Final salmon sandwich trip tally: 17
Distance flown: 10,702 miles
*apologies for this post being a day late – I was completely shattered after a VERY long day of travel*
I woke up on Day Twenty-Three on my last morning in London, wishing I could pause time and stay a little – or a lot – longer. Sadly, I couldn’t, so I said goodbye to the flat just before 10am and made my way to Paddington one last time with PJ in tow where I grabbed the last salmon sandwich of my trip and then caught the 10:25 Heathrow Express to Terminal 5. After checking PJ and going through security, I headed to British Airways’ South Lounge, curling up in a comfy chair with a cup of tea for an hour or so before I caught the transit out to Gate C65.
It wasn’t long before it was time to board and the A380 pushed back from the gate pretty much on schedule, although runway traffic at Heathrow meant an inevitable wait to take off. But we were eventually airborne. Settled into my Club World pod, I watched Sing during the main in-flight meal, rewatched How to Steal a Million (because I adore it), and then managed three hours of sleep. A Call the Midwife episode, Ratatouille, and a light meal later (part of which was smoked salmon), the Airbus touched down in a rainy San Francisco nearly eleven hours after taking off from London Heathrow.
After a short wait in customs and baggage claim, I caught BART to Concord where Dad was waiting to drive home through the heavy rain.
It never gets any easier to say goodbye, but I’ve had another absolutely amazing adventure that added more stars to my travel map. A massive “Thank You” to everyone who has followed this latest round of wanderings. I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on this little bliggity blog.
**Sorry there aren’t many pictures to post with this first instalment**
As with previous trips, this one originated at San Francisco International Airport. Being the later British Airways flight to London and on a weekday, I had the idea of puddle-jumping from Sacramento to San Francisco to avoid the potential traffic nightmare that is the Bay Area. However, after checking in for my United Express flight to SFO, I learned that it was delayed for two hours due to an issue with the crew. I’d given myself a very long layover at SFO, but with an international flight looming, I wasn’t comfortable waiting for the delayed flight, so we hit the road to San Francisco…and encountered almost no traffic until we’d made it across the Bay Bridge onto HWY 101, getting there just before the United flight would have had it been on time. So there was plenty of time to check my bag and visit before I made my way through security and to the British Airways Terraces Lounge to wait until it was time to board the A380.
(Takeoff – the moon over San Francisco)
Take off was just ahead of the scheduled 9:35pm departure time and the flight was uneventful (that means ‘good”) except for some quick but terrifying turbulence. I’d upgraded to Club World and after watching Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn fall in love while plotting an art heist in How to Steal a Million – one of my favourite films that just happened to be available onboard – I was able to manage close to five hours of sleep in my comfy little pod (even if the grumpy woman next to me did snore).
After a smooth landing in sunny London and forty-five minutes spent in the UK Border queue, I grabbed PJ (my Paisley suitcase referenced in past posts) and hopped on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. C, my wonderful friend and fellow London adventurer (also referenced in past posts, met me there and we caught a taxi to the Chesterfield Mayfair, my hotel for my single night London stay (there’ll be a longer stay before I head home). I checked in and we then walked to Green Park to catch the Piccadilly Line to Earls Court in order to visit The Blackbird – a pub we discovered on our first trip. An evening of food, drinks, and visiting ended with hugs and plans to meet up again later in our respective trips and I made my way back to Mayfair.
Unfortunately, my hopes for a solid night’s sleep didn’t materialise this time and I was awake at 2:30 after zoning out at 11:30. Several failed attempts to find some more sleep and one book later, I decided it was time to face the day. I was packed up by 11am, checked out by 11;15, and relaxed in the lobby until noon when I caught a taxi to Kings Cross for my 2:44 train to Cambridge. Reservations for future journeys and more reading killed the two hours before my departure, but at 3:30, I arrived in Cambridge, the previously unexplored stop on this trip’s itinerary. My room at the B&B is charming and cozy and jet lag decided that was where I’d spend this evening…and I have. Tomorrow morning I’ll set out to explore Cambridge.
(Kings Cross Rail Station)
Apologies again for another late post after another busy day, but this will be the last late post in this instalment as I’ve reached the end of this adventure. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has followed along on this journey. 🙂
Day Twenty-Two was the final day of my big adventure and the majority of it was spent travelling. We checked out of the Hyatt Times Square just before 10 am and caught our Uber lift to Newark Liberty International Airport. Mum breezed through security with her TSA Pre-Check and fifteen minutes later, I finally made it through to join her. With a bit of time before our flight started boarding, we grabbed an early lunch before heading to Gate 14. Before too long, our Southwest 737 was full and ready to go and after a short message from our “incredibly handsome captain” (as he began each announcement during the flight), we took to the skies for our roughly five hour flight to Phoenix.
Other than some turbulence after takeoff and the not unusual jostling on approach to Sky Harbor International, the flight was long but uneventful, made slightly less long with the help of the Beautiful, Finding Neverland, and She Loves Me soundtracks followed by my favourite Inspector Lewis episodes (I already miss Oxford terribly). Our flight arrived early and we had roughly two hours to kill before our final flight home, so we grabbed an early dinner and lounged around the gate area until it was time to board our second Southwest 737 of the day, flying over Lake Tahoe and landing in Sacramento just before the sun set.
So, the magic of an adventure is over for now – made even more clear by the fact that there was a jury summons waiting for me when I arrived home – but I’ve brought home some more wonderful memories to look back on while I look forward to the next one. And I did miss my beloved Maggie Dog terribly.
Day 31 truly was the last day of my journey. It began in Chicago, ended in Sacramento, and was essentially nothing but travel. I caught the shuttle from the hotel to Midway Airport around 9:15am, checked PJ and Janie at the Southwest counter, and was through security in less than ten minutes. My flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 12:30, but I figured I could either sit around the hotel or sit around the airport and that it was best to just go ahead and get situated at the airport. I grabbed a bite of breakfast and then made my way to my gate with tons of time to spare, where I sat and watched the Southwest 737s taxi as I listened to the ground agent one gate over desperately beg for two volunteers to give up their seat on the Charleston-bound flight (no one volunteered).
Eventually, it was time to line up and board and as usual, opting for Early Bird Check-in paid off and my early boarding position allowed me to snag a great seat. After the safety demonstration and a very smooth take-off, I put my earbuds in and tried to sleep for as much of the 3:40 flight to Phoenix as possible (my plane was stopping at Sky Harbor before continuing on to Sacramento). The flight was pretty smooth and uneventful…until it made its final landing approach in Phoenix and hit the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. A nervous flyer anyway, it took everything I had not to completely freak out. I think I handled it pretty well, considering that I’d never been so scared while flying before. After changing crew and swapping out the majority of the passengers, the plane was back in the air and bound for Sacramento, hitting more turbulence along the way but finally touching down around 4:40 local time.
I know it’s been 4.5 weeks since I left home, but seeing everything familiar again made it seem like I’d never even left. Maybe that’s what home is, something so familiar that you can come back to it after a month of travelling and feel like you were never even gone. But, I brought back an amazing set of memories and experiences, quite a few souvenirs, and a whole lot of jet lag. I already desperately want to return to the UK, but I’ll treasure the four weeks I spent there forever. And hopefully, I can find my way back before too long…
My last morning in London began very early, with my alarm going off at 4:30am, ensuring that I’d have plenty of time to get ready, get the last of my stuff packed, and get myself and my two suitcases to Paddington station with plenty of time to spare. I said goodbye to the lovely little flat around 8:15am and my suitcases and I made our way up the road to the station and caught the Heathrow Express to the airport. It didn’t take long to check my bags and get through security and after a final stop at Pret a Manger, I trekked past the miles of duty free merchandise and caught the tram-train-thingy out to gate C64. Eventually, boarding began and a baggage loading delay and a tarmac taxi queue later, the 747 was finally airborne and on its way to Chicago. And even though I’ll take wonderful memories and tons of pictures home with me, I freely admit that I cried while the plane was taxiing, overcome with sadness to be leaving.
Unlike the flight to London, after lunch (I opted for the chicken dish which was very tasty) was finished, I was able to sleep for a few hours this time. It wasn’t great sleep, mind, and each little nap only lasted half an hour at the most (especially with the turbulence), but it did help pass the time and make the flight seem to go by faster. Eventually, the plane touched down at O’Hare International Airport and after slowly making my way through customs, I picked up my rental car, crawled through rush hour traffic, and eventually made it to the Midway Chicago Marriott. After checking in, dropping the car off at Midway Airport, and grabbing a delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant, I had just enough energy left to grab a quick shower and drag my exhausted butt to bed.