Finally I am back in the UK and with my Debbie after more than 3 months apart, way too long for both of us.
After many evenings of packing that frequently went beyond midnight, I finished packing about 1am on Wednesday, with the alarm set for 3:45am to give me enough time to get out and catch my flight in Miami at 8:30am. I had a quick webcam chat with Debbie, showered and packed the last of my things, said goodbye to Tim my landlord with whom I have become very good friends, and drove down the highway to the train station in Hollywood where I had arranged to leave my car to be picked up.
I lugged my bags (2 to be checked in, my laptop bag and a backpack) up in the elevator, across the bridge, down the other side, and then realized the ticket machines were over the other side. Fortunately the platform was almost empty, and the only person close to me asked if I was English – turns out he came over to Florida from Birmingham 10 years ago. So I took a chance and left my 2 big bags where they were and legged it up the stairs, across the bridge, down across the other side, where I purchased my ticket. Then it was back up across and down, by which time I was completely soaked in sweat. Despite the fact that it was only 5:30am, the temperature was in the mid 80′s and it was extremely humid. It took me most of the way to Miami before I cooled off.
The shuttle from the train station dropped me about 1/3 of the way along the terminals in the airport, but of course as luck would have it, United are in the new terminal at the far end, so I had to lug my bags well over 1/4 mile to check them in. It was rather cool in the airport, and by this time I was desperate to go to the bathroom, plus I was nervous in case my bags were overweight and I would have to repack or dump some things out. However, I got checked in pretty quick, was within the weight limit, and got through the security without any problems either.
I had plenty of time to wait for the plane, managed to call Debbie to let her know I had checked in, called Tim as I had remembered I left a drawer of dirty laundry (the result of packing too late at night), and called my daughters before they went off to their swimming lessons.
Under normal circumstances I would have caught an evening flight direct to London, however direct flights at the end of July were about $1,000 and multiple legs weren’t much cheaper. Debbie fortunately found a flight for $406 through Vayama, a company like Priceline, that offers discounted travel but you don’t find out the route until you purchase. Fortunately with Vayama having purchased you have an hour to cancel, which swayed me over to trying this out. I knew the flight left Miami at 8:30am and I didn’t get into London until 6:30am the following morning, but other than knowing it was 2 planes, I had no idea where my connection point would be. The last thing I wanted was to fly to some place out west and have a short connection time, which might mean spending a day in some god-forsaken spot that I didn’t want to be. I was lucky however, in that the flight from Miami went direct to Dulles (Washington DC) where I had a 7 hour layover before my flight to London.
The first flight went very smoothly, and there was plenty of legroom too. In Washington I wandered around the terminals to try and find somewhere reasonable to eat, since by this time (midday) I was feeling a bit peckish. The terminals are connected by shuttle buses, that look like lounges on wheels and drive all over the airport. Having covered the rest of the terminals, I found out that the majority of the restaurants are in the terminal that I hadn’t covered. Of course, the shuttle dropped me at gate 3, and the restaurant I wanted to eat at, Max & Erma’s was at gate 72, a good 1/4 mile hike at least! I was hungry, but I also had a throbbing headache, which could be stress, tiredness and also the humidity. I thought a good warm meal might help that. I opted for a starter of Tortilla Soup, which wasn’t bad, then a Bacon Cheeseburger and Fries. Not the healthiest item on the menu, but I really wanted something warming and filling, and it hit the spot. That and 4 glasses of iced tea, which helped replenish the water I had sweat out so far.
I still had 5 more hours to kill in the airport before my next flight, and saw on one of the shuttles that I could take a bus to the Smithsonian Museum for 50cents, and there was free admission too. On another day I would have jumped at this opportunity, but right then all I needed was to sit and try to relax before the next flight. I found a seat close to the gate where my plane was due to depart from, powered on the laptop, and settled down to watch a movie. I selected “Miracle At Santa Ana” which turned out to be a WWII movie set in Italy with a company of Buffalo Soldiers. Not a bad movie, but it helped kill 2 1/2 hours. I had forgotten to copy any movies onto my flash drive before I packed my external hard drive away, so other than the movie all I had was a 1972 Genesis concert. This got some strange looks from people sitting close, since back then the costumes and stage act from Peter Gabriel were rather odd to say the least.
I did get a lot of amusement from the fact that there was a small glass sided area set aside in the lounge for smokers with about 15 seats. Not only were most of the seats taken most of the time, but often it was standing room only, with the occupants puffing and dragging away on their cigarettes like their life depended on it. Really quite funny, but at the same time sad.
My 6pm flight to London Heathrow boarded on time, and I was very pleased to find that I had an Economy Plus seat with extra legroom. All that for a bargain price, woo-hoo! However, instead of landing 30 minutes early as we were supposed to, we ended up delayed an hour and a half due to bad weather in the Philadelphia area, which caused air traffic control to stop the take-off of any flights in the area for a while. But eventually we got under way, and had a smooth flight. Food wasn’t bad, with curried chicken to eat, and a quick snack for breakfast, and in between a few hours sleep while I listened to some of my favorite songs on my new MP3 player. I also ended up sitting next to a lady from Fort Lauderdale who was originally from Devon and on her way back there for a visit, so we chatted for quite a while before we headed off to sleep.
Since I was supposed to arrive 30 minutes early and ended up landing over an hour late, Debbie was there to greet me, and I got the most wonderful hugs and kisses, two things that she excels at. A little more than an hour later and we were home, where I had a much needed shower and cleaned up, then some yummy bacon rolls and off to bed. We were both really tired, since I had hardly slept for two nights, and Debbie had to get up as well by 4am.
Well two days and lots of sleep later and I was feeling more human and also adjusting to the time difference in the UK. I will update more on my adventures back in the UK in my future posts. If you would like to be receive posts automatically, why not Register with us, we promise no spam and will keep your email addresses private.