Wednesday, April 02, 2008

First day in the UK

Now that I've arrived and settled in a bit, I'm finally finding some time to
try to get my thoughts organized. It's been rather overwhelming.
I'll tell it all right from the beginning, or at least what I consider to be
the beginning of the trip.

At around 10:45 on Monday, a truck arrived and picked up the storage with
nearly all my worldly possessions in it. It was loaded onto the back of the
truck by a little crane, and then it drove away. Not long later, after my
parents and I had finished loading everything into my sister's truck, which was
actually a rather tight squeeze, we headed off to the airport with myself

Everything went very smoothly, right up until the point where I
loaded my suitcase onto the scale at the check in counter. I was told the bag
was too heavy, which I had fully expected. I asked how much I would need to
pay for the extra weight. She then clarified that the bag was not just over my
overall baggage allowance, but that the contract with the baggage handlers had
a 30kg limit per bag as well, so it was simply impossible for me to get my bag
on the plane. I was furious. There was no mention on Zoom's website of a
per-bag limitation. I did my best not to get angry at the poor woman behind
the counter, but I'm afraid I may not have succeeded. My dad suggested he
empty their suitcase, so I could transfer some things into it, so that's what
we did. He went back to the truck, emptied their suitcase, and brought it back
into the airport for me to pack. I was thankful my bag had an expandable
section, which was expanded, or my computer parts and such would have been
rattling around loose, which would not have been good. After repacking
everything, we went back through the check in (we had separate check in booths
with a shorter line, courtesy of the premium ticket I bought) and weighed in at
41 kg, 3 kg heavier than I was originally, so it cost $30 more, but it had to
be done.

Baggage woes over with, I was starving, so we walked over to the food court and
I had some pizza (Hawaiian, since I hear it's a west-coast thing), and then had to go get into the lineup for security, in case
it took a while. I said goodbye to my parents there, and bravely turned the
corner and walked into my adventure with my head held high. The lineup at
security was pleasantly short, so it didn't take long at all. One security
guard asked me to remove the laptop from the bag, and put it in a separate tray.
She commented "nice laptop, is that Porsche?" When I arrived
at gate D66, as indicated on my ticket, I was surprised to see it listing some
Hong Kong flight, so I checked the departures board. My flight had been
switched to D67, so I wandered over there and found a seat. It was only about
20-30 minutes of waiting before boarding began, but we were informed that due to
"airport facilities", premium class would be boarding last, which was fine by
me. I just had to concentrate on staying awake, because I had been dozing off
in the seats there. My plan to stay up late so I'd be tired enough to sleep on
the flight seemed to be working.

Once on the plane, I was even more pleased I had upgraded to premium. The seats
were much more comfortable looking than the regular ones, and they were spaced
much farther apart, so I had a decent amount of legroom. The only downside of
my seat is that, being at the front, with only a bulkhead in front of you,
there's no way to "store your baggage under the seat in front of you" as they
instruct you to, and the overhead compartment above me has emergency equipment
in it, so my bags and jacket ended up scattered in overhead compartments as far
as 3 rows back from me. It didn't really matter though, because I didn't need
anything from my bags, as I spent the entire flight either trying to sleep, or
staring out the windows.

When we eventually left the terminal, we had to taxi all the way around the
airport to get to our runway, so that took a while. On the way, I saw a piece
of luggage on the ground next to one of the roads the baggage carts use. I
found myself really hoping that all my baggage would make it to the end, and
that everything in it would be intact. I have no faith at all in airlines
ability to get bags where they're supposed to go, but they managed to do it with
mine, thankfully.

The flight itself was very pleasant. I got a few hours of sleep, and lots of
hours just relaxing with my eyes closed, some of it listening to my Ipod, some
of it just thinking. I spent lots of time looking out the window at the ground
below. The Canadian shield has some incredible terrain, with all the little
lakes everywhere. The guy beside me was so quiet as to be practically
nonexistent. The premium seats came with a bunch of stuff which really helped
me sleep. They brought a little fleece bag that had a blanket in it, and they
also brought a pillow that fit nicely inside that same fleece bag. The most
useful thing though was the little inflatable C shaped pillow thing. I don't
think I would have been able to sleep without that, at least not without getting
one mother of a kink in my neck.

The food on the plane wasn't bad. I had a scotch (Jonny Walker Black Label)
when they came around to offer drinks, which was free, thanks to my premium
ticket. So worth it. Dinner was some breaded chicken on spaghetti noodles with
a tomato sauce. It came with coleslaw, a bun with a pat of whipped butter, and
a piece of cake with chocolate chips on top.

There was three in flight movies. The first was Juno, which I had seen before.
The second was the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, which I haven't seen, and
don't really want to. They said the third movie would be Micheal Clayton, but
was actually No Reservations, which I hadn't seen. I said no to headphones,
because I'd seen Micheal Clayton, but I wouldn't have minded watching this one.
I did watch some of it without sound, and it looked entertaining, but was
certainly hard to follow silently.

The landing in Belfast was a bit turbulent, as it was windy and rainy there.
Not enough to make me feel sick, though I could see one other guy that looked
like he wasn't enjoying it very much. We were delayed a bit on the ground
there, as they were having some problems connecting the jetway to the plane.
While we were there, I wandered around a bit to stretch my legs, and noticed
that the cockpit door, a mere 10 feet from my seat, was open. I talked to one
of the stewards, and asked if there was any possibility of being able to take
some photos of the cockpit. I told him how I'd gotten to do that last time I
flew to England, 13 years ago, and that it would be just fantastic if I could do
it again now, when I'm moving there. He said he couldn't promise anything, but
that he'd ask the captain when he was done doing paperwork. A short while
later, he waved me forward to the cockpit, and I got to say hello to the pilot
and take a few photos. It sure it complicated looking in there.

Take off from Belfast was just as turbulent as landing, and the flight to London
was a bit rough in places too, but we made it to the ground fine, and I
disembarked the plane grinning like a fool. My bags were some of the first on
the baggage conveyor belt, another perk of the premium tickets. Going through
immigration was pretty straightforward. There were arrows for UK, EEC, and Swiss
passport holders, and another arrow for "other passports", so I went to other.
There was nearly no line, and when I got to the counter, they saw my right of
abode, and told me that next time, I can just go to whichever line is shorter.

Once I was through all that, I saw Richard and Elizabeth and recognized them
almost immediately, and they recognized me too. We said hello, and the first
thing Richard did was asked me if I'd like a coffee, which was wonderful, and
very welcome. The caffeine did a good job of keeping me awake for the rest of
the day. The ride back to their place was very educational. I asked a lot of
questions about traffic rules and such, and they pointed out things like traffic
cameras, and we talked about various UKisms that I wasn't familiar with.
Traffic certainly moves quickly here, and with much smaller gaps than I'm used

When we arrived at their house, it was around lunch time, so we had some of
Elizabeth's tasty soup. I had a shower, which went a long way to making me feel
better, after the flight. After that, we went into town, and I picked up a SIM
card from Tesco's, so I would have a local phone number. I also picked up the
form to apply for a Tesco membership, similar to Save-on or Safeway club cards
back home. We popped into the local Lloyd's bank to see about a bank account,
but without proof of address (utility bill or something), they couldn't do
anything for me. Once we got back to their place, I just unpacked a bit and
just relaxed and chatted for the rest of the evening, before I went to bed at

I'll blog some more about today later, after I go see the flat.


Mad skilz yo! said...

Nice!! last experience you have is a genuine made in Canada one!...dealing with some Union contract BS!!!:)

Anonymous said...

awesome! glad to hear you made it ok. Makes me want to travel.