About a month ago Jon got word that he was clear to book flights for a brief work trip to London.
We knew it was in the works but weren't sure when it would happen. With two weeks notice, we decided to piggy-back the work with me joining him in London. It was great timing right before our 15th anniversary!
Jon left a couple days before I did so he could take care of business. Because he can't sleep on planes, he opted to fly all day and go straight to bed when he got there.
To minimize my time away from the kids, I took an overnight direct flight from RDU to HTR. (Raleigh to Heathrow) I departed at 6 pm Tuesday and arrived at 6:45 am Wednesday.
I got to the airport about two and a half hours early and breezed through security with my one bag, a back pack. Jonathan generously packed my clothes in "The Orange Beast," a big suitcase he checked for the trip.
(Not OUR "Orange Beast" but it feels this big in my imagination.)
Now, I'm a light and efficient traveller but I do have one vice: I travel with my own pillow. Yes, I sent him with a full size pillow to lug around London.
In my defense, I'm a stomach sleeper and the pillows that most hotels have are very big. Even the nicest down pillows don't seem to flatten enough for me and I will wake up with a sore neck and headache. So our compromise is that yes, I will take my own $3 Wal-Mart pillow and then leave it at the hotel upon our return. It's also a good strategy for ensuring that you have room for souvenirs in your bag on the way home.
No Pillow = Room to Bring Stuff Home
Back to the airport-- I knew it was critical that I slept during my 8 hour, 45 minute flight, so I sat down for a good dinner and had a glass of wine to try to relax. I don't get anxious often but even I was a little nervous.
Luckily on the plane I had no one sitting next to me so I was able to spread out a bit. I got out my Rick Steves travel book on London and my photo of the kids, and settled in. (I always keep out the pic of the kids during take-off and landing because, should something happen, I want to be able to see their sweet stinker faces.)
After a couple hours, an in-flight movie, and dinner served, they turned off the lights for the night. I took half a dramamine (It doesn't take much for me to be loopy on meds) and tried to get cozy with my kleenex they called a blanket and cotton ball pillow. Not great, but better than nothing!
It was a smooth flight and I did sleep on the plane. I felt like I could hear the roar of the plane the whole time and didn't "think" I was asleep, but every so often I would wake up and notice a new movie on.
The people to the left and in front of me had two small dogs with them and they were quiet and calm the whole time. Once I woke to a man yelling that the dogs were peeing because a liquid was running off their seat. It turned out to be water from a bottle that had tipped over and didn't have the lid on properly. That was really the only drama all night.
We arrived on time in the UK at 6:45 am. I would do an overnight again, but it would be very hard to do with children. I think I would be too tuned to them and would wake and be alert at every twitch and sigh. We would have to go straight to the hotel upon arrival and sleep for a while.
Heathrow Airport, where a plane arrives or departs every 45 seconds, is to the west of London and the hotel Jon was at was on the east side. We agreed to wait until I arrived to see if I felt up to exploring first thing or if I needed rest.
Here's our text exchange:
I was excited! Earlier I had told him that I even "felt an inch taller" because of the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I really did feel fantastic!
The trains and underground (or "Tube") system wasn't too difficult to figure out, especially if you aren't afraid to ask for help from one of the many transit workers you see waiting around just to help you.
Jon and I decided to meet at the Tower of London and he told me which tube station to exit. I told a transit worker at Heathrow my destination and he helped me quickly buy a pass for the Heathrow Express train into London and then fare for the remainder of my journey to the Tower Hill stop. (Jon already had a refillable card for me called an "Oyster Card" that could be used on trains and buses for the rest of the trip.)
Once I arrived at Paddington Station, I departed and began the hunt for the Circle line, my next train. Paddington Station was CRAZY. I had to ask for help twice.
I wish I had taken a photo at some point, but if you imagine that the lines on the map above are all people coming and going in different languages and speeds, you might get a feel for the chaos that is Paddington Station during morning rush hour. Kids in uniforms, men in slick business suits, and hordes of construction workers all seemed to be late for wherever they were headed.
At one point during the labyrinth to the Circle line, I looked over and saw light coming down from the street. "I'm here!" I thought. I snapped a pic with my phone. I was ready to be done getting there and wanted to start exploring!
I finally made it to Tower Hill and when I saw Jonathan I ran to hug him like he'd just gotten home from war. I just couldn't believe we were really HERE. We took a quick selfie (very rare for us) and even though I felt gross and unbeautiful from the trip, I'm so glad we did it! Jon's face says it all. :)
See you next time for the next chapter,