sister drove me down to the airport with her husband and three kids (good times), but around 3:30 p.m. an intense storm, going on for at least a half-hour. It was so bad, Air Traffic Control grounded flights, which pushed planes two-plus hours behind. My plane to JFK in New York was supposed to take flight at 5:50; it didn't leave till 8:30. While the plane was still on the runway in Philly, I called the airline (Delta) and they told that my flight out of New York, to London, was scheduled to leave at its scheduled time of 8:45 -- since I was going to miss my flight, they could have me on a 4:30 a.m. plane to Atlanta, then to London. I said I'd call them back.

I didn't arrive in JFK until about 9:15. I was standing in the longest line (about 75 people in front of me). The board above the Delta customer-service desk had cities like Dallas and Seattle and future flight times that night. I assumed the London flight was long gone. Boy, was I wrong, when 25 minutes later I turned around and saw Delta international computer screen. At 9:53 I saw that my London flight had been pushed back until 10. I ran from gate 24 to 12 as fast as I could, getting down there at 9:59, but the plane had taken off. Delta said they could put me on British Airways, but not until 9:35 the next night, so I booked a room at an EconoLodge in Queens -- not the safest of neighborhoods.

I checked out the next morning. Running low on cash (the taxi the night before cost me $20 [$14.90 plus a tip]), so I started walking the six miles to the airport. Luckily a few blocks into my trip I found out about a bus that went to the airport. Thanks to the kindness of strangers I made it the airport safe and sound (one flight attendant swiped her MetroPass for me and I paid her $2.25, since the bus doesn't take cash; and a TSA employee told me to sit tight when I almost got off at the wrong stop).

I lounged around the airport for about nine hours. Talked to my mom and my sister Diane a lot, took a nap in the afternoon in the waiting room of a rarely-used gate, and ate some overpriced food. Glad I went to the airport early because I went over to Delta and they verified that my one piece of luggage was in Heathrow already.

On the plane ride I mostly slept (kinda of a waste that I charged up my Mac and iPod). It only took six hours to get to London. And British Airways is the shiz-net! Very comfortable.

I got into London 9:30 a.m. local time. I went to the British Airways desk for my luggage. They had no record of it and said I should go to Delta's terminal, which was about a half-hour ride via Heathrow's free train system. Delta took me downstairs to their luggage department. Some kid sent my luggage over to British Airways yesterday. So it was another half-hour trip back to British Airways. I purposefully didn't talk to the same customer-service agent. Thank God! The one I zeroed must've been manager material because she pointed across the cavernous room to a stack of luggage in the corner that Delta dropped off yesterday. My luggage was there! Wish the first British Airways chick would've told me about that mountain of luggage.

The taxi ride to my hotel was 62 pounds (YIKES!). I gave him 70 because my travel book says a tip is not mandatory but expected, plus we had a nice talk about British Airways and UK TV.

Weird thing about my motel is that I can't leave with the key. They say there's 24-hour reception; I just have to drop the key off when I leave.

Since my room didn't have soap, I walked a few blocks down to this avenue, Everglade I think it's called, and hit the chemist. I ventured further down the Ave. and got a fried fish burger, steak fries (a.k.a. chips) and a can of Pepsi for 5.80. A nice treat since I don't eat breaded fish at home.

I then went to Hyde Park, which is about a half-mile away, because the band Blur played a pair of reunion gigs there last July for 50,000 each night. Beautiful park! It's huge!!! Best park I've ever been to. They have a Peter Pan statue, tons of fountains, and hundreds of people were out enjoying the 80-plus weather. I made it down to Princess Diana's Memorial Fountain. Interesting. It was ginormous circle -- little kids playing in it -- with the occasional tiny concrete bridge you could walk over.

Afterwards, I came back to my hotel and mapped out tomorrow's itinerary. Gonna take public transit tomorrow, so I was researching that. Looks like I gotta go about four blocks around the corner to Paddington Station and get a daily pass.

I also bought my nephew Billy his B-day gift -- his party was today, I believe. Got him a red double-decker bus and black taxi cab. It's not Star Wars but hopefully he'll dig it.

I then ate dinner at an Indian restaurant. Good food, slow service.

Oh, and at one point today I realized that I forgot to bring the attachment to download pictures from my camera to computer, so I had to go out and buy a memory card. I paid 30 pounds for 8GB; hope I didn't get ripped off.

It's about 9:20 p.m. I'm really tired. I know this is poorly written but I wanted to get it down on blogspot. Gonna watch a little telly then sleep like a frat boy through chem class.

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