Heathrow Airport is Death

Posted: August 21, 2009 in Ramblings

Actually, it’s not death at all; in fact, it’s rather more civilized (as one might expect) than the US airports I’ve been to.  However, thanks to Diner, I can’t think of the word “Heathrow” without automatically thinking of the word “death,” so, there you have it.

Following will be a series of blog entries, one for each day of our trip, with the associated events of that day.  I have pictures galore – in many cases there will probably be too many of each venue to post – so if there is something you’re more interested in, let me know and I can email the pictures to you, or put them in my main web directory for you to view.  Today, the basic overview:

Leg 1 was a flight from Seattle to Philadelphia.   We met with Mom & Dad (mine) at the airport, since we had a 5-hour layover, and went out to dinner.  We also purchased some motion-sickness medicine for Alex, who had had a rough crossing.

Leg 2, Phila to Heathrow, was pretty bad.  It was a red-eye flight, but I couldn’t settle to sleep because I kept expecting the sleeping Alex to wake up and be sick, so I watched the new Star Trek movie instead.  Mom was right, it’s pretty good, although as a long time Trekkie there were some things that bothered me a lot.  More on that sometime in the future.  (And yes, I know the die-hards prefer to call themselves “Trekkers,” but “Trekkie” is what I first learned as a kid, and it’s fine with me.  I’m no die-hard.)  Chris dozed on and off; Alex slept most of the way.  He woke up and got sick right when we were landing.

Maddie’s cousin Jean and her husband John met us at the airport with Anthony (who was our chauffeur for the duration of the trip).  Alex was a bit too groggy to socialize much, and even I was fading fast, but we tried our best.  At the rental car agency, the agent talked Chris into upgrading our rental from a small SUV to a big Mercedes for only a minor increase in cost.  Sounds good, I thought, it would be fun to tool around in a swank 2009 Mercedes for a couple of weeks.

When we reached Maddie & Brian’s (just the four of us, Chris, Anthony, Alex and me), Alex almost immediately went up to bed and slept.  This was a bad move, because he stayed jet-lagged for about four days!

On our third day we noticed one of the tires was flat.  There was a screw in it.  How many Picks does it take to screw in a tire?  Ha ha.  Anyway, after a flurry of phone calls, the rental car agent said to take it to a local tire shop and have it replaced, and we’d settle it up when the car got returned.  We did – leaving Alex at M&B’s – and found that this model of car, and tire, was so new, that none of the tire shops or their distributors had the right size!  More frantic phone calls, and we ended up going to Gatwick airport and exchanging the whole car for an even BIGGER Mercedes at no additional cost.  Not only that, but when we did turn the car in, we were not charged for the flat.

We stayed with M&B for 3 days, running odd errands and walking around the village and so forth, and then the four of us (C, A, Ant and me) set off for a round-the-UK jaunt that went like this:

  • the New Forest
  • Weymouth (beach town)
  • Wincanton (town twinned with Discworld’s Ankh-Morpork)
  • Cheddar
  • Bristol
  • Shrewsbury/Llanfair Caereinion (where the Colinette workshops are)
  • Blaenau Festiniog
  • Caernarvon
  • Anglesey
  • York
  • Cambridge
  • and then back to M&B’s for 2 days to recover before coming back home.

On the way home from the UK, Alex did very well (sickness-wise) and in fact stayed healthy the whole time.

Arriving at Philadelphia, we had to go through Customs.  I’d never done this where I had to continue on to another flight, since all my heretofore international flights have been from Europe to either Phila or DC.  So…we had a 1.5-hour layover.  We landed, got off the plane, went through the immigration area.  Then we had to pick up our checked baggage from a carousel, carry it with us through Customs, then put it back onto another carousel so it would get onto our Seattle flight.  Then we had to go through Security again.

At Philadelphia airport, the security gates (at least for international travellers continuing on) pop you out around gate A-1.  Our boarding passes said the Seattle connecting flight was at gate A-25, which was all the way down the A terminal at the other end (away from B terminal, that is).  We hustled down there, and it looked like we would reach the gate right before boarding started.  We got there, and there were six weary travellers at gate A-25 and no mention of our flight on any monitor.  Chris heroically legged it to the nearest US Airways desk and was told we were now departing from gate B-13.  A haul, especially with an exhausted, hungry 9-year-old who doesn’t understand what’s going on and why.

Luckily, a kind airport-cart driver whizzed us to the end of the A terminal (right back by Security) and we scurried down to B-13 just in time to join the tail end of the boarding line.  We got on the plane and settled down, and Alex promptly went to sleep.  Lucky Alex!  The rest of us sat around on the runway for an hour because of some changes to the flight patterns.

Anyway, we returned home safely; so did our luggage!

Here are some photos of the clouds on the way home from Phila, just to provide some visual interest.  Tomorrow, Arundel Castle!



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