Day 9 started as all the days have during the last week, with an alarm startling me from incomplete night’s sleep. I was glad to see that I had borrowed time from earlier in the morning to pack. I got up, looked about and there wasn’t much necessary to do but get dressed and get out.
I wore my New York Yankees sweatshirt on this travel day. There was an incident in England when I was 12 years old. Since then I don’t travel displaying anything that could identify me as an American. For some reason, I didn’t care today.
It was a typical UK hotel breakfast, mostly unremarkable breads, scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit and cereals. I’ve never had a memorable breakfast in a UK hotel. I ate and got the hell out of there. The refreshing thing about being in Ireland all week was that the hotel staff were all Irish, the cleaning ladies, the desk staff, the bar staff, pretty much everyone. In England, I find that the front desk staff are often have distinct English accents, but the wait staff in the restaurant and the cleaning people are often Romanian or Polish. I’ve seen it so many times that it bothers me. Not so much that there are a divisions based on skill, but more so that I never see a Romanian or the Poles behind the desk.
As I was making my way out of the hotel, I saw postcards in the store. I picked up one for my sister who lives in London, but is currently vacationing in Spain. I was disappointed to hear that her travels overlapped with mine. Worse still was the fact that she would be travelling again when I come back in May. I filled in the cards and then gave them to the front desk as I checked out.
I had signed up for the later flight in hopes of having some family time while in London on Saturday. That just didn’t happen. One of the family criticism I have heard about my mother is that she would show up out of no where, land, create a fuss and then leave. I didn’t want to subject myself to that same criticism, so I just kept to myself this trip. I could have planned this day a lot differently. I could have tried for an the 6am flight. I could have tried to visit family and friends. I could have rushed through the aiport and been Mr. Go Go Go, like I have all week. Instead, I took the intensity down some.
I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 about 11:30, hoping to catch an earlier flight to Geneva. The new Terminal 5 in Heathrow airport is the center of all British Airways flights. I notice that the English have a great deal of national pride in British Airways. To me, the word American in American Airlines just modifies the word airline, but there isn’t that same emotional identity that the Brit’s feel. In my life, I have usually traveled from Terminal 1. I’m a Terminal 1 kind of guy. I know people who are Terminal 5 people all the way. More power to them. It’s like being in Chicago when you’re from New York. I get it, but it’s not what I’m used to. Terminal 1 means I’m going home. Terminal 5 means more time on the road.
The lady at check in was quite the chatty Kathy. She saw my sweatshirt and proceeded to tell me that she has family in San Francisco and wished that she had gone to a Giants game last time she was there. I told her that the Giants play in my second favorite park in the world, and there is nothing like seeing a game in that AT&T Park as the sun goes down in the city. There were no queues, so we had a fun little conversation. As it turned out, the earlier flight to Geneva that I would have taken was cancelled, so I considered myself lucky to have a seat on the later flight. Some poor sod always has it worse somewhere in the airport.
I cleared security with 3 hours to kill. I did what I always do, I walked. I walked upstairs and downstairs through the terminal and the stores. I looked at clothes that caught my eye and I looked in the bars. As I walk through airports I look for people I know. I don’t really expect to find anyone, but I find that the act of looking causes me to be more aware and every once in a while, I will see someone who will remind me of someone who I haven’t thought of in a while.
The time fills up usually quite quickly. I stopped for a bit, wrote some, read emails and the Financial Times and waited for the world back home to wake up. Every once in a while, I checked in at the status board that would tell me when to go to my gate. I have a lot to prepare for work this week, but I really didn’t have the stress level to drive me to work. I just wanted to relax and enjoy these hours in the airport.
At one point a flight to Amersterdam was announced. I recalled that there is a half marathon there on Sunday that I really wanted to take part in. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to run that race and get to Switzerland in time for my morning meetings.
The flight status board is an interesting center of activity, especially when a flight is late. Small crowds start to gather and you can see people questioning. I’ve been there; waiting for hours for the appointed time when the gate is supposed to be announced. Then the time marches past the appointed hour. It slowly dawns that there is a problem and eventually, the status turns to delayed. Not a big problem on a day like today where I have plenty of slack time. It sucks on a day where I need to be somewhere at an appointed hour.
But today, at 2:25 pm, the board called me to take the shuttle to gate B42. Praise to the board.
As I made my way to the boarding gate, I heard a little English girl with her family. She made up a song that melodically went something like
When are we going on the airplane?
When are we going on the airplane?
We are still in the airport!
We are still in the airport!
This flight had me seated around about a dozen children from age 6 months to 8 years. The children reminded me of The Child back home. It reminded me of her visits to Italy and Amsterdam, Paris and the UK. She had her PSAT testing today.
The flight was uneventful, although as we were disembarking, one of the children behind me yelled out, “OW! Daddy! She bit me!” I smiled. The father of an only child doesn’t hear that one very often.
I cleared customs, my luggage was off-loaded quickly, I rushed down to the train station and caught a train for Nyon. I walked down the hill to my hotel where I was greeted by the desk. They didn’t even need my credit card information to check in as I had been here many times before. That was nice touch. As is the custom at the Hotel Real, the desk clerk called the elevator and held the door for me.
Other than a Flake bar at the airport, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. After a phone home, I went out to forage in this little city on the French side of Switzerland. I was surprised at how warm it was. By 10pm it was still +16C and I was walking around comfortably in a v-neck. I settled into a little italian restaurant and had an amazing dish of pasta with salmon. A very reasonable portion was served as is the way here.
Can’t wait to see what Sunday brings. Four more days and I can go home.