May 142011

Note to those of you getting emails: Sorry about the multiple posts in a row. Blogger managed to first go offline for a day and then post all my drafts when it came back online.

Day 22 (May 12, 2011)

Itinerary: Fly home

Today we fly home. Tomorrow we get to wear something else other than the 3 shirts we travel with. But, today, we must say goodbye to each other and to our time off.

Mark’s flight was at 6:40am, so we had to wake up at 3:30am to catch the train to the airport. I have never seen London so completely void of people! On our walk to the station, we saw one car and only a couple other people all hauling baggage as well. I guess the only people up this early are those of us tourists who are heading to the airport. Luckily our train started running at 3:30am.

I booked our flights so that we were both flying out of the same airport, London Gatwick. London has 5 airports, so at the time of booking that wasn’t so easy a task especially since most flights to the States seem to leave out of Heathrow. We had no problems checking into our flights. British Airways was easy. Mark will fly BA to Marseille and then change airlines to Air Algerie to get to Annaba. Checking in at KLM/Delta was a little more time consuming. First I had a passport check where they asked me about 10 or 15 security questions. This early in the morning it is hard to hear the meaning of the question to know if the answer is yes or no because they change it up on you. One of the questions I was asked was if any of my electronics had been repaired past their original function or something like that. I had to verify my electronics were in my carry on as well. The 4 people ahead of me in line at the bag drop all had complicated issues that took about 5 minutes each.

Finally, I met Mark again on the other side of security. His gate number was not announced yet, so we stopped to eat breakfast at a place properly named Eat. We’ve been seeing Eat at other place in London, but hadn’t stopped in yet.

I am sad to say goodbye to Mark. We will next see each other in July for our planned African Safari. That will be a very interesting trip and we can start counting down the weeks. All my faithful blog readers will be disappointed to learn that we will not have internet access on that trip and you’ll have to wait until the end of our trip to hear about our adventures. It will be a truly off-grid vacation.

My plane to the States left at 9am and was operated by Delta instead of KLM. This disappoints me especially when I got on the plane to find out that we don’t have individual tvs! I was looking forward to seeing some of the movies I didn’t see on the way to London. I don’t think I’ve been on an international flights without the individual tvs since before our Singapore trip in 2007. Oh well. The plane is completely full as well, so I am not lucky enough to get an empty seat next to me. Thankfully the flight has gone pretty smooth and fast. I slept for the majority of the flight to Atlanta.

In Atlanta I will need to pick up my checked luggage to go through customs and then wait for about 3 hours before my flight to Houston. I will be arriving in Houston later than normal at 5:15pm and in the middle of rush hour traffic. Hopefully it will not rain on my for my walk home from the light rail station.

And, now several hours later, I am on my flight home, to arrive about 3 hours late. As soon as I sat down on the original 4pm flight from Houston to Atlanta, a member of the ground crew came on the PA and announced that we should all leave the plane. I have to say that it sounded like a bit of a joke since we were just getting on. However, it was not a joke. “The plane broke” were the exact words to describe the malfunction that forced us off the plane. I didn’t want to fly on a broken plane anyway.

Eventually, we were told to move to a new terminal and new gate where a new plane was sitting waiting for us to board so we could get to Houston. At the new gate, the one member of Delta staff told us that the new plane was different from the first and we would need to check in again and get new seat assignments. The new departure time was 5:15pm, but I couldn’t see how we could possibly leave them if we all had to get new seats.

I sat down and waited for the masses to clear before I got in line for my new seat. The line to get new seats did not shrink until 5:30pm and by now we already knew that the first real Houston rain of 2011 had forced a shut down of the airport and delayed our flight to 6:05p. Just as I was to get to the counter for my new seat, the amazingly patient one staff member said we were going to board and if we didn’t get new seats yet, it would just print out as we boarded. Well that sounds easy.
The new plane is a major upgrade from the old plane. It’s nicer than my international plane as we have leather seats, padded seat belts, and personal tv screens where we can watch satellite tv or pay for a movie. I did not partake as I brought my own entertainment, but I have to say the flight has been very nice so far. We finally took off around 6:30p, but I believe the pilot plans to “fly real fast” and “make up time in the air” as pilots are known to do. We might arrive at 7:45p or maybe later.

In any case, waiting extra time in the Atlanta airport was not a problem for me at all. It felt downright luxurious because I was already in the States, I had a cell phone with internet, and a seat with an outlet to charge my electronics. After sleeping on a cold concrete floor outside the terminal at CDG in Paris, this was a treat. I’ll get home eventually.

We’ve had such a good vacation. 3 weeks is a long time. We are so happy that Mark’s family was able to join us for the first week and travel in Ireland with us. Mark will not be back in the States again until December, so he was so happy to be able to spend time with his family. Traveling as a group of 5 people certainly made vacation more interesting. With 5 people, we had varying interests and probably visited some places that Mark and I would not have visited on our own. Plus there are more people to talk to and lots of conversation. I haven’t planned a vacation for a group of people since 2006 when I planned a trip for 9 of us friends to go to Glacier National Park.

Ireland was everything I imagined it to be and more. 2 weeks was not enough and I want to go back to the green rolling hills and Irish music again soon. We had most excellent both in Ireland and in London. We came prepared for chilly rain every day, but I would say at least 3/4 of the days were gorgeous and sunny. I can only thing of about 2 days where chilly rain changed any of our plans. We are looking forward to coming back to London as well since we really didn’t hit up all the must-sees and must-dos in the area. We put in a bid a couple weeks ago for London 2012 Olympic tickets and it’ll still be a couple months before we hear anything. We hope to be back here in 2012, though it will be amazingly crowded. It was interesting to read all the London news about the complications even the Brits are having with getting tickets to the games. Apparently 4 times as many people entered the ticket lottery than there are tickets for. and that’s just out of the EU allotment. I’m curious how lucky we will end up being.

Thanks for reading and commenting on my vacation blog. I had gotten more behind than usual this trip, but I am all caught up now. I’m sure the bunnies and my friends are looking forward to seeing me again. I know I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Until next time,
=) Joanna

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