Leaving home can be a stressful affair, fraught with the oh-mi-gawds, and did-I-remembers. This leaving was no different, especially the part where I stressed out over the weight of our suitcases, thinking forward to the number of times we’d be hauling them through strange airports. But as a ‘day one‘ goes our journey and adventure was somewhat uneventful and quite comfortable.
When we got off the tiny commuter plane from Edmonton to Calgary, we were quite relieved. Things were going well, just a bit cramped. I, in my usual way, was worried that our big bags wouldn’t make it onto the tiny commuter. I think it was a Bombardier q400, although having looked at the seating map I’m not sure any more. It was definitely a propeller driven plane.
In Calgary we marshaled our courage and marched through to the International Departures zone of the airport! It is a bit of a distance but thank goodness they spent some money and solved the security issues. We did not have to leave the secure area, trek to the other side of the airport, and then fight our way back through security as we have had to do on past journeys. No! We stayed inside the secure traveler area. Yay!!
We paused ever so briefly in the duty-free shop. We were very disappointed in both selection and pricing.
The long wait to board stoked my usual anxiety about finding somewhere to put all our carry-on and was punctuated by what seemed like a disorganized approach to the boarding by the Air Canada staff who kept parading back and forth warning people that we would be boarding by ‘zone’ and to please sit down until your zone is called. I don’t like the ‘zone’ approach largely because no one from the airline has ever adequately explained to me how the zones are organized. It always seems like I’m in the last zone to board. It only made me more suspicious and disconcerted when the staff managing the process seemed to randomly select someone from those queuing to board and escort them to the head of the line.
I shouldn’t have worried.
We boarded a Dreamliner! What a great aircraft!
Given some of the flying hulks we’ve taken to the UK in the past this was luxury! Plenty of headroom. Plenty of overhead storage bin space. Even the seats felt better and had what I consider to be a better recline position.
The only downside was that the entertainment system crashed during takeoff (unfortunate choice of words) and couldn’t be restored until nearly halfway through the flight. That was too bad. There were several movies I would have liked to have watched. Good thing I had a fully charged IPad with plenty of pre-loaded stuff and nonsense to keep me entertained.
Two minor inconveniences were the seat mate I was given, a massive military lad returning home from training with his regiment at CFB Suffield to the UK to visit family in Devon, and the missing GF meal option my Air Canada profile requests. Now to be fair, Connor, the Combat Engineer in training, was a great guy, respectful, pleasant and generally tried to give me space which I assume was not easy given the width of his shoulders and the length of his legs. The Air Canada steward and staff were appropriately contrite for not having the gluten free options on hand.
Disembarking at Heathrow airport was, on balance, easy enough. The several kilometres one must walk to the immigration control point and the baggage pickup area is always a challenge after having been in the air for eight hours or more. The new electronic immigration process was smooth and elegant, and I got to whine all I wanted without offending anyone, except maybe Gail. The young woman who was standing-by to help was indeed helpful, and kind of funny in her way, lessening the tension for the technologically challenged and generally cranky sleep deprived who had staggered off the flight. I count myself among the cranky.
My vanity was stroked by having a driver waiting for us to take us into London’s Crouch End complete with a little placard with my name on it. I smiled. I have always wanted to do that. I had pre-booked the ride through XXXXX
Yannis was a great driver! Well, to be honest, he kinda skimped on the air conditioning, but he didn’t flinch at the subtle change in destination, and he let me ride up front so I got to experience London traffic from that perspective. I’m not sure I would want to be driving in London’s traffic mayhem.
Yannis dropped us in the Sainsbury parking lot across the street from Gemma’s apartment, as we thought it would be polite to check in with the bride-to-be before heading to our AirBNB.
Crossing the street from the parking lot to her building reminded me of how confusing/dangerous the flow of traffic can be for the unfamiliar Canadian traveller.
We had a light lunch in Gemma’s lovely apartment, got caught up on the percieved dramas on her side of the Atlantic which included reflections on the stressors plaguing her mother and an update on her recent heart patient father and his recovery from his triple by-pass. All of this is bracketed by her pending nuptials. We felt it was pertinent to share updates on the dramas we hoped we have left behind.
We fought to get a cab after UBER screwed up and never showed up. We headed over to the AirBNB we had booked which is just a stone’s throw from the Crouch End Clock Tower. The driver with Islington Cabs who finally rescued us was great!
Interesting little place, this place, this AirBNB that was part of a mews that had once been a series of stables and coach houses. Tiny; not enough room to swing a cat. Remember our chat about the size of the Paris apartment?
Great hosts, William and his partner/girlfriend.
More on this AirBNB experience in a later post.
I spent part of the evening trying to unwind by walking the main roads through Crouch End, finding a Waitrose, a Tesco Express and a dozen different restaurants to intrigued me. Drinks and dinner at a Steak House disguised as a local pub named Monkey Nuts. Lovely and fun!
The next morning we would be wandering out out find someplace to change the SIM cards in our phones and to locate a small cobbler to fix my fanny pack.
By the way ‘fanny’ has a totally different connotation in the UK. Do be careful how you use the term.
We had a lovely lunch at a pub while sorting out our phones. Gail took a call from her mother which has left us a little confused. Not only is Hayley’s ex-husband coming to the wedding, but they are travelling up to the Lakes together, and he seems to have arranged to sleep on a blow-up bed in the same cottage as us, and then will transfer to a local pub for the second night of the wedding celebrations.
It never ends. 😉