Monday, November 15, 2010

uk trip-- day 1, seatac --> keflavik --> heathrow --> reading

please turn off your mobiles and all other electronics that transmit a radio signal and keep your seat belts fastened at all times because i'm about to begin the uk trip recap!

leff and i arrived at seatac three hours before our flight was scheduled to depart (as recommended). although, honestly, it wasn't necessary. security was the easiest that i've ever been through (before 2001) and that was with me wearing stupid clodhopper boots (like a moron) and leff toting a cpap machine.

regular readers know how much i despise u.s. domestic flights. i'm happy to say that my hatred of air travel doesn't extend toward international flight. the differences began in the intl terminal itself where things were generally quieter (apart from headline news blaring out of tvs. ugh. wolf blitzer needs to fucking can it.) and continued from there. i actually *enjoyed* an 8 hour flight!

although there was this.

i'm fairly certain that the poor little guy would've been using the help line if he'd had opposable thumbs.

speaking of cats, you know how loading domestic bound americans with their overstuffed "carry ons" onto jets takes forever and is like herding cats? yeah, that's not a problem on intl flights. people queue orderly with correct papers in hand, stow away small bags, take their seats quickly and the plane takes off 20 minutes after boarding begins.

it. is. FANTASTIC!!

leff and i flew icelandair. i will very happily recommend them to anyone who is lucky enough to have one of their hubs in their city. directions and announcements are in icelandic first

then in english.

plus the flight crew wears quite dashing outfits. (what?? i'm an artist. i'm impressed with image, for christ's sake!)

the best part, however, are the seat back screens where you can watch tv and movies and track your flight's progress!! (several episodes of "næturvaktin" and "hamborgarafabrikkan" and, haha, "the prince of persia" with noise cancelling headphones makes the time, uh, fly.)

leff and i arrived at keflavik at 5? 6? am local time

(leff's photo)

and cleared passport control with no problems. we did get confused as to why we weren't allowed through the second passport section at first (the guy was being nice. he didn't feel that there were enough facilities in the terminal for a two hour wait.) but that just gave us time to grab some food and SKYR!

it had lots of calc.

this is also where we first encountered corn in "salad" type sandwiches. (chicken, tuna, etc) it makes sense really. american style tuna salad is more of a tuna mayonnaise. there's no veg in it. how could it be a salad?

one downside to our waiting time: we were trapped with some americans who 1) liked living in seattle (it boggles the mind.) 2) tried to mansplain london to me when, fucking hell, I KNOW ABOUT THE FUCKING BRITISH MUSUEUM! sigh... i knew we should've spent more time perusing duty free.

after deicing in iceland

(leff's photo)

we were off to heathrow!

let me restate that... HEATHROW!! i've only been trying to land there since i was, what, 9? (i'm secretly british, you know.)

once we'd landed, leff and i tried to outrun the mansplainers but they ended up following us to passport control. the lady of the couple had been all "ooh! i never get through in less than two hours!" but it was complete bullshit. less than 20 minutes and we were through.

the passport control guy was a tad grumpy (understandable) and, heh, warned me to not work while i was in the uk. haha! (i ended up doing a bit of that anyway as i'm a damn workaholic. sorry, passport control guy. i'm sure prepping for an interview wasn't against international law.)

leff and i booked it to baggage claim to escape the mansplainers. bad luck as they stood next to us. god, some people cannot take a hint.

the lady commented on how lucky we were to get through pc so quickly but i was able to say "you normally take morning flights. correct? that's when the majority of the flights from asia and the americas land. you might want to shoot for afternoon from now on and it won't be a problem." ha to the haha. she left me alone after that.

customs was strange. leff and i had nothing to declare as we'd made sure to follow guidelines so we were able to walk through the green section. we literally did just that, walk through. i suppose making sure to dress up a bit on the flight is helpful. even though it *is* stupid to wear clodhopper boots like a moron.

the next hurdle was obtaining some pounds. leff and i had decided to use plastic for most of the trip (even though we don't have a chip and pin (fish and cushion) card. a tip? make sure to tell the clerks in advance that you have swipe only and things will go smoothly.) but felt that we needed a bit of local currency for small items. i distrust currency exchange companies by nature so we used a cashpoint. easy peasy.

we also busted up a 20 pound note at a boots so we could have smaller bills and coins for a phone call. (u.s. mobiles don't work in the uk.)

currency done and dusted, it was time to find the coach to reading!

you would think that this would be as simple as following the signs for ground transportation, checking the number of the stop on your reservation paper and then waiting at the corresponding spot. uhm, not so much.

i doubt that we would have ever figured out that we were standing in the wrong area (we were pretty tired.) if it hadn't been for a lovely older british couple who were also needing the coach to reading. they had the foresight to ask someone if we were in the right place and then allowed us to follow them.

i swear that we walked to swindon but it was actually just through the bowels of heathrow.

after profusely thanking the lovely couple, we boarded the coach!

if you are staying outside of london (we were based at a friend's flat in reading) i would recommend the coach option from the airport. it's quiet (you'll see me mention this attribute quite frequently in these recaps!), efficient and, best of all, has free wifi.

upon arriving in reading, i stood guard over our luggage (i had on the clodhopping shitkickers after all) while leff braved the public phone to call groc.

i can't tell you how exciting this was. groc and i have known each other for YEARS but we'd never met before. (we're, like, cyber penpals.) i almost screamed when he walked into view but i was trying to be british-ish so i just waved. haha!

you have friends where the conversation just happens, right? like, you could've been separated for decades and still pick up where you left off as if there were no absence? it was like that with groc. (an aside: i miss him terribly now. *sad face* we're going to have to skype more often.)

reading station was a 20 minute walk along the canal from kev's flat. we couldn't have asked for a better location!

guess what was in kev's kitchen. go on...

yes! fairy liquid! (i love this stuff. in fact, i have a bottle of it in our kitchen right now.)

kev was still at work when we arrived so we caught up on things, exchanged presents and introduced deery luther and deer prudence to each other.

groc also gave us a quick lesson on british coins.

i'll be honest with you though, i only managed to get the 2 pound, 1 pound, 50p and 20p down. i had to read the denomination on the others before using them.

but let's get to the really good part. DINNER! have you ever been to wagamama? if you haven't, you really should get thee to the noodlery. like, now. it's deeelious!!

i ordered the chu chee chicken curry

mainly because it had two vegetables in it with british names, mangetout (snow peas) and courgette (zucchini).

kev also suggested a lovely sake. unsurprisingly, neither he nor groc knew that it tasted wonderful with a diet coke chaser. (that's me. super classy.)

after dinner, we all headed to sainsbury's to pick up wine, british foods and toothbrushes. leff also somehow found a "doctor who" beanie. (doctor who and the stig were soon to become a thing on this trip but more about that later.)

on the way back to kev's, we passed a truck full of christmas decorations.

it's surprising how early they were being installed but i suppose it makes sense as there's no thanksgiving in the uk to keep xmas from creeping into october/early november. still, ick. it's too early.

we ended the night watching the beeb and drinking, a perfect cap to a wonderful day.

bullet list for day 1:
  • jaffa cakes are so delicious that i would probably eat yours if given the chance.
  • when i'm tired i read "to let" as "toilet".
  • leff and i both managed to pick up slight british accents the first day and groc started to sound a bit american. i think we were all born in the wrong countries.
  • i started dealing with jet lag that night. i woke up at 2am gmt and stayed awake until 5:30am gmt. eh, at least i had a rough guide to keep me company.
  • british men are adorably flirty. the first example of this? when i pulled my hair out of a ponytail at the reading station, a businessman smiled widely and gave me the thumbs up. haha!

day two takes place in cardiff! red dragons! daleks! "torchwood"! SHED!! it all happened!


Nad Leiruc said...

In here is not even thanksgiving and everything its decorated already.I don't understand the hurry. first country on the trip-list. Americans that love to live in Seattle hahaha. It was great to read your blog. You make me laugh.

Lisa B. said...

I shared your feeling about flying into Heathrow ... I was all like "I'm home ... for the first time ever!"

r4kk4 said...

xmas is creeping up on us in wa state too, nad. it's truly disgusting. i'm in full avoidance mode. (i'm not even watching broadcast tv so i avoid the holiday ads.)

also, thanks for the kind words!

pants-- i don't know why but i immediately felt at ease. things made sense, PEOPLE made sense. i hate being back in the states. every time i've gone in public since being back it's been like a powerdrill to the head. :(

but soon! we'll all go on a trip to the uk! chotda wants to join us as well!!