Saturday, July 03, 2010

Leaving London

I knew it wasn't going to be easy leaving London, but I wasn't quite prepared for the way it did happen. It was meant to be simple: tube to Bank, DLR to London City Airport. My cheap flight took me from London to Amsterdam to NYC and then Albany. Not a day I was looking forward to by any means, but prices this summer were horrendous and my hopes to get the trip paid for by leading students didn't happen.

I'd never been to City Airport; I've been to Heathrow many times, Gatwick a few and even Stansted, though I've never actually flown out of it. The light rail went direct to the airport terminal, so it ought to have been easy. After waking up at four, afraid I'd miss my alarm at five, I rolled out and got ready. There was plenty of time and hardly anyone about so early. Smooth sailing on the tube and fortunately, steps down to get to the DLR. The train waiting was for Lewiston, but the next one went to the airport.

However, the train that was sitting there suddenly shut down and everybody got out. What? No DLR today, some kind of problem, the man said. So how to get to the airport? Back to London Bridge, change to the Jubilee line, go to Canning Town... and then what?! Argh, time for a taxi. I was fortunate to have help or I never would have got my one bag, full of six weeks of clothes and presents, up the many stairs. Panic setting in, but actually it didn't take too long for a cab to come along.

The fare ended up being over £20 (ouch) but I suppose it might have been more to Heathrow. City Airport is quite small, so I should be forgiven for thinking it might be easy to get through security quickly. Ha! In the end I had to take everything out of my carry on and my 'suspicious' items had to be scanned again -- yes, that dangerous tea towel and my jewelry case. Reassembling everything at least killed the time waiting in the lounge. The small jet was packed to capacity, at least a third of which was a Chinese tour group of Chinese almost all women.

We had begun our descent into Amsterdam and of course, the seat belt sign was on, but a few of the tour group decided to get up to use the toilets. Suddenly the plane rolled swiftly to the left and just as swiftly to the right. I'd never felt anything quite like that. The little Chinese women went flying. Fortunately no one got hurt. The pilot explained, once we were on the ground, that we had hit the wake of another flight. We should have cleared it easily, but the wind carried it up. Bizarre.

The Amsterdam airport is huge! If you want tulips, you can get them. I nearly missed my connecting flight because my phone didn't pick up the local time and I was an hour behind, strolling along thinking I had all the time in the world, until I saw the listing which said it was boarding now. Oops! The flight on the whole was good: KLM treats you a lot better than the American airlines, including the food and drinks. The flight back always seems endless, but we got a little surprise a couple hours before landing. There was turbulence off and on, nothing much, but all of the sudden there was a huge thump that sounded like we had hit something.

Guess what? As the pilot told us right away, we had hit the wake of another plane ("if you look out the window behind us you should be able to see..."). What're the odds? From the relative luxury of KLM I headed next to purgatory: terminal 2 at JFK, the one that's so run down they don't have a recording of all the things you need to do at security (yes, I had to go through passport control and customs and back through security), they have a guy repeating over and over and over the requirements. Fun!

Well, it could be worse.

A lot to get caught up on, but it's hard to keep from wishing I were back in England. Sigh.

8 comments:

Todd Mason said...

As someone who took a L20 cab ride (under current exchange, perhaps even 25 pounds) to court not Too long ago, I can certainly sympathize with that part of the fun...and you Know anyone stopping over in Amsterdam is damned to inspection here in the US, where they're roughing up people coming to and fro from Canada these days (including Patti Abbott, George Kelley and their party). I assume that there are no actual pot kiosks in the airport...you know, to put your tulips on...um, in.

And it sounds as if your Netherlands-bound flight was the opposite of Alice's recent riverboat tour, in the company of her mother, in which all the other tourists were Anglophone pale Caucasians from North America and northern Europe...no actual acrobatics, though. The wakes keep one awake. The wakes in the middle of the air. I think it's clear I've just awakened.

KLM in the '70s was famous for excellent, airplane-appropriate food...US Air is simply trying to keep that tradition alive and squirming by providing live snacks, fresh as the compost, for inflight enjoyment. Ungrateful customers, what to do with them...glad you had help (no elevators...pardon, lifts...nor escalators?).

Kipper said...

All well and good, but where's my treat? Did you even think to cadge me some maggots? Fun when they'r kittens, and fun when they grow up and can be actively pounced upon!

I here they have Really Sweet nip in Amsterdamn...ah, well, I suppose I'll have to be satisfied with sleeping in your suitcase. Won't I? (Clicks in disappointment.)

Todd Mason said...

(Note Kipper does have some spelling issues, but does not Can Eat Cheeze. Kipper FAR less hacky than that.)

K. A. Laity said...

Kipper, if you look under the sink, I suspect you'll find some kind of lovely treat. And I gave you some nip this morning, or are you still in a befogged haze and don't remember? By the way, are you sneaking in to use the travel computer or taking the iPod when my back's turned?

Todd, the odd thing was that US customs/passport control was actually nothing at all. The only words he said to me were "Good afternoon." Stamped the passport and waved me along.

I was tempted to get tulips, but I figured there might be a problem. The pot was fine, though (joking!).

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Kate, did I tell you about my new T-shirt? Kipper might apprpve... http://www.threadless.com/product/2215/Meowy_Wowy

May have to look into the extra-long flights... this year's flight was scary-expensive. But next year's may be on miles ...

K. A. Laity said...

That's great! Yeah, I think Kipper would approve (maybe that's what he's yowling about now). Maybe next year we'll arrange to have that pint, too.

Kipper@literatecatsRus said...

I look forward to the day that all cats can get their nip from reasonably-priced, reasonably safe dispensaries.

As to my computer access, that's a funny story...while you were not here to feed and otherwise pay attention to me, I learned that being a public transporation and part-time library cat gets one all kinds of ape attention, and at least some keyboards to walk across while silly apes look at the light boxes. In fact, I not only learned how make ape scribbles on the lightboxes, but I also helped any number of apes out by flattening the pieces of paper they were staring at, occasionally flipping the paper when they decided it was flat enough. I used to do this for you, too, didn't I, Ape Kate? All those long weeks ago, before my cruel abandonment (for ape squiggles, those Charles Dickens and VC Andrews sure know how to tell a story! You and your ape friends should tell stories like them!)?

K. A. Laity said...

Such a clever little puss. I shall have to reward you with some lovely kippers. I do feel guilty about the cruel abandonment. I shall have to work at making more entertaining squiggles.