Hi again London (and the grind of getting here)
After months and months of the trip being on somewhere on that horizon of my future, it was a bit odd when finally that last day of work happened and then d-day itself was here. I was glad I opted for the Saturday night flight instead of Friday, otherwise I would have been in a bit of a packing pickle. I managed to get my main bag to 19kg which I was pretty happy with. I remember going to US and Canada a few years ago with a 23kg backpack – now that thing was heavy.
Mike took me to the airport where I had given myself a 90 minute check in. Half an hour longer than necessary for international connections but I thought it might get me an early preference for the seat upgrade I requested online. While I had mulled over whether this was the best use of hard earned airpoints, the value seemed reasonable and I went ahead with it. And while it was only a standby request, of course I was already really looking forward to my roomier premium economy seat…
The long check in gave us an unhurried hour or so before I had to go. It wasn’t an easy goodbye. Five weeks isn’t a short time but in the big picture it’s not long.
And then my long plane journey began. I was flying Air NZ all the way so had to first make the short hop up to Auckland, ahead of NZ2 at 9.30pm to Heathrow via LA. I was looking forward to my first long haul Air NZ experience
By about 8.30pm our gate lounge was chokka. I sat waiting to be paged to be given my new boarding pass for the seat upgrade.
And waiting …
…but the page never happened. I guess there was plenty of demand for them as normal bookable seats. To rub salt into the wound, after boarding the plane I had to walk past all the business and premium economy seats. I shook an imaginary fist at those who had denied me this experience.
Much further back in the plane, I found my seat and sat down with some trepidation. But was happy to find my knees weren’t resting against the seat in front. Rejoice!
I booked an aisle seat which is my favoured position for long haul. While I don’t like missing opportunities for views from windows, it can be quite claustrophobic hemmed in there, especially when legs and butt start to complain after sitting down for too long.
And we sat going nowhere for longer than planned after the pilot announced there was a reconciliation issue with fuel figures which took half an hour to be sorted.
My happiness about the leg room didn’t last. I happened to sit behind one of those people who reclines their seat at the earliest opportunity without regard for the person behind. Not that seats in steerage recline very far at all, but I didn’t want to inflict that on the person behind me so put up with it. My icy glare into the back of the seat had no effect. In any case it wasn’t long until dinner was served, after which time everyone settled back for the night.
Or tried to. I slept poorly.
My immediate neighbour was a tall solid American chap. He could’ve done with a wider seat as not only did his knee encroach into my space, but also there was also no avoiding his bare arm flesh being pressed into mine. Nice. Luckily they were only going as far as LA.
I made good use of the screen entertainment thanks to my hairdresser’s number one tip for long haul travel: good quality comfortable noise cancelling headphones!
After about 12 hours and 6500 miles we reached LA early afternoon and got herded into one of the infamous transit lounges. It wasn’t that long a stop and the free wireless access helped pass the time. I was feeling a bit zombie-ish by now, definitely not the sharpest tool in the toolbox, and fortunately when my turn came to go through the US immigration check there were very few questions asked. Though the regulation photo was taken for their massive database as well as prints of all fingers.
Once back on board I was happy to find the middle seat right next to me was empty! Another tall-ish female was in the window seat and we both cackled with delight knowing there was a bit of extra space we could spread into.
Sleep was very hard to come by on this leg too and the hours ticked down very slowly. All in all I was happy with the Air NZ experience, everything is really top notch. Especially I imagine if you were sitting at the front. Clearly I haven’t let that one go yet!
The pilot announced that the weather in London was fairly miserable and it looked very drab and wet when we finally touched down.
By this time I had transitioned to full zombie. There was a bit of waiting in the immigration queue but it wasn’t as bad or long as I’d seen reported recently. Brief inquisition with the official who processed me but I made a big effort to sound onto it and they let me in.
Terminal 1 is a bit boring but they had a cafe type place so I plonked down for a packaged sandwich and red bull. It didn’t give me wings but hopefully would help me stay alert for a bit longer.
I bought a local sim card for my phone from the sim card vending machine and then trundled over to Underground terminal. I’d kept my oyster card from the last visit to London so managed to top that up at the machine. There was a short walk and short wait for the next train.
Russell Square is a deep level tube station and after hauling myself and bags out I had to wrestle my bag up a flight of stairs. And then blessedly a lift that went up to street level.
Near here on the Picadilly Line, between this station and Kings Cross, was the scene of one of the London terrorist bombings in July 2005.
My hotel wasn’t far away and looking like a tourist fresh off the boat, I trundled along the streets with map in hand. At least in London there are always a ton of other people doing the same thing.
After a bit of phfaffing I managed to find it. I wanted somewhere close to the Kings Cross station for my train to Edinburgh tomorrow. This is adjacent to the St Pancras station which is very close to the stunning St Pancras Renaissance hotel which was quite an eyeful when I rounded the corner and saw it. So there is plenty to ogle at in my short stay in this neighbourhood.
I’m happy with my more modest hotel choice, especially that they upgraded me into a newly refurbished room, slightly bigger than the single I had booked. First order of business: a shower! And then out to explore the neighbourhood.