Wednesday, April 23, 2014

22 April - Departure and Arrival

Following our 4:15 wake up call  we showered, dressed, grabbed our bags and by 5am were down in the lobby where we found our shuttle waiting to load us and take us to the airport. (Our driver seemed none to happy, though, and when he wasn't throwing the bags in the bag was focusing on developing his grunt.)

A half later we were pushing through the doors of Terminal E, found our way to the BA check-in, went right up tot he counter (no waiting). Made our way to security and since we were flying business class (a great way to use air miles) a few minutes later were were through the line and heading to the BA lounge for breakfast.

About half-past seven we made our way to gate 7 to board flight 238 to London Heathrow. We settled into our seats, and after taking off on time turned to letting time slip by as we enjoyed one of the smoothest flights in a very long time. After a light brunch I put on the (noise-cancelling) headphones, tuned the entertainment system to "True Detective" and watched episodes 1-3 (and hoping on the return flight more episodes would be available). I then watched "Despicable Me 2," and found myself frequently laughing out loud much to the occasional discomfort a at least one neighbor. As I finished the movie the seat belt light came back on and we glided ever so peacefully down to the tarmac at Heathrow; touching down at about 7:20pm, a half hour ahead of schedule (or “shed-yule” as they say here).

We quickly made our way off the plane and headed for passport control. With our Fast Track coupons in hand we thought this was going to be more smooth sailing — but we were very wrong. There were two agents handling Fast Track and the one seemed to have struck up a permanent relationship with a family of four while the other agent was primarily occupied with assisting all the disabled passengers on the flight. Our line moved nary a meter in 10 minutes. so, like many others, we made our way to the Not-so-fast-track line which had some 15 agents processing travelers.

A few minutes later found ourselves standing before a member of the Border Force who pointed out that we had failed to add Richard and Pauline’s street address. We claimed ignorance, a claim we felt was easily substantiated. Anyway he asked "Well how are young to get there?” We replied, “They’re here to pick us up.” “Well, next time you come into this country you’ll need to provide a specific address.” He also seemed keenly interested in what I did for a living. He wasn’t quite sure what a digital photo librarian does (a question many people ask). When I explained it to him he seemed unimpressed and rather bored by it all.

Aside form the somewhat inhospitable welcome from Border Force, the important thing was, we were in England; not just passing through mind you on to some other destination but here to stay -- for a week at least.

After being permitted to enter the Land of United Kingdoms we scooted through customs (“nothing to declare,” except my undying love for freedom) and as we exited the doors found ourselves face-to-face with several dozen drivers holding signs looking for passengers to take somewhere other than the airport. Most importantly for us, there was Pauline standing right there with Richard hovering close by. After hugs, kisses and handshakes all round the four of us made our way to the short-term “car park,” and we were soon on the M1 heading to Ellis Fields in St. Albans. Traffic was light and we made it to their home just as dark was falling.

What we could sense of their village (of about 65,000 souls) from inside the car was lots of green, roadways that curved every which way and a peace in the cozy architecture of the homes we passed along the way.

After unloading our bags in our room the four of us gathered in their living room for a celebratory toast of champagne (brought back from Champagne Richard informed us). We were soon ensconced around their dinner table for a delicious “spring fish pie": salmon in a white sauce topped by a layer of mashed potatoes mixed with creme fraiche and spring onions, baked to a golden brown crust, accompanied by a side of green beans.

The food was wonderful (each of us had two helpings, cleaning the casserole dish thank you very much), the wine was crisp and clean, and the conversation lively and warm. We sat, chatted sipped and ate until it was nearly midnight.

What a way to spend a Tuesday!

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