London: prologue and trip there
My mom and two brothers and I had been talking for years about taking a trip to Spain. My middle brother is a Spanish language interpreter and is fluent in Spanish so it would be such a treat to go there with him and have him do all the talking. We booked the trip at the end of 2019 and had airfare and AirBnbs for the end of March 2020.
What’s that old expression? If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans? Something like that. Covid started making the rounds in late 2019 and moved into Europe at the start of 2020. I was lucky that Iberia Airlines canceled my flight, rather than me canceling it - - that way they were beholden to me rather than the other way around. They gave me a voucher, gave me a deadline, yadda yadda. Of course they had to extend the deadline because Covid lasted much longer than anyone expected. The final word was I had to book my flight by the end of 2021 and I had to make the trip by the end of March 2022.
My mom and brothers didn’t want to make plans to go to Barcelona just yet and I didn’t see any point in going there alone (the whole point was to go with my brother who speaks Spanish). I saw that Iberia had non-stop flights from New York to London so I decided to go to London and add Richard. We booked a week in mid-February 2022.
I checked the US Embassy website in the middle of January, about three weeks before our trip, to see what their advice was about traveling to the UK. They said, “Absolutely not, you are forbidden to go to the UK. Furthermore if you go there you we won’t let you come BACK.” I’m paraphrasing. So we did a pivot (something we’re all doing quite a lot lately) and rebooked for August. Thankfully Iberia had given up on deadlines and they were fine with us making the trip in August.
Richard and I were very excited for the trip. Neither of us had been out of the country since the fall of 2019.
FRIDAY AUG 12
My boss is either on vacation or traveling for business for the entire month of August, which is one of the reasons why rescheduling our trip for August was a good idea. I’m in the office every day that she’s there because I get her lunch, run little errands, etc, but when she’s out of the office I have the option of working from home a couple days a week. I was in the office on Friday because I knew I’d have things to that could only be done there. That was definitely the case, it was a busy day doing things in the office.
I got home around 6pm. Richard and I decided to have leftovers for dinner, since we were going to be out of town for a week. He had leftover pasta with alfredo sauce, broccoli, and Polish sausage (something I had whipped up a few days before), I had a quesadilla and a side of Israeli salad that our friend Jessica had brought over a few days before. Tomatoes, onions, maybe some peppers and squash, in a light vinegar dressing with cilantro. A perfect thing to have in the fridge in the summer.
We watched a couple of episodes of *Big Bang* including a wedding episode with a cameo by Mark Hamill. No spoilers!
I set my alarm for 4am and Richard’s for 4:05am, just to be safe. We went to bed just after 9pm.
SATURDAY AUG 13
I woke up at 3:15am to pee. I laid back down and soon realized I was not going to get back to sleep. I got up at 3:30am, turned off my alarm and Richard’s alarm, took a shower, and drank an Airborne. Does it work even before the flight?
I woke Richard up at 4am. We called our local car service at 4:30am, it got there at 4:40am, we were at JFK at 5:10am.
There were lots of people in security. I didn’t see it marked as such but clearly we were in a line for people who had never been through airport security before. Bless.
We got to our gate at 5:55am. Our flight was scheduled to start boarding at 7:15am, so we were nice and early. Richard secured our seats in the waiting area and I went to Dunkin’ Donuts and got breakfast: two sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches on toasted everything bagels, a coffee for Richard, a Boston crème donut for Richard, and a chocolate glazed donut for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised that it cost over $22 but I was. We’re on vacation, money is no object.
How about a couple photos? We had to wear masks in the airport but could be maskless on the plane.
We started boarding at 7:15am and praise the Lord, there was no delay and no issues with our flight. I was on the aisle with Richard beside me and he had an empty seat beside him, which we used for our crap.
I paged through the movies and decided to watch *The Invisible Man,* the recent version with Elisabeth Moss. I started watching it but quickly turned it off. The movie opens on a dark and stormy night - - the problem was the resolution was so crappy on the tiny airplane screen that I couldn’t really see what was there. I’ll get in DVD from the New York Public Library. Or not.
Instead I watched *Marry Me,* which was *Notting Hill* for the new millennium. But hey, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. Owen Wilson was cute and charming as the ordinary guy and J Lo (like J Ro before her) was surprisingly authentic as an international superstar. Bonus point for casting Sarah Silverman as the wacky sidekick. Maybe it was sleep deprivation but I cried a little.
Breakfast #2, on the plane: eggs, sausage, a slice of something resembling ham, one potato pellet, a small strawberry yogurt, a bland blueberry muffin (I think the blueberries were more implied than present), and a croissant with butter and strawberry jam.
I wasn’t up for another movie so I watched two and a half episodes of *And Just Like That,* the *Sex and the City*reboot. It was so much better than I had heard. Not great, but a treat to see those characters again. A special treat to see the great stage actor Julie Halston in a showy little part in such a major show. The third episode was halted by what I assumed would be an announcement from someone on the flight staff but no. It looked like everyone in our section had their screens turned off, though people in other sections were working just fine. I was annoyed that I’d have to wait a week to see how things turned out in the third episode but hey, is that really a crisis?
We landed a half hour early. We stopped to use the bathroom which in retrospect was not a good idea because we got separated from the herd. Maybe the signage was giving us helpful instructions but not in a way that was clear or useful. We walked around and there was no one anywhere. We were on the platform where you catch the shuttle to go to another terminal - - what we wanted to do was get on the Heathrow Express to go into the city, and it didn’t seem right to get on the shuttle to do that. Again, no helpful information from the signage. We went down one level and walked down a hallway (no one in sight), looking for some mention of the Heathrow Express. We walked for maybe five minutes, with all of our baggage, mind you. It all felt like *The Twilight Zone* - - one of my favorite shows ever, but not what I want from my LIFE.
A man drove up in one of those airport transport vehicles. I flagged him down and asked where we catch the Heathrow Express. He said it’s in the arrivals hall which is quite a ways away and could he give us a ride? And that similarly dazed and confused woman over there, is she with us? Yes and no! And thank you!
We drove for about 10 minutes, which would probably have been about an hour of walking, right? I’d never been on one of those airport transfer vehicles before, so it was a little adventure. He took us through a special lane of passport control. Not so much for VIPs as for the dazed, confused, and/or disabled.
The arrivals hall looked familiar to both of us. We followed the signs to the London Underground, aka the tube, aka the subway. Obviously we were once again throwing off a dazed and confused vibe because a helpful young man came over to assist us on buying tickets from the machine. We didn’t get the name of the airport transport guy but we got this guy’s name because his ID tag was hanging off a rainbow flag-printed lanyard. His name was Floyd.
He helped us buy our tickets and pointed us to the exit and to the escalator we’d take to get to the tube platform. He stressed that the train was leaving in two minutes and the next was in thirty minutes so we hauled ass and got there just in time. What a relief to sit down and know what we were doing. Temporarily.
The plan was to take the train to the end of the line, Paddington, and then transfer to the Circle Line and go one stop to Bayswater, which was about a five-minute walk to our hotel. We followed the signs to the Circle Line and walked about ten minutes to the ticket station. I had noticed signs saying that the Circle Line via Victoria was in this direction and via King’s Cross was the other direction. I didn’t know what that meant but assumed that the way we were going, via King’s Cross, would be the right way. Stupid, right?
I bought two one-way tickets to Bayswater, we put them through the turnstile-esque machine, and walked downstairs to the tube platform. I looked at a map and confirmed that were going in the right direction but when we got on the train I saw that the King’s Cross/Victoria thing was a real issue and we needed to be on the Victoria version. Which was a fifteen minute walk away in the station.
We had passed a taxi stand so that seemed like the right thing to do. Oh what joy to arrive at our hotel. It was about 9pm local time. Our room is small but cute and clean. I ran out and got a couple of sandwiches at a bakery down the street (ham and cheese for Richard, pastrami and cheese for me) and they were delish. We looked for something amusing to watch on TV and the best we could do was a dumb show about the Bermuda Triangle. Lights out at 11pm.