Well today was the day that's been almost a year in the making. Our good friend Amy dropped us off at SeaTac airport and our journey began. As with most trips there were a few snags along the way, but as of the drafting of this post (en route from Heathrow to Madrid) things have gone relatively smooth. Here are the lowlights and highlights.
The plan all along was to pack very minimally and carry our baggage on to the plane. We didnt want to have to be slowed down by checking luggage, plus limiting the amount of things we packed kept it adventurous. Well thanks to "insert name" that plan went out the window right at the S gates of SeaTac. After having a light meal, Erin and I were in line at the gate to check our documentation and ensure the online boarding process had gone smoothly. When for no apparent reason, a BA gate rep...lets call her "Jaquline", pulled us aside and asked to check the sizing of our bags. Now I had been trying to avoid this scenario as i knew my bag was techincally a few cm over the length limit, but my efforts to go unnoticed went in vain. Upon learning that my bag would need to be gate checked, "lady" instructed me to go see "Michelle". Needless to say I had no idea who Michelle was and thus started my first fit of anger. Those who know me, know that patience is a virtue I rarely if ever posses. But I was able to keep my cool by repeating the "i'm on vacation" mantra. I transfered a few key items into my backpack and prayed my bag would meet me on the other side as i watched "lady" carry it off.
The flight from Seattle to London was relatively uneventful. Except for the elderly man who reached into the overhead bin, let a coat fall out of said overhead bin...spilling my Ginger Ale (an in flight favorite) and water all over my pants. Once again my patience was tested and I failed the test. Got upset, but counted to 392 and began getting over it as my pants began to dry 2 hours later. Having semi-successfully navigated obstacle #2 of the trip, I setteld in with my magazines, our Rick Steve's guide book, and some good headphones for the personal seatback TV. I was able to watch 2 movies, "Invictus" (starring Matt Damon & Morgan Freedman) and Sherlock Holmes both of which i'd recommend. I also got to hear the self titled release by "Broken Bells". Been meaning to hear more of that CD as i'm a fan of both The Shins? & Gnarls Barkley and members of each are represented.
After about 9 hours, we landed at London's Heathrow airport. Here are a couple of anecdotes from my whopping 3 hours at Heathrow. First off, if you can ever avoid connecting or from anywhere other than Heathrow's Terminal 5...do it. I cant begin to explain the bass-ackwards process we had to endure today. We landed at T5 and had to connect to our Madrid flight in T3. You’d think going from one terminal to another would be easy right? Well, not exactly. After navigating a dozen or so escalators, we got to take a bus through the back roads of Heathrow. This is where i learned that the Brits like to be wordy & proper...for instance a “Yield” sign in the States is a “Give Way” sing in the UK. Why use 2 words when 1 will do?? Anyhow, after about a 25 min ride, we arrived at T3, a terminal straight out of 1974. To make things more difficult, we got to stand in line for another 20 min in order to go through security again...easily outdoing any of the inefficient airports back home. I will say this, the TSA equivalent in London were much more polite. No yelling about liquids in bags, shoes needing to be taken off or laptops out, just polite reminders and prompts moving people through the process. (Someday i’ll post a rant about the ineptitude of TSA in the US). Once through security, we arrived at a terminal that looked and felt more like a shopping mall than an airport. The basic process is that you roam the shops or food court area and keep an eye on the monitors. About an hour prior to boarding, you gate gets posted to your flight, and off you go. Very different... the duty free shops are obviously benefiting from the setup. Cartier, Tiffany, Harrods, toys stores you name it, it was packed with tourists buying stuff.
Flight from London to Madrid was delayed by about 45 minutes as we “waited to find 5 peices of baggage”...now tell me when you’ve ever heard of such a thing?! In the States, you’re bags don’t make it, too f’in bad...that flight is going! Nice customer service for those anonymous few whose bags benefitted from the delay, but a bit annoying after having been in transit for over 12 hours.
Arrival in Madrid was perfect, great new & modern airport terminal. We decided to take the 2€ metro (aka subway) in lieu of a 35€ cab ride. Great decision...the system here is easy to use and very efficient. We did have to make 2 transfers, but the ride from the airport to our destination station was about 45 min...sure beats sitting in traffic on 5 or 405. Our hotel in Madrid is situated near the Plaza Santa Ana near many bars, tapas, and sites. After taking a nap we walked the streets, known as “Paseo” and had our first authentic tapas meal. We had Jamon, Croquettas & some bread with evoo & tomatoes. I had beers while Erin had red wine. Afterwards, we roamed the area a bit, found an ice cream stand and split the dulce de leche.
Were beat so we’re going to turn in and do some sight seeing and such tomorrow. I promise my future posts will not be this long...and if they are i promise to make them funnier, or try.