What follows is the first of a series of posts highlighting the trip of a British ex-pat in the US when he returns to the UK for a vacation. He shares the experiences with us here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I have, and seeing the areas he (and his lovely wife) visit, through my friend David’s eyes. ~ Sherry
Monday September 19th 2022
Still at home. Everything looking good. All packed and ready to go.
Just checked the flight status on the Are Lingus app and it said the flight was delayed, but no more info than that. Oh well, let’s get up there and get in the line – looks like a really nice start to the trip.
Set off at 2:30pm heading for the airport and Doug Fox Parking near SeaTac. Drove in, all went well, and a driver followed us around in his bus until we found a parking spot then picked us up, gave us a parking spot card and drove us to the Airport.
Driver dropped us off at the shuttle bus side where Are Lingus was displayed. We found our way to a dead end and there was nothing for Are Lingus. We thought there probably would be soon. I asked several airport workers where the Are Lingus check in was so we could at least be sure we were in the right line. Finally, somebody knew where it was and pointed us in the right direction. So we go in a short line then when everyone else for Are Lingus found out where the line was, it grew and grew and grew.
Eventually we got to a desk and checked in and got boarding passes and were told of the delay. We were in TSA security about 20 minutes – the place was packed – but wasn’t too bad, and we got through and headed for S Gate. We found the flight was delayed 2 hours till 8:45pm instead of 6:45pm. Oh well, could be worse, right? We got a bite to eat, people watched and waited patiently watching some of these other folks and their antics. Some of them were pathetic. So we just waited patiently until the flight was called. We were fortunate in that we paid $49 per person extra to get a couple of seats on their own on the left side of the plane. We got into our seats and settled in for a nine hour flight to Dublin.
We got into Dublin late, of course, and our flight had already gone, so we had to check in for the next one at 4:30pm. Once we got off the Seattle plane we followed the signs that took us up corridors, over bridges, through big rooms, through little narrow lines with the posts and tapes until we came to the first check-point. We waited 15 minutes in that line to show our passports. I think that might be that we were entering the EU passport control to all other areas of Europe. Ok, then we were directed to another place where the line was half way up a flight of stairs. Then when we got to the bottom of the stairs there were about 12 narrow lines with posts and tapes leading up to another control. Another 20 minutes and we were through there. Then we were told to check in for the Heathrow flight – way back where we had come. So we did that and a haughty lady did the honors. Then we were told to go into another line where we joined another bunch of folks – 300 of ‘em mainly from our Seattle flight. This was for passport control. Then we finally got directed to a gate number – which was blocked by large plate glass doors which we were told would be opened when someone came. There must have been over a 100 of us there, like cattle, waiting, including the bloody crew of the next flight. After about 40 minutes, yes, 40 minutes, they opened the doors and let us in. It was a free-for-all up to the gate. We were fortunate to be at the front when the door opened and got to the gate in the first batch.
Waiting for these bloody doors to open was a pain, but there was an Irish guy from Woodinville, WA and a Dutch guy from the forces and we were all stood together and were laughing and joking to pass the time. That was right up my alley and we took the piss out of every nationality we could think of… the laughter was great and others joined in. It made a bad situation pretty good.
Finally we got to the gate for the Heathrow flight and after 20 minutes we were all on and the pilot was ready to go. This guy was not messing about either. He knew we had all missed connections and did the 90 minute flight in just under an hour. He was really going for it and got us on the ground at terminal 2 in one hour exactly. That’s my type of guy. He did a great landing too.
No worries at all at Heathrow. We just walked off the plane. Customs was nowhere to be seen. After all, what the hell could be coming in off a flight from Dublin? Straight out into the concourse. Ah, this is better. I am familiar with everything now and was finally back home. We headed for the cell phone shop and got a couple of new SIM cards put in our phones, tested them and changed some $$$ into Pounds Sterling. Didn’t get a good rate but I am past caring about that sort of thing and we carried on outside and headed for the AVIS shuttle bus. Waited about 15 minutes, got on the bus and off the other end. There were two desks open and one was a girl who didn’t know her ass from her elbow and was obviously new and not yet trained. I managed to speak to an Arab sort of guy who was also talking to the guy alongside me. I didn’t know who the hell he was talking to: me or the other guy. After a flight delay, a lot of messing around in Dublin, my patience was wearing thin and I was close to letting go. After a minute or two contemplation, another lady came in and told us to follow her and she would take care of us and another couple who were also trying to get a car from Avis.
The problems didn’t end there, either. She pulled up the pre-paid booking which apparently had a FREE second driver. She said it was 20 pounds a day for Betty to be able to drive. Betty didn’t even know what day it was, never mind driving in London on the wrong side of the road. I told the lady to scrap that, I was not paying for that. I added a couple of extras for insurance for peace of mind so we were fully covered no matter what happened. We had got a really good deal and paid in dollars before we went. So this lady took us to the car and told us is would be a Ford Puma stick shift, which I didn’t mind. But we found it had a built in SAT NAV so that really did sweeten the pot a bit. We jumped in and immediately found the gearbox was like a stick in a bag of marbles. I should have refused the car right away but it had been a long 36 hours and we just wanted to get to a hotel and go to sleep. By now, it was just about dark and were at Heathrow Airport in West London which was pretty busy on the roads. I was used to this and found our way out onto the M4 and headed west towards Bristol. I had already pre-booked a hotel on the M4 and knew where I was going and how to get there. We finally got out of London and headed west.
Before we started, I hadn’t really looked at the car too much as it was getting dark and I wanted to be on our way. No worries as we headed west. We were doing about 75 nice and comfortable but I keep seeing this Green Arrow with 6 alongside it. I automatically thought it indicated we were in 6th gear. So didn’t take any notice. WRONG! We headed about 80 miles west to our hotel and finally found out how to get into it. We parked up and found that I had come 80 miles all the way from Heathrow in 4th gear – and there were still two more gears to go. All the way from London in FOURTH GEAR. I was pretty upset with myself for not checking more. I had been a truck driver in the UK covering all parts of England, Scotland and Wales for over 22 years. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.
When we got into the car the next morning, it was daylight of course, and things looked much different to the night before.