Posted by: Michelle | July 17, 2011

And We’re Back!

Murphy and I that is. Together again on another adventure in different country. This time we’re off to Jolly Ol’ England, a place I have visited many times before but it’s been a long time since I’ve been this far east.

As I prepared for this trip I couldn’t help but think of Australia. When I would think about where to stay, getting around, etc. I inevitably thought of my other home, the one populated by wombats and those lovable Aussies.  So I had to constantly remind myself that I was in fact, going to where it all began (for both my native America and my adopted Australia) – England. It took some time, but I finally found the adapters I bought so long ago for Europe and the UK and so began the packing saga. It is always a chore to pack. Twelve days – business, pleasure, workout clothing all required, not to mention shoes, purse, toiletries, and of course the all important hoodies (and we all know that I will be certainly adding at least one to the collection).

Being the good corporate citizen, I booked the lowest fare so this meant getting up at o’dark thirty with connections in Denver and Chicago. It was bound to be smooth. Yeah, right. Whilst I did my due diligence to ensure I had ample time between connections and verified I was on the best equipped metal (business travelers know this, but not all service or seats are equal and when crossing the ocean, you want the best possible), things didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked.

I was rather happy that I was able to get 5.5 hours of sleep the night before. Typically I toss and turn when I have to be up so dog-gone early but I somehow managed to get a decent rest. I was not concerned about getting out of Reno. Why? Because it is Reno and it is not winter. What is there to worry about? Well, Murphy you did answer that question didn’t you? Mechanical problems can happen anywhere, even Reno. We boarded, pushed back and then proceeded to sit in the same spot for at least 2 hours. Okay, it wasn’t 2 hours but it was 10 minutes. An eternity for some. Finally, the pilot said “Well folks, we have a bit of a problem.” Words you don’t want to hear when you are beginning a long journey. Words like “shouldn’t” “maintenance issue” and “shortly” didn’t sound all that dire but it did cause me to hold my breath that we wouldn’t have to turn back to the terminal (which was only a left turn from where we were parked). Finally we started to move. Yay! But not so fast, it was only to get out the way for a US Air plane to push back and take off. That’s not fair, we were first! It ended up taking about 40 minutes but we were finally on our way to Denver. Glad I was in First as this allowed me to get off quickly and get to my gate to Chicago which as a mere 15 gates away. After a cluster boarding process, I was once again sitting on a plane ready to leave for the next stop: Chicago. Or so I thought. Would you believe the same thing happened? Yes, we pushed back and stopped. Not sure what the issue was the second time but we did sit there for 15 minutes (I timed it after the last time!).

(I’ll have to do a separate blog on the actual plane ride itself. Always interesting when you are stuck on a giant piece of metal hurdling towards a foreign country. Trust me on this!)

We landed at O’Hare and for the first time ever I landed at Terminal C and my connection was in Terminal C. My luck was changing! After a pit stop at Starbucks I went to the Red Carpet Lounge to wait the 4+ hours I had before my flight (which is nothing compared to the layovers I would have at LAX or SFO when going down under). The lounge was packed – and I do mean packed – but a gentleman was packing up and offered his spot by the window. Again, luck was on my side and I was thinking Murphy found another travel companion. The lounge was full of families and boisterous children so I was glad I didn’t really have to concentrate on anything important. The joys of summer travel!

It was finally time to board the last flight of my rather long day and head across the pond. I forgot I was in a backwards seat until I boarded. Because I have a strong tenancy for motion sickness, I was a little leery that flying backwards would contribute to the queasiness. Taking off was particularly interesting looking out the window at the ground while the seatbelt kept me from falling forward. Once the blind was closed and I found a movie to watch, I forgot I wasn’t flying forward anymore. The flight felt incredibly short (8 hours compared to the 15 it takes to get to Sydney). More than halfway through I thought I’d better try and get some sleep so I managed about a two hour nap before they started the breakfast service and the descent into Heathrow. It was cloudy and didn’t see much of London until right before we landed.

With a fast pass in hand, I got through immigration and customs quickly before getting on the Heathrow Express to Paddington. That is when it really hit me I wasn’t in familiar territory. It had been over 10 years and I didn’t remember as much as I thought I would. But there was a Starbucks so that was a good place to sit and get my bearings. Once I bought my 7 day pass for the Underground I made my way to the bowels of London. Ah! As it turns out, it did come back to me and I remembered how easy the Tube really was. The hard part was finding the lifts so I would haven’t to trudge up stairs with my heavy bag. Once I made my way to Kings Cross/St Pancras I had to figure out which direction to take to the hotel. Fortunately I made the right decision as it started to rain in earnest almost the moment I walked into the lobby. My room wasn’t ready so I had to make a decision on how I wanted to spend the 2.5 hours. Thought it was as good of a time as any to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and get some 40th anniversary stuff. Back on the Tube to Green Park. Glad I was smart enough to grab my umbrella because it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs when I came out of the station. To make matters worse, there was a line outside to get into the Rock Shop. Oh, but wait! I have Hard Rock All Access and I didn’t have to wait in line. Yay, me! The store was packed making it hard to move, and even harder to shop. I do not like crowds so I didn’t stay long. Once I was out in the fresh air I decided to take a gander over to Buckingham Palace. By the time I made my way back to the hotel, I was soaked! My sweat pants were wet from the knee down and stretched out, dragging on the ground, my white socks were dirty and my shoes swished when I walked. All I could think about was a nice, hot shower.

Bad idea! Once I got out of the shower I was exhausted and it was only 2pm. Way to early to think about bed and since I’m not a napper, I knew I had to muscle through and stay up until 9. One thing I had to do was find an adapter. I brought several but didn’t realize not one of them supported a three prong plug for my laptop. I decided the train station was the closet place to go find one. Well, they did have them so I bought it and headed back to the hotel so I could charge my laptop. Only it didn’t work. Sigh. When I asked at the hotel, they gave me one to use but it didn’t work either. This was turning into a bigger problem than I originally thought. Lucky for me, I was able to text Bethany so she can bring one from home. Yikes!

The rest of the day was spent alternately walking around, sitting, falling asleep, walking around, sitting, falling asleep, etc. It would have been a great time to do some sightseeing but I could not bring myself to venture too far away. I was just too tired. Couldn’t watch a movie or read a book either. I somehow managed a 45 minute cardio workout but felt every minute and just about fell off the elliptical when I couldn’t go one second longer. At last it was 8:30 and I could start getting ready for bed despite the sun shinning brightly through the window (as expected, the sun came out around 7pm). At 8:59 I turned off the light and was down for the count. Don’t know where Murphy was as I managed to sleep 10.5 hours.  It was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. All in all, it was a pretty easy trip over and a good first day considering I hadn’t slept much.

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