Saturday, June 20, 2015

Arrival in Manchester, UK

Good morning, it is just after 6 AM here in Manchester at the Radisson-Blu airport hotel.  I slept at least 12 hours last night, waking up briefly a couple of times.  I have a king sized bed with a most comfortable duvet and soft pillows.  The room is clean and modern with a view of mist, low hills, busy roads.  When I woke up about 5 I took advantage of the early breakfast down on the third floor, scrambled eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  That's the traditional English breakfast.  I also had coffee, a couple of pastries, a bowl of fruit and yogurt.  No need to worry about going hungry!  
I put the "do not disturb" sign on my door, and plan to hang out here in the room until noon when I must check out, and find my way back with my purple suitcase to Terminal 3 where I am supposed to meet with the Stanford guide to begin our trip out to Borrowdale.  Perhaps later I'll go down to the gym and exercise for a while on one of the machines, a treadmill or perhaps an elliptical if they have one.
I'll type these notes into my ipad, read my lastest Pendergast thriller or Charlotte Bronte's novel Shirley on that same ipad, watch TV5, or maybe, just maybe, sleep some more.

Travel the last couple of days wasn't easy!  Although the first class flight from San Francisco was mostly comfortable, my experience at Heathrow was challenging.  Part of my trouble, I think, was the timing of the flight.  We left San Francisco at about 1 PM, which meant that I wasn't really prepared to go to sleep until much later, in fact, I was falling asleep just about the time the cabin crew turns on all the lights and serves breakfast.  Thus, having the room to sleep was less of an advantage than it would be on an overnight flight.  And we had turbulence!  At one point, the pilot was shouting "Flight attendants SIT DOWN" and the purser was yelling at the passengers, "SIT DOWN, it is VERY DANGEROUS".  The plane was bouncing around quite a bit.  

Arriving in Heathrow, all advantages of flying first class were immediately cancelled.  I couldn't use the first class arrivals lounge, as I wasn't really arriving, just changing terminals.  But it was still necessary to wait in very long lines for passport control and security.  Heathrow had only one official processing passports for non UK or EU citizens.  I must have waited in that line 45 minutes.   Many poor souls with flights leaving in 10 minutes pushed their way to the front of the line.  Then another official took my picture (it turns out they use facial biometrics for security purposes). Then up a long staircase to another 45 minute wait to pass through a security line, where I was asked to remove shoes and submit to a pat down.  When I finally got through this obstacle course, I got turned away from the business class lounge, since British Airlines has no agreement with United Airlines.   Alas, now I was just an ordinary person.  

On the bright side, I had a very tasty breakfast at an airport restaurant, two perfectly poached eggs, slices of toast made from some delicious crunchy bread full of seeds, and baked beans with a giant pot of English breakfast tea.  This was so much better than anything United served me on the flight that I was very pleased.  I wonder why United can't do better with their on board meals, especially in first class.  Larry and I returned last month from flying Turkish airlines business class where everything we were served was delicious.  United gave me a piece of old fish, not even heated thoroughly.

So for many hours at Heathrow, I looked at the luxury shops, got some British pounds from a cash machine, bought a brow pencil and and some hand cream, thought about buying a cheap ring but didn't, tried to doze in the uncomfortable chairs, walked around.   Gate announcements weren't available until half an hour before departure, so I couldn't even settle into a chair at the gate.  My ipad was losing power fast, but I kept reading as long as I could the adventures of Pendergast and D'Agosta.  Pendergast is the enigmatic FBI agent, D'Agosta the Italian NYPD officer.

Finally, on to Manchester.  This flight was only forty minutes long, quite turbulent, and amusing to watch the flight attendants serve tea and biscuits, or soda and chips to a full plane of passengers  in such a short time frame.  They really got to work right away.  Seating was extremely tight, aisle space very limited, but fortunately, everybody on board seemed to be good natured.  The pilot flew the plane a little daringly, I think and I felt a little dizzy.    It seems possible to fly jets a little carelessly, like a teenager in a sports car, but I prefer a more sedate approach.

Upon arrival in Manchester, I waited with trepidation for my suitcase not to show up, but it finally did, after another long wait.  A helpful person in some kind of uniform pointed me in the correct direction to the Radisson down a long covered walkway and I arrived at this fine, although probably overpriced, hotel.  I showered, slept a couple of hours, then went up to the lounge for some snacks and a glass of wine.  It was probably a waste of money to upgrade for the privilege of access to this lounge, as they don't really offer much.  I guess I saved the cost of a dinner last night.  I'm thinking I'll go up to the lounge now and have some tea.   This is probably the last time I'll have much leisure on this trip to describe what's going on in so much detail, and that's sad, because the last couple of days will probably be the least interesting of the whole trip.    Here's the misty view from my hotel room.

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